Mat Hoffman: “I’m Kind of the Poster Child for BMX Injuries”

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Oh man, there’s all kinds, but I saw Evel Knievel as a superhero – even though he was real, I didn’t see him that way. It was pretty amazing for me, because I actually ended up becoming friends with him for about 15 years, I talked with him a lot and rode some bikes with him.

One person who really influenced me was [professional skateboarder] Jeff Phillips. I was on tour with him in ’88, and when you’re on tour with people you kind of memorise everybody’s run, you know what they’re going to do and you anticipate every wall they ride. However, every time I watched Jeff, he would never do the same thing, and he was the only person I could never anticipate. I was so adamant about figuring out my run before I dropped in – I would even have a cheat sheet on my bike to tell me which tricks to do. He just let his skating create itself, and I think that really changed my outlook on riding. It made a big difference in my life.

Even though BMXing has grown throughout the years, it’s still a very niche thing and remains a tight community of riders. Everybody looks out for everybody, and every event I go to I see people trying to help others to believe and live the dream. People like Mike Vincent and Stephen Murray stand out though – one became blind and one became paraplegic, but they still give back and inspire people to never give up. It kind of gets me – whenever I’m beat up or sore, I think “This ain’t nothing compared to these other guys…”

It’s almost more like who is like that. With mostly everybody, it comes out in their riding or skating – it’s an expression. For instance, people like John Parker – he’s one of the most gnarly BMX dudes ever, and would do things that nobody else would do, and still haven’t done. You see this monster on the bike, then you talk to him and he has this high voice and he’s very shy and quiet – he just wants a cup of tea!

I’m kind of the poster child for BMX injuries – I’ve lost my spleen, lost a lot of blood, been in a coma. I think my wife has been that person for me, because I’ve nearly flatlined in her arms and she’s stuck with me. Once, I slammed on a ramp and I lost eight months of my memory – it’s almost like your brain is a hard drive and it has to be refragmented. You have to keep thinking of old memories and talking to people, but it takes time to remember things. Even though it can be really discouraging, my wife is patient and supportive of my passions.

[BMX pioneer] Dennis McCoy is turning 50 this year. Just two years ago we head-on collided – I broke my sternum and he slashed his groin area so deep that all four tendons that hold his thigh muscle to his pelvis snapped. I had a photo and I had to take it out of my phone because it ruined my day whenever I saw it. But he came back the next year and rode The X Games – he’s still throwing down now and going big. He’s over five years older than I am, and ever since I was a teenager, I’d be like “Man, I’ve still got five years at least, because I know Dennis is still going”. He’s always been my barometer.

It’s probably Tony Hawk, he’s always given us jobs when we needed them, and he’s always trimmed some fat off for his bros. He gives a lot back to the greater good and works towards the need to foster more people by giving them access to be able to ride and skateboard; to change their lives like it’s changed ours.

Hoffman will appear at NASS festival from July 8-10 for the BMX World Championships, which are back in the UK for the first time in 28 years.

Former staff writer

Gary Ogden wrote for the print edition of Coach between 2015 and 2016, writing features, interviewing celebrities and covering entertainment. He has also written for ShortList.