Many years ago, as a BMX-hungry middle school eighth grader, I was lucky enough to witness the Swatch Impact Tour in person at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. The tour brought together professional BMXers and skateboarders on a purpose-built halfpipe, featuring synchronized runs from riders and skaters that included Ron Wilkerson, Mat Hoffman, Brian Blyther, Kevin Staab, Jimmy Scott, Jeff Phillips, Gator Rogowski and Chris Miller. And it filled an entire arena's full of skate and BMX fans nightly.
It was perhaps the first of its kind -- an action sports-specific tour that transcended bike and skate shops and treated the athletes and the demos as if they were rock stars, playing larger than life venues each night for thousands of screaming fans.
Throughout the past two decades, that type of treatment of BMX/skate tours didn't really break through to the mainstream. BMXers and skateboarders by and large went back to the traditional demo format, hitting the road and visiting the shops that sold their goods. Then, in 2006, FMX professional/action sports stuntman Travis Pastrana introduced a new TV show on Fuel dubbed "Nitro Circus," which featured his crew of friends riding dirt bikes, performing outrageous stunts and generally having fun while they performed said stunts.
"Nitro Circus" moved to MTV in 2009, and eventually spawned a live tour series that seems to channel the original Impact Tour formula, only with a gigantic resi-ramp, FMX, skate, roller blades, wheelchairs, scooters, BMX and various contraptions pieced together for the sake of Nitro Circus stunts. The Nitro Circus Live Tour plays to sold-out crowds in arenas throughout the world, and although the purists would like to argue that landing new tricks on a resi-landing doesn't really "count," Nitro Circus Live has introduced several new tricks to BMX, including "Special" Greg Powell's "Special Flip," and just last week, Matt Whyatt's backflip tailwhip to late 360.
Whyatt has been attempting the backflip tailwhip to late 360 for the past year, and on May 22, he finally landed one clean to the pedals. Some will argue that it's not exactly a backflip, taking on more of a corked spin, but I think that's besides the point. Matt Whyatt has taken a never-before-seen (and also very dangerous) idea and made it into reality. And in doing so, he progressed the very small but dedicated discipline of mega-box jumping to new limits. Maybe it's not every BMXer's cup of tea, but you can't deny how crazy the progression of mega-box jumping has become thanks in part to Nitro Circus Live.
Nitro Circus Live's Australian Capital City tour heads to Adelaide this weekend, followed by Perth on June 9. From there, the athletes get to rest up until the upcoming European tour in November and December of 2012. It's not Mat Hoffman or Brian Blyther wearing multiple wrist watches while riding a halfpipe, but it is the best display of mega-box BMX progression going right now.
And because it's exposing new audiences to BMX riding, Nitro Circus Live could potentially inspire the overall growth of BMX as a whole.