Kevin Martin for Harobmxcollector.com Hi Kevin, firstly where did you grow up? New Haven, Connecticut USA, about 70 miles from NYC. What are your first memories of BMX childhood? I remember jumping off a plank set up on a concrete block in front of my house when I was about 6 years old, that was 1974. I had a huffy with a banana seat until I broke the seat, then I put a 10 speed seat on it. That was the first thing resembling a BMX bike that I rode. We were right in the middle of the Evel Knenevil hysteria and since our mothers wouldn't allow us to have motorcycles, we started jumping bikes. In my opinion BMX was born because of what Evel was doing. From those early days I was hooked. How did you get involved with Haro and what was your first paying job for them? I was traveling a fair bit competing in all the AFA contests and also competing in any comps on the East coast. I started meeting all the famous riders and becoming friends with some of them. I really wanted to move to California to follow my BMX dreams but I really didn't have any money. Joe Johnson was a friend of mine and he called me one day and told me he was going to move to Leucadia, California and rent the Enchanted ramp house from Ron Wilkerson and he asked if I wanted to go with him. It was way beyond any dream I had come up with. The ramp house was already famous and I saved about $800 and moved to California within a few weeks of being asked to go. I had nothing but a bike and my clothes but I really didn't want to pass up this chance. I figured I could get a job doing anything, I didn't mind working hard anyway but the idea that I would being living at the Enchanted ramp house was almost to good to be true. About a week out Johnson got cold feet and I was devastated. To my absolute surprise the next day Ron Wilkerson called me and asked me if I was still coming. I really didn't know Ron that well (and actually thought it was a friend pretending to be Ron) but I told him I was coming. When I arrived at the ramp house with another buddy from Connecticut and paid Ron the first month's rent. I was kind of lost. We were kind of in the country, had almost no money, no jobs, and no food. What a joke, I didn't even know that you had to pay for power or telephone service! I quickly became friends with Ron because he was riding at the house everyday. I got a job at a movie theater right away, then I started working part time for Two Hip a few months later. Right away I met Bob Haro. Haro bikes was only a few miles away and anytime any of their riders were in town they rode at the house and hung out with us. I think the first money I ever got from Haro was for helping look after the team guys while they were in town. I have seen a lot of pictures of you riding recently on an old Haro freestyler and looking very good actually!!. What was your lifestyle like in those days? I was about 14 or 15 years old. I lived in the inner city, was poor and white. I had just started working so I went from getting $10 allowance to making about $70 a week! I was riding crappy hand me down bikes with junk parts up until then. Within a couple months I was buying brand new white Skyway tuff wheels then a Torker frame. As soon as the I bought the Torker(because Bob rode Torker) they came out with the first Haro freestyler, I had to have it! I had friends all over the city. We had jumps, flatland spots and ramps scattered all over the city as well, so we all possied up and rode everywhere because nobody had a car. Having a shinny Haro in New Haven had it's disadvantages however. My town has a serious violent crime problem then and now. Being a little white kid riding through all kinds of bad neighborhoods on the shinniest, best BMX bike on the market was really dangerous. I am not kidding when I tell you I had to pedal for my life at least once a day. I was a little scared but I had raced for a while and the kids chasing me were usually on crappy stolen bikes and could NEVER catch me. I actually came to enjoy the sport of it all! Those days were really great because we rode EVERYTHING. It's not like today where most rider have a specialty. In an average day we rode flat, dirt, ramps and street till the late hours. Most of our mothers really didn't mind us staying out late because they knew we were riding and not drinking or doing drugs. What kind of a rider would you describe yourself as? I rode BMX for about 25 years so I rode everything. In the beginning I rode every disipline of BMX everyday. When I started competing I was mostly focused on flat land but once I moved to California I mostly rode street, dirt and vert. When I moved to Texas I only rode street and dirt. I guess my fondest riding memories were being airborne. Can you remember your first outing on the road with the Haro team and how did that opportunity come about? Being from the East coast I was pretty removed from the BMX industry. I went to see the shows that came to town every summer. I was friends with Joe Johnson. He was the East coast's great white hope. He was in my opinion one of the the top three most naturally gifted vert riders I ever saw ride. Joe and I became pretty good friends and traveled to AFA comps and even down to DC for the KOV earlier in 1987. Joe got picked up by Haro in 1986 and went on the 1987 summer tour. It was Joe, Rick Moliterno, Dennis McCoy and Jon Peterson announcing. Joe called me one night and told me to come ride with the team in Manhattan that night. NYC was the most lawless crazy place to ride in the 80s. Any night with the NYC locals was really fun but when McCoy came to town it was complete mayhem. After a night of riding Joe asked me if I wanted to come on the road for a few weeks and finish the tour with them, of coarse I called my boss and got out of work and I hit