There are moments while watching Phil DeMattia's riding where you could have sworn you saw him stepping off the Road Fools 9 bus right after Brian Wizmerski. To say something cliche such as "timeless" or "contemporary" would not be giving DeMattia justice to his approach.
Kink Bike Co., éclat, DubBMX and Rampworx Skatepark have clearly seen the talent so many have recently come to witness; far from the days of a GT Dyno and an "empty Welsh village in the UK called Caergwrle," as DeMattia describes his hometown.
Of course he didn't just ride to his current home in Liverpool on Comp 3 knobbies and Mohawk hubs, springing out of nowhere and filming edits with people such as Will Evans and Darryl Tocco. At 23, he has been riding for 11 years and recently graced the cover of Ride UK's June issue. While working on his interview for Ride UK, Kink's Darryl Tocco took notice of DeMattia's eclectic street style and helped him become a part of their diverse team.
It's rare in 2012 to see a rider with brakes doing crankflips in and out of grinds, but it's even more rare to see peg bonks and sliders mixed in as well. Obviously, an issue of Props from 2002 isn't that big of a stretch. However, there is so much more to DeMattia's riding than a classic 2000s vibe; he's taking somewhat older tricks and putting his own spin on them. That's what makes Phil DeMattia not only special but inspiring. He makes the older crowd smile and nod their heads, reminiscing of times where 40-pound bikes and seat posts were the norm, and he has clearly caught the attention of the younger generation, distancing himself from the current four pegs barspin trend.
Much like his riding, his answers are pretty entertaining too.
ESPN.com: What's the scene like where you're from, and how has it changed over the years?
Demattia: When I was first riding and everyone was still in school it was awesome. Everyone was out at all times, rain or shine. As the years went by, one by one everyone either moved away or stayed in the pub. I'm pretty sure there's a few new young riders killing it back home but I don't really go back enough to keep up.
In May, you and Will Evans teamed up to put out an edit for your new sponsor Kink. How long did it take to put that edit together; and what was going through your mind when you didn't pull that crazy banger after a few tries?
The edit was seven days riding over six weeks. Filming with Will is really easy for me as he's into the trick and he's very keen to try some wild filming, he also has a crazy amount of spots and setups that he already knows what I might want to try. That rail sucked! I had a really good day getting clips and photos, I knew it was possible, so I thought it was the day for it. I was pretty confident to pull it first go and I knew how stoked I'd be to pull it, but I underestimated the pace I would be cabbing out. That rail was as far as I've ever pushed myself without getting knocked out or having a big injury, I think I tried the rail 25 plus times in total but just struggled to get the last 180 quick enough. I spent a few years Thai boxing and was taught to never give up a fight as long as you had a bit of health left, and that was the way I started to see the rail.
Following your Ride UK cover, it seems like you quickly got picked up by Kink. How did that come about, and do you have any trips planned with the Kink crew this year?
Kink came about halfway through the interview, so I was kind of already riding for Kink by the time we shot the cover. Darryl Tocco was interested in my riding so he was into getting me hooked up in the UK, and I've always been close to the guys at Seventies (Kink's UK distributor). As for trips, Jay Roe and Darryl were over last month to clock some clips for the new DVD. Things went well and apart from the weather, it was a sick week. There's nothing set in stone but there was talk about maybe visiting them for a bit of sun.
One of your other sponsors is éclat, which makes perfect sense seeing you probably go through brakes and pedals quite often. How long have you been riding for éclat and do you have anything lined up for them soon?
Stoked to be on éclat as well. I have an odd bike setup, plus I'm nervous to change anything when my bikes rolling sweet and the parts do last. They've hooked me up for nine months now, and I'm really looking forward to spending some time with the pro team this summer. Chester Blacksmith is heading over to Liverpool for a month before, which I'm buzzing off because last time he stayed with us we had too much fun.
Everyone wants to fit into the herd.
Speaking of pedals and brakes, you have crankflips dialed, and it also seems like you don't really follow any trends when it comes to certain bike setups. You have a very early 2000s bag of tricks, yet, you're very innovative and take a different approach to street riding compared to some of the current trends. What do you love about crankflips, brakes, peg bonks, sliders and mixing those elements into street riding?
Thanks I'm a freak! I never had the Internet until I was nearly 18, so I only had "Best of Props 2002" and "Etnies Forward" for my influences, which can never be a bad thing. I'm not really sure where my path changed but I do know that I'm not into doing things I see other people already doing. Normally, if I'm filming at a new spot I'll think of what I could see people doing and then I just think of what's left which is crankflips, peg bonks, sliders and pedal grinds. I love it because it's a good feeling when I have an idea for a new combo on a certain setup, it's really fun when you surprise yourself with a few hours of hard work and get good results. I know pretty much what can be done with a barspin or a whip because of how amazing my friends are at them. As much as I appreciate the skill needed to do them, I just don't see the adventure.
Who are some of your influences now and when you first start riding?
I'm not an easily influenced person, but I was really into Brian Terada's riding. There was never much to see of his riding and that was what I liked -- everything he did is still stuck in my head. These days I'm influenced by the people around me. There's so much hard work going on in Liverpool right now that it makes me want to push myself. I like it when you see a rider make a video better than you expected. People such as Florent Soulas make a video with a ton of creativity, it makes me want to think harder about what I could do.
How do you feel about current trends of three pegs, no brakes, and barspins and tailwhips in and out of everything? Can you do a barspin?
I did a 180 barspin and a one footed barspin in 2005 but not since then. Trends are a good and bad thing. Good because people push certain tricks to the limit (flair bar to footjam), but bad because you sometimes see riders wreck their own paths to fit in. When people ride brakeless, it's so smooth and I can see the appeal, and barspins, tailwhips and no-handers are just really photogenic tricks so it's easy to look good. I might sound like an idiot saying this but trends are just a way to be socially accepted -- everyone wants to fit into the herd.
What are some goals you have with riding? Where would you love to travel to?
Not too sure really, I never had any goals. I was stoked to have a cover shot but I never thought it would of happened, kinda makes you open your mind as to what you're capable of. I've always got new tricks in my head, which are kinda goals, but I enjoy earning my money fabricating so I'm not bothered about getting paid to ride. I would love to travel to Tokyo and Hawaii. Dream trips.
What do you love about riding?
The fact that you can travel, meet awesome people, create your own style and jump on your bike whenever, and no matter what's on your mind you can enjoy yourself. The most amazing thing is that now it's all free. I had a bike stolen from me a year ago and really I should have been bummed, but my sponsors were happy to send a new one out straight away. Even if you do have to buy a new bike, it's you who has the skill and the knowledge. BMX for me has nothing to do with money, it's just effort, and the more effort you put into it the happier it can make you. I love happiness and BMX makes me happy.
What do you hate about riding?
Injuries, haters, Internet beef, busy skateparks, Mike Spinner and hitting your unmentionables after slipping the pedals!
What's the perfect day for you entail?
I would be chilling with a good crew on a sunny day, just hitting up some nibbles in Liverpool and coming home to a big roast dinner. I don't need much, just a sunny day when people are out and all my bills are paid.