The lifespan of the average BMX pro is often fleeting. What once seemed like a dream come true for the aspiring BMX pro in their early twenties gives way to bigger responsibilities, new obstacles and quite often, chronic injuries as riders move on into their thirties. Australian flatland rider Simon O'Brien won an X Games gold medal in BMX Flatland a decade ago. In the time since, he has continued to pursue his personalized brand of flatland riding at home in Australia, working a full-time job on the side to make ends meet. O'Brien is now 33 years old, and while he's taken the boundaries of flatland to new reaches, he's also aware that all of the time spent riding flatland for the past decade has left other areas of his life neglected.
Recently, O'Brien made the decision to join the Australian Navy. He's not turning his back on riding -- he's just ready to start the next chapter of his life, and looking towards the future. O'Brien met up with Stewart Munro to film the above edit, and answered some questions about his recent decision, his commitment to flatland riding, and what's next in life.
XGames.com: What prompted your decision to join the Navy?
O'Brien: I'm 33 now, I'm seeing a Japanese girl and I'm not making great money through work or riding. It's such a good feeling to impress people with riding but at the end of the day, they won't look after you in retirement. There's an Army and two Navy bases in my area -- I've seen that people who are focused in the services do really well. My brother was in the Army and it definitely changed him for the better. As well as this, at the end of my life I want to be able to look back and say that I made good use of it. I don't know if it will really be suited to me, but it's a new challenge! The defense can be a good way to get a trade also -- I am aiming to be an electronic technician.
What does this mean in terms of your riding?
Riding will always be my passion, I refuse to let it go. My job will be at sea for some time of the year. We are allowed to take our bikes for when we reach port, so that means meeting up with friends and some riding time. When back home in Australia, we have a two and a half day weekend, so I can ride then also. Also the defense force has a bike club where you pay a membership fee which allows you to attend bike events and such. I will continue to ride and film as much as i can. I'm slowly collecting clips to do a good edit down the track, something to aim towards. Maybe I can do a Navy edit down the track. Filming some footage on an aircraft carrier sounds good to me.
Do you or have you ever made a living off of riding flatland?
No not really. There doesn't seem to be to many opportunities with flatland and money, especially in Australia. I have done work for art companies before such as performing arts, but you will probably only make a normal wage doing that. And that type of work is very inconsistent, a tour here, a tour there. I want something more consistent so I can have a family down the line.
Are you nearing an age or time in your life when you're looking to do other things?
Yeah absolutely! I'm definitely not getting out of riding but for the past 12 years, I've had an average job to help my riding get by and chase my dream. BMX is still my dream but working that same job made me feel like I was going bananas! So I needed a change. I'm older now and would like a family and have to think of the future. I also have dreams of a nice house to build and I've really been getting into bonsai lately, it's so addictive. I want to be more stimulated mentally and just do something different.
Can you explain what you're hoping to pursue in the Navy?
A change, a good job, a trade. Traveling. There's areas of my life that have been neglected due to my focus on flatland. I want to address these through the Navy: fitness, money, a sought after skill (trade). Yes it is going to be very different to what I know, but I'm gonna learn heaps about different stuff. And friends that I have in the Navy say it's great, so I might as well try.
Are you walking away from any current sponsors?
No, I'm not walking away from any sponsors. I'm still riding for Colony (they just don't do their flatland line of stuff), Etnies and 430 clothing.
Finally, anything I'm missing here?
Thanks heaps for the interview and showing the edit, look for edits in the future. Thanks to my sponsors. Say a pray for me that a Navy war doesn't break out in the next six years. Thanks again!