the road with that ship of fools for three of the funnest weeks of my life! What is your fondest memory of the late 80’s period of BMX in general? I guess my fondest memories of BMX in the 80s was going from being a little kid from Connecticut reading BMX magazines to meeting all my heroes and becoming friends with them all. By 1988 I was traveling around the US for Two hip, setting up the ramps, then announcing the contests. I also started to get some magazine coverage and the free gear seemed endless from then on. I watched the birth of big air recently and saw you fall on your knee during the infamous Hofman flare moment. What was the atmosphere like in that room and how much pain were you in?!? I was in agony. I had took a huge chunk of skin off my knee riding dirt the day before and could barley walk. Mat was flown to England to do a demo and I happened to be there vistining friends and checking out the comp. They asked me if I wanted to announce and I thought it would be fun, At that time in BMX the 2 Hip contest were the only vert contests and Mat was the ruling king of vert. At that time there was no you tube or internet so videos of tricks took months to get around. Nobody in England had seen the back flip yet, so they were all really excited to see it live for the first time. So the room was electric the second Mat walked in the room. When the demo started the crowd was beyond ready to see him ride. The crowd was going nuts. I think Tabron and Bestwick were riding with him. Mat did all his big tricks and obviously was gearing up to do the flip. Well he did it and the roof almost came off the place. Everyone including myself thought the demo was over. Mat was in the middle of the ramp and motioned that he wanted to talk to me. The crowd was still going nuts in the background and I asked Mat what was up. He said he had a new trick and wanted to know if I thought he should do it right then or wait till the KOV in Indianapolis in two weeks. I asked if he thought he could pull it, and he said "yes". I asked if it was a big trick, and he said "it could change the sport". I got goose bumps then and I still get goose bumps every time I tell the story. When he dropped in I had no idea on earth what he was going to do. I watched with everybody else as he pumped a couple airs to get speed. He hucked a flip and started to do a 180 on the way it but crashed!! I could't believe what he had attempted but was blown away. He got up, dusted himself off and started riding the ramp again. The crowd was mental. He got up to height and tried again. He landed low on the transition but pulled it. My reaction was so raw because I had forgotten about how much pain I was in and came down on that scabbed leg and took the whole scab off in one shot. It was more pain than you could imagine. The cut took almost a year to heal completely. That day in England Mat changed the sport. On tour with Ron, Dave, Brian etc, what did a typical day involve? I never actually toured with those guys but I not only did several shows with them but our paths on the road would cross several times a summer and the days we were all together were some of the funnest days of my life. Being on the road at the time was really grassroots and cool. We were all making really good money, I think we were getting about $100 a day which was really great money in the 80s. Anything went on the road. We partied with cool people everyday. It was like being a mini rock star. We had this cool van and trailer tricked out in Haro logos representing the coolest and biggest company in BMX freestyle. What was really cool about being on the road for Haro was that Bob was this larger than life BMX legend and we were friends with him. Bob had the coolest designs and the best riders, everyone wanted to be a part of that world. Dave, Brian and Ron helped put Haro on the map. The other thing that existed on the road was silly ass shenanigans. There was never a shortage of victims or pranks. Just getting through a meal together in a restaurant was a miracle. Ron, Dave and Brian had really good riding chemistry and they were all really good friends. Their vibe comes across in their performances and that is what makes any show even the reunion shows so magical. Who do you most admire and respect in BMX? My favorite rider in the beginning was Mike Dominguez. I loved his natural riding style. As I became involved in the business I gained amazing respect for Ron Wilkerson and Bob Haro. Bob had practically shaped the sport. He was and still is totally cool. When I worked for Ron I really got to see what he put into it the Two hip events. In my opinion his work was one of the biggest contributions to the sport and set the stage for today's BMX freestyle. Also Mat Hoffman.. I watched him as a little kid and saw him carry the sport to the stage that it is at today. Do you still ride and do you still have that old freestyler? I haven't really ridden a BMX bike in over a decade. Sadly I lost track of that freestyler a long time ago, what a bummer! I have mostly been free-ride mountain biking since around then. My willingness to hurt myself in an effort to get air also led me into pretty much all of the "extreme" sports. I rode BMX 8 plus hours a day for about 25 years. I miss it a ton but of all the sports I do BMX is the one that you have to ride all the time to be proficient at it. Snowboarding, mountain biking, wakeboarding and surfing all have a little more room for other shit like holding a job, and maintaining relationships! I do wish I still rode a little bit but I also feel like I took as far as I could go. Getting out of BMX sort of just happened as I started Paramedic school. BMX was getting hostile at that time. The money had dried up and being a dick to other rider/companies became