MAT HOFFMAN
interview by neogeo the prophet

MAT HOFFMAN IS A PRO BMX RIDER WITH HIS OWN COMPANY, VIDEO GAME AND AGENDA. MAT IS AT THE FOREFRONT OF HIS SPORT AND IS DOING EVERYTHING HE CAN TO KEEP THE SPORT FROM BECOMING ANOTHER SILLY FAD. AND HE'S DOING WELL. HE WAS RECENTLY ONE OF THE MANY ATHLETES INCLUDED IN TONY HAWK'S GIGANTIC SKATEPARK TOUR. THIS WAS A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED BECAUSE THE TOUR TRAVELED ACROSS EUROPE AND THE US AND WAS DOCUMENTED BY ESPN. THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT THIS BROADCAST WILL BE THAT NOT ONLY CAN PEOPLE WATCH THE TOP PROS OF THE INDUSTRY PERFORM, BUT THEY CAN ALSO SEE THE HIJINKS THESE GUYS GET INTO ON THE SIDE. MAT HOFFMAN TOLD US THAT ONE OF HIS FAVORITE MEMORIES OF THE TOUR WAS IN GERMANY WITH TONY HAWK. THE TWO WERE GIVEN A FERRARI AND SET LOOSE ON THE AUTOBAHN. THE CAMERAS WERE ROLLING AS MAT AND TONY FLOORED THE GAS TO SEE JUST HOW FAST A SKATEBOARDER AND BMXER COULD GO. YOU'LL HAVE TO WATCH IT TO LEARN THE ANSWER. BUT BEFORE YOU DO, READ WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PRO BMX RIDER AND A PROPHET SIT DOWN FOR A CONVERSATION.

neogeo: Do you care if I use the word "gnarly" at some point in this interview? I just really want to see ďgnarlyĒ in print.

Mat: (laughing) Yeah, thatís fine. I use the word ďgnarly,Ē too. But spell-check always says itís spelled wrong.

n: I always thought my brother was the first person to use ďgnarly.Ē I heard him say it and then, like a week later, I heard it all over MTV. That made my brother so cool to me. He was my hero.

M: Your brother is gnarly.

n: Yeah, he is gnarly. So, Mat Hoffman, why do you ride a bike?

M: Itís just a continual challenge for me. Itís a sport but you can adapt the rules to your attitude and personality instead of having to adapt them to the rules. BMX gives you more freedom to do what you want to do. It lets you express yourself. I can come up with weird challenges and then see if I can do it. It keeps me focused.

n: So how did you get started?

M: I used to race motocross and did some cross-country racing. I got more into jumping and doing freestyle. Then I saw this sport that completely revolved around that. So I got a bicycle and just started playing on it from there, trying to figure it out and seeing what was possible on it.

n: How old were you then?

M: I was really young. Ten-years-old.

n: Were your parents supportive of you when you were young?

M: Yeah, they were totally supportive. I was kind of lucky in the sense that they would support me in whatever I did. If I was into it, they were like, ďAll right, cool. Go for it.Ē They were into it. Iím sure it discouraged them a little bit when I would take some slams, but that came with the territory.

n: When you were young, did you ever have names for your bikes?

M: (laughing) Well, I never really had names but, man, I slept with my bike. And Iím serious. I would put it in bed with me and sleep. It was my best friend. But I never had a name for my bike. I think that would make it a little too weird. I could sleep with my bike, but as long as I didnít name it everything was OK.

n: So your bike was everything to you. It became who you are.

M: Yeah, it becomes your life. It becomes your religion. I mean, BMX has taught me everything. I was kicked out of school when I was fifteen but BMX taught me what I could do with life. It showed me how to use my imagination to come up with an idea and how to manifest that into reality. I think those are the basics you really need to know, and bikes taught me that. And so I just applied that into every other aspect of my life and it taught me that I donít have to compromise. If I see it one way, then I do it that way and I donít have to conform to something else that is already established. You can establish your own ideas. Bikes have become not just a lifestyle but everything to me.

n: Itís interesting to me that you feel so much for what you do, and that brings up a point I wanted to talk about. BMX and skateboarding have become such a public thing with events like the X Games. Terms like ďsportĒ and ďathleteĒ are being applied to what you do. But if you look at football or any other organized sport, athletes are judged on stats or how many games theyíve won. How do things like that apply to BMX and skateboarding?

