Rich Kearns is relatively new on the FMX scene, but if you watch him ride you'll see that the level of his flip tricks are that of a seasoned veteran. Hailing from Prospect, Conn., Rich had big dreams of riding his dirt bike for a living. After learning all the tricks needed to put him in contention for an X Games invite in 2010, Rich decided it was time to start staking his own claim in FMX. So that is what he did -- he packed up the gear, dirt bike and headed to sunny southern California.
Following a potentially career ending hand injury in the earlier part of 2011, Kearns re-emerged with a newfound determination. And one year later, with his finger healed and a substantial amount of riding time back under his belt, things are starting to look up. His flip tricks are looking as big as ever and with new sponsors, Rich is letting the good times roll again. After hitting some balls at the driving range and pondering life as an FMXer, we sat down to chat:
ESPN.com: How's 2012 been going for you?
Kearns: It's been going great! I feel that the last few years leading up to now have been a huge learning experience for me and I've down a lot of growing up throughout that time. I've been on the van-life training program! I'm in the gym two times daily. I'm riding dirt bikes or BMX bikes every day, and eating super healthy. I feel good!
You're coming off a pretty nasty injury, how's the healing coming along?
I'm coming back from having my finger taken off in March of 2011. The doctors were able to sew it back on for me, which was pretty sweet of them to do. The healing process of this injury has been pretty long so far. Each and every day before I throw my leg over my bike I have to get my finger moving because it wants to stay locked up, sticking straight out. Therefore it makes it a little difficult to wrap it around the handlebar. I've followed up with a few doctors over the last couple months and they all tell me the same thing -- to keep working on it and give it another year, so that's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to give up on this finger,I will get it to work again.
When did you start riding again after getting injured?
I planned on riding sooner than I did. It took three months before I could get my finger to start bending enough to wrap around a handlebar. You may think that's a little excessive for "just" a finger, but seeing as how it came off at the main knuckle it just didn't want to bend. The surgeons had to overlap the ligaments, tendons, and muscles so much when they put it back together in order to keep it from falling out of place when it healed. At first I was determined to get it to be my normal clutch finger again, but now I'm using my middle finger for the clutch and trying to squeeze the index one around the bar as much as possible to keep it from bouncing off the lever.
Have you got all your big tricks back?
This summer when I healed I concentrated on getting my KOD flips bigger and learning seat grab flips. In the process of learning those, my bar tricks got a little rusty, but they're still in there somewhere. I've got my shoalin flips and finally now just about have my dead body flips back to where they should be. Over the next few weeks, I'd like to start messing with the Paris Hilton Flip again.
You recently were added to the Famous Stars and Straps Family, tell me about that.
Being a part of the Famous Family was definitely not possible without the help of Twitch. For whatever reason, the dude I've looked up to most in the sport gave me a call this summer and started telling me about a few things he had going on and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. At first I was tripping, like, 'Is this real?' Jeremy put in a good word for me and I just signed a three year deal with Famous a few weeks ago.
I've been a demo-bot since I've started riding dirt bikes professionally so it feels good knowing that Famous are there to support me.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the Famous Family?
Being on board with Famous is huge! I've ridden for other clothing companies in the past, but none that are this big, and none that treat their athletes the ways Famous does. I've been a demo-bot since I've started riding dirt bikes professionally so it feels good knowing that they are there to support me and give me what I need to concentrate on pushing myself to further elevate our sport. It's called Famous Family for a reason -- they truly have the athletes best interest mind.
What are your plans for the 2012 year?
My plans are to have fun and the rest will fall into place. I've always had big dreams. All day long my head is always in the cloud, I'm always thinking about what if this, or can this be done. I'm hoping to show the world another new trick this year since the Paris Hilton flip I did in 2010 got overlooked and forgotten about as soon as I did it. We're still about four months out from X, but with the help of Famous and Wyvern Ranch, the rest lays on me. I feel like it's up to me now to step up, so we'll see what I can get handled during the rest of this winter. Watch for the Famous team to be rolling through your state this summer! Things are just starting to come together.
I know you've done X Games in the past. Would you like to ride it again?
Of course! Making it there in 2010 to compete in best trick was surreal. I've been a fan of X Games since I was just a little dude dreaming of riding dirt bikes. I mean I showed up to my first live X Games to compete against and ride with my heroes, and it just blew my mind. Now that some time has gone by and I've become friends with all of these guys, it's eased the tension of riding around them. In 2010 I questioned myself on why I was there riding with the best riders in the world. I'd love to make it back there to compete again. I think the second time around I'll be able to enjoy the experience a bit more.
X Games is definitely a big deal, best of luck to you in 2012!
Thanks Parsons! It's an honor to be interviewed by one of the baddest dudes to ever throw a leg over a bike!