Mike Gray put in work at street spots, parks, and plazas around So Cal and his hometown near Toronto, Canada for this edit. Gray, 19, spent nearly six months in the states earlier this year and turned heads everywhere he went, which lead him to pick up two sponsors (Freegun Underwear and Index Ink) before moving back north of the border. With tons of style, a deep bag of tricks, and a contagious positive attitude, Mike is definitely one to keep your eye on. This past weekend, Gray finished fourth place in the second round of The Hunt's BMX video contest. His last trick was very brave.
ESPN.com: Didn't you do a lot of other activities and sports before deciding to stick to BMX? What were you into before riding, and what made you stay on two wheels?
Gray: I was actually super into a few team sports. I played a lot of soccer and lacrosse, but riding was always a side sport that I loved while playing team sports. I just wasn't totally serious about it. I just liked the thrill and had fun with it. I still always tried to ride in all my spare time, and making videos with my friends was always one of the more fun things to do. Eventually my family moved from the West Coast to the other side of Canada when I was starting high school and playing team sports without the friends I grew up with just wasn't the same, so I gravitated towards riding more and more. I sort of had really quick connections in my neighborhood with the kids that rode bikes, and before I knew it we had an amazing crew of friends riding all the time. We all kind of just had a heavy connection with each other where we wouldn't have rather be hanging out with anyone else! So as we got a little older all my friends slowly got into other interests and pulled away from riding. It always seemed to naturally be my biggest interest and focal point in my life. In no time I was lost in progression and seemed to sacrifice and miss family events, friend hangouts, and other activities all so I could ride as much as I could.
Can you talk about the support your parents have given you since you graduated high school? Haven't they been funding your riding as if it was a college education?
My parents are pretty much everything I have to thank for the last year or two of my riding life. When I was in high school I always worked. From when I was 15 I always had a job and worked and provided myself with money. It was weird and hard for them to be convinced about riding since everyone in my family chain has gone to college or university straight out of high school, but once I started getting so heavily into riding, doing it everyday, making videos, and doing well in a few contests, one thing lead to another and they were more than willing to support me and realized that riding was what I truly wanted to be doing. So that has made it possible for me to make BMX my main focus.
What was it like moving across the continent into a different country by yourself at such a young age?
It was a pretty big deal for me to move down to California for half a year, and a huge step for BMX and growing up. Luckily I started the move off with a road trip with some awesome riding friends where we ended up in So Cal at the end of it, so house hunting and everything was easier with some friends. At the end of the trip they flew back home and I stayed in So Cal. It was honestly a pretty hard first couple of months being so far from home. I had never been away from my family for no more than a week or two, so I missed them a lot. Being in a different country made it really hard -- new people, new rules. Eventually I got used to everything, and overall I would have to say that the six months in California turned out as good as it could have been. I had frequent visitors from home staying with me and met some of the coolest people I know, so I always had awesome people to ride and hang out with. It actually felt awesome to be able to provide meals, laundry, and all that living stuff for myself! I guess it sort of made me feel grown up, haha! I had accomplished more productivity for myself in half a year than I ever have in my life, and all without having parental guidance.
If you had to describe your riding style to someone, what would you say about it?
I would say to someone my riding style is what I have the most fun doing -- right now mostly street and park, but I definitely can have just as much or more fun riding a set of trails (If I can make it through them) for a day, or really anything if I have my friends to hang out with or my music and I'm on my bike! I would say my riding is what I am most interested in. I try not to think too hard about what I'm doing and really just go with the flow and do what I naturally want, whenever I want. I don't like to push learning something because someone is telling me to. I try to only prove things to myself.
You seem to be very calculated when going for heavy tricks. Can you walk us through what goes on in your mind as you prepare to do something that's a bit scary?
I definitely like to be really familiar and calculated with a trick I'm going for. I feel like I try and look at things in a lot of steps. Honestly I just like to have full control of my bike and what I'm doing, so if that means taking a dozen more runs to build confidence for it, I'm probably going to. I think I like to really feel that I can do what I'm trying. It's always worth it when it's landed, no matter the time spent prepping. I just don't want to mess up because I didn't see or realize something obvious before I tried it.
Do you have any plans to try to make a permanent move back into the U.S.? What's the process like for a Canadian to be able to make that move?
I definitely want to eventually make the U.S. a home base. It's pretty tough for a Canadian to move down there though. You pretty much either need to find an American woman and marry, or get a company to sponsor you for a work visa. So if there is some sort of job that a Canadian can get in America, you have to go through a huge amount of paperwork and you can be down there for good. It's a tough process either way, but I would consider Canadians lucky compared to a lot of other countries for not needing a visa for a visit in the first place.
You seem to be pretty into enjoying other aspects of life besides BMX. Would you say that's true?
To be honest, I try and spend like 350 days out of 365 days a year for the past couple years on my bike. I actually ride almost every day. It's awesome. So if there is some sort of opportunity to learn or see something new and have some fun I'm totally in! As far as weekends go, going out with my friends is way too fun and so hard to turn down a night out with em, especially after being gone for the past six months.
Care to give any shout outs, last words, or thanks?
Shout out to all my friends! The biggest thanks goes to my family. They are so supportive in so many different ways I can't fathom how important they are in my life and how much I appreciate everything! Thanks to Mark and Scott from Joyride 150 for keeping everyone in the Toronto area on a bike through the freezing cold snowy winters. I don't know what we would do without you guys! I would like to thank Index Ink and Freegun Underwear for keeping me looking fresh. Thanks Mike Hammond from Diamondback for all the help with the bike!