M: Well, right now BMX is in a really commercial age and itís the same thing that happened to our sport back in the Ď80s. It got really popular, but it didnít really have a true foundation. It was pretty scattered and whatever foundation did exist was built by business men. When things became a commodity, the promoters came in and exploited BMX as a fad. They didnít really have anything that was authentic. The promoters didnít have anybody that knew what the sport was about. They just thought, ďThese kids are into it. Letís put some neon colors all over it and exploit it.Ē Then it died out in the early Ď90s and no one rode bikes. Thatís when I started putting together my own events and competitions. It was a place where we could all gather again. And then all the bikers just started their own companies and businesses. More or less, we established our own bike-rider foundation for the sport. Now we direct things. We own the companies that make the bikes and run the contests. And now itís in that age again where there are a bunch of promoters who are into it because itís a commodity and they can make money off it. Kids are into it and itís got a market again. So itís being exploited again, but itís being exploited from our foundation. So this time, if the promoters do things whack, we can tell them. There is definitely that aspect of it out there. But to me and other riders, bike riding is what it is and that other stuff doesnít affect us. Every once in awhile, like at the X Games, itís interesting to have an opportunity that is mass distributed to the public where you can challenge what the definition of ďsportĒ or ďathleteĒ is. BMXers might be those things, but weíre a different type. So itís kind of cool when we can have a stage and bring it to the masses. But at the same time, you have to keep a balance. I know a lot of people get into it for the glam. But I started riding a bike to avoid that. Sometimes you get a wacky guy in there who doesnít have a clue and he tries to interpret the sport and the way he sees it, but itís just a bunch of bullshit. But then there are people that actually understand the sport and they get to direct it. So thatís kind of nice this time around.

n: Exactly. So this time itís all controlled by the people who feel passionately about it.

M: Exactly. And I think thatís because we learned a lot the last time. Then it was like, ďMan, I donít want to deal with business. Business sucks. I just want to ride my bike.Ē But if thatís the case youíre leaving the interpretation of your sport and of who you are up to someone who has no idea how to interpret it. And then it goes to the masses like that and youíre like, ďThis is bullshit! Thatís not me!Ē So this time we realized we gotta get our hands on it and interpret ourselves so that people understand.

n: So how many times in the course of a day do you want to be like, ďScrew this management crap! I want to go ride my bike!Ē

M: Itís pretty bad to hope that the sport dies, but it would make managing things a lot easier. Yeah, I get frustrated sometimes but I still ride. So I can justify the frustration. If I was just a businessman I donít know if I could do it. But this allows me to ride my bike everyday. Like right now, if I wanted to, I could get off the phone with you and go session. I have my own half pipe in back I can go ride. And because I can do that it justifies having to do the business aspect of it. Itís also nice to be able to direct it and influence other kids on that so that it all doesnít turn out to be some MTV fad. As long I keep riding and being able to promote the sport the way it should be, Iím happy with it. It gets me through the day.

tastes like chicken would like to thank Mat Hoffman for doing things his own way and for keeping his sport from becoming another neon-colored money-making scheme. Oh! And hereís a little secret about Mat. Itís rumored that Tony Hawk himself was jealous that Mat might steal the Xtreme Gamer spotlight and made plans to thwart his BMX adversary. When work began on the Mat Hoffmanís Pro BMX video game, Tony had inside people implant little pain receptors on Matís nervous system. So when you kids out there play the game and crash up Matís character, the real Mat Hoffman goes into painful and bloody convulsions. So please, for Matís sake, be careful and try to land those tricks!

VISIT MAT HERE.