Burner for X-mas.
Back in the day everyone pretty much rode everything (flatland, ramps, etc). What did you ride most when you started out?
Jess: I rode BMX tracks all over London, but I quickly started building my own dirt jumps at the end of my street. Me and some mates built Highgate BMX track (The track in the woods) which had a heavy emphasis on big jumps. We even built a sketchy 1/4 out of a fridge and a few doors up against some trees.
A small crew in London started riding more street at the end of the '80-s who were all in this group?
Jess: I can only tell you from my perspective, but I was riding with Nick Phillips, Ethan Phillips and Bun to name a few. We all also rode skateboards so we started adapting some of the skateboard tricks like fast plants and wall rides. We would spend hours trying to figure out how to ride a vertical wall. It seemed impossible, but one day I found a slight embankment to a vert wall in Highgate. After many unsuccessful attempts I managed to get both wheels onto the vert wall. It wasn't pretty, but that might have been the first BMX wall ride. Later I took it to a straight 90 wall ride. Shortly after that we started going to South Bank and ride the banks with the skateboarders. Later that year Eddie Roman did a wicked 90 degree wall ride at Holeshot. He was rolling further that I'd ever seen. I took a photo and it which ran in BMX Action Bike. The Eddie Roman wall ride was my first published photo.
What inspired you lot to ride street?
Jess: Nick and I would ride with our friends all over Highgate, Hamstead and Muswell Hill. It seemed like we spent the better part of each day just riding around looking for shit to ride. The local streets were our skateparks, so we started adapting tricks to the urban environment around us. Southbank was also a central place we would hang out.
Did you know what was going on in the USA at the same time or did you just do your own things and discover what was possible on the bike in the streets?
Jess: We just did our own thing. However we were heavily influenced by skateboarding and the urban music scene. London is a creative urban jungle and inspiration is all around. By the time Craig and I arrived in the US, Street riding was just part of riding. We rode all over LA looking for banks and wall rides. The American's were really impressed with our street style, and Freestylin' Magazine did an article on how Craig and I brought street riding to the US. I'm sure others were doing the same stuff, but Craig and I were in the right place at the right time.
Did you have any riders you looked up to?
Jess: Many...Eddie Fiola, Neil Ruffle RIP, Ron Wilkerson, Erik Steel, Craig Campbell, Brian Blyther and Mike Dominguez were all very influential in my early BMX days.
When was the first time you went to America to ride?
Jess: Eddie Fiola asked me to come to America for the 1987 GT world tour. That two month tour changed my life!!
Who were your sponsors then?
Jess: Faze 7 and GT were my first sponsors.
Did you join the Americans in doing shows?
Jess: The 87 GT tour was mostly bike shops across 32 states, Puerto Rice, Curraco and the Bahamas. I was on tour with Eddie Fiola, Dino Deluca and Brett Hernandez.
Who else from the UK was making the trips to Cali?
Jess: Dave Curry was the first. Later Craig and Neil went out for the king of the skateparks comps at Upland.
What made you decide to move there?
Jess: I loved it in California from day one, so naturally I stayed when GT offered me a job.
Have you ever regretted moving away from BMX into the inline world?
Jess: No regrets. I do wish that I could have had a longer BMX career, but my wrists got so bad that I could no longer ride the way I wanted to. I was doing shows with Chris Edwards and he got me to try out skates. Inline skating (Rollerblading) was the best thing that could have happened to me, my wrists no longer held me back. In-line was a blank canvas for creativity and new tricks. There were many parallels to how BMX was in the early 80's when we were adapting skateboard tricks to BMX. Just this time I adapted everything I knew into In-line.
Do you still follow BMX?
Jess: Yes. I've been at most of the B3 events over the past 15 years. I used to compete at the ASA events, but in 1997 I retired from pro contests and started judging. I try to watch the BMX events and I like catching up with some of the older guys from my time. I also competed on In-line skates at the first and second X-games in Rhode Island. Not many people know this but the popularity of In-line skating was a big part of how the X-games started. In-line was massive during the 90's and sponsors wanted a piece of the In-line boom. In 1994 I helped start the ASA (Aggressive skaters association) with Mark Shays and a few friends. Several years later ASA started incorporating BMX and skateboarding into their events. At the last LG action sports Championships the ASA announced that this was most likely the last event for In-line. How ironic considering that the ASA and the X-Games were largely funded through the popularity of In-line. How quickly some people forget.
Do you still have a BMX bike?
Jess: I did have a John Parker K2 until a few months ago. The geometry and handling sucked so I sold it. Robbie Morales (from Fit Bikes) is my neighbor here at the lofts. I see him around the neighborhood, and we joke about the old days. So after I sold the K2 I wanted a new better bike. I left a note on his door asking to buy a Fit bike from him. I never heard back from him, and I haven't even seen him since. Maybe he never got the note, maybe he moved?? Or maybe he's been on tour for 6 months?? Robbie if you're out there, I want to buy a bike mate. Hit me up at 204 E. 3rd.
Jess: Comeback? I'm not sure what you mean by comeback? I'm going to be 40 in March, so no chance of any BMX or skate comeback....but I do plan to meet up with Lee Reynolds, Damon Nicholls and Andy Shohara at their next old school get together. I've been Facebooking with Craig Campbell and he just got a new bike and is keen to ride again. Would be great to get all the UK riders together for a chill mini ramp session sometime.