en vogue. Being a part of BMX in those early days when everybody was cool and supportive still remains my fondest memories. It was small enough that we all knew each other and just had a ton of fun! What are your thoughts on the popularity of the old school bmx collecting scene? I really was surprised by it quite frankly. It sort of snuck up on me. I think going to the worlds in 2009 was a huge eye opener about the fact that the past was back with a vengeance! I have since seen all a ton of BMX vintage sites and realized how deeply people care for the nostalgia of BMX. I think it is really great because the sport's past is still within reach and all the people involved are able to tell the stories and get future young BMX riders familiar with the sports roots. Now I could kick myself for letting go of all the BMX stuff I owned over the years!! Can you give me a story or some trivia from your days at Haro when working in the business? It was really an amazing life experience being involved with Haro during those early days. At that time there was so much still to discover, not only riding wise but technology wise as well. Kids have to realize when we started riding freestyle BMX there were no pegs, no gyro, not even a pots mod. Imaging a straight front break cable? Once improvements started coming and the parts became stronger, that is when the tricks really got crazy! The energy at Haro was always great too which was the perfect environment for creativity and development and let's face it, lots of laughs. From memory, you worked in the Haro warehouse for some time. What were the busiest periods like and did you handle a lot of products. Mostly if I was at Haro I was getting the rig(s) ready for tour or some shows or helping them move from one place to another. My favorite thing about being at the Haro warehouse was having the freedom to go digging around in the back and finding all the old Haro stuff kicking around. In the late 80s I found about 100 original Haro freestyler down tube frame stickers. I asked Bob if I could have a few and he told me I could have them all since they were 6 years into different frame decals. I have no Idea what happened to all of those stickers but I just found one(!) of them in my attic so I am hoping I hid them there somewhere and will eventually turn up and I will make a fortune! Maybe I will take the cash and buy Bob some drinks! What goes through your mind when you are announcing at a freestyle show? I never really had any desire to be an announcer. When I started working at 2 Hip my job was working the phones, and taking and shipping merchandise orders. Around contest time it was my responsibility to drive the ramp to the contest(a task that I could write a book about!) city find volunteers to help me and assemble the ramp. The first contest I did this for, Ron at start time asked me if I wouldn't mind announcing. I am a story teller and I am not easily embarrassed so I had no problem shouting about anything. Mostly back in those early days I just made up anything that came into my mind. The stuff I would say made everybody laugh and getting a crowd rowdy is pretty easy with a booming sound system. I came to really enjoy it after a while. When the 2 hip announcing started I started getting announcing gigs all the time with Haro, GT and I also did some shows for Diamond Back. I was at the Cologne Haro reunion show and i thought you really created an amazing atmosphere. It was an amazing experience to witness a show like that, what are your memories of that whole experience? By that time it had been almost a 15 years since I had announced a BMX contest. I was not really sure what to expect but I was really good friends with Stefan Prantl and I knew he would put on a good event. Seeing all the retro Haros there definitely made me realize how much enthusiasm for the history of the sport was at a fever pitch. As the show got closer and all attention turned to the demo area I knew it would be a great show. The crowd energy was the best I have ever seen and that made the show fun for everyone involved and especially fun for me. I saw men in their 40's in tears, it was really special. It was a thrill for not only the crowd but for all the guys riding as well. What is your lifestyle like these days and do you still ride like some of the other guys? My life is going really great. I am a Paramedic firefighter and as most firefighters I absolutely love my job. I get to climb and smash things on a daily basis. As an adrenaline junkie there is no better job for me. I have deliver babies, cut people out of cars, do rope rescues and of coarse run into burning buildings. Being a firefighter is sometimes like taking off from a big BMX jump; the objective is to land before you eat shit and spend months on the couch with broken bones, or in the case of firefighting run in put the fire out, grab injured people and get out before something bad happens. I just got a BMX bike and tool around a little bit but mostly I freeride mountain bike. I work a ton of hours in the summer and travel for for most of the winter to tropical places. I have traveled to 53 countries and every US state but two. I see really horrible things sometimes at work so I try to enjoy myself and life everyday. I still keep in touch with a bunch of my old BMX friends and of coarse facebook has brought many more of us back together. I do miss my life of BMX but I have had several more incredible chapters to my life and my BMX was the springboard to a lifetime of never ending adventures. It has been really fun to be a part of the renewed interest in the sport's past and I enjoy telling the stories of its roots. I am really amazed at how big it has become and big it continues to get.
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