Wisdom Of The Ages: Garrett Byrnes

7 pieces of wisdom from the wild-haired legend on two wheels...

24 Aug 2015

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA PIPE RD 14

"This is a pipe with water in it; sometimes you have to make things work."

Words and photos by Rob Dolecki

The Garrett Byrnes influence runs deep in today’s riding, whether or not the younger generation recognizes this wild-haired old guy on a T-1 who can blast the hell out of stuff with a smooth style like no other. And despite being out of the BMX limelight in recent years, Mr. Byrnes is riding as hard as ever, as the recent “Pool’s Gold” trip obviously confirmed.

A lot has changed for Garrett since the days when he had that epic opener part in “Seek And Destroy,” and some some things haven’t, like his penchant for doing crazy gaps at a moment’s notice with a casual style like no other. During the Pool’s Gold trip with fellow “Criminal Mischief” video alumni Jason Enns and Van Homan, they shared a lot of stories, experiences and wisdom, both about bike riding and life in general. Here’s the third and final “Wisdom of the Ages” piece with master chef Garrett B.

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA GAP RD 05

"This is another gap that I looked at, and it looked really fun. My vision sucks, and I wasn’t wearing glasses. I couldn’t really see the wire, so I put a little piece of bag on the wire, so I could see it and I wouldn’t hit it."

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA PIPE RD 02

“I need a haircut.”

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA EYEINGGAP RD 06

"Sometimes I get something in my head and I can’t let it go."

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA GAP RD 07

"I knew what would happen if I went too fast; I actually did go a little too fast. I more or less thought it was going to work, but I wasn’t positive. As soon as I said I wanted to do it, Van and Enns just got up and walked away; they didn’t’ want to watch. The ultimate confidence builder is when your friends don’t want to watch you do something. (Laughter)"

1. Moving from the Criminal Mischief video era to today:

I went from riding professionally to stopping and trying to start a normal life. It didn’t quite work exactly how I planned. I got married, divorced. I have a kid now. I work full-time. Riding isn’t my life by any means, but it is a really big part of my life. I try to ride a bike every day, whether it’s a BMX bike, beach cruiser, tandem bike, 12” bike, girlfriend’s bike… I want to ride, push myself to feel good riding, for myself. I want to see what I’m capable of. In the past there were times I pushed my self, but I was pretty lazy about it. At 35, I feel like I’m riding better than I ever have. I’m in better shape, and I’m happy where I’m at. It’s a cool position to be in, because I’ve always ridden for companies that didn’t push me to kill myself for nothing, if I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. Now it’s me doing it all for myself; it makes me happy.

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA PIPE RD 03

"These pipes were great. Over the years I’ve ridden a lot of different full pipes and transitions. Transition pretty much rules my life whether it’s skateboarding, bike riding or surfing."

"I have two launch ramps in my side yard that are four feet tall. I set them up thirty feet apart front of my house and jump them when I’m by myself, because I have nothing to do."

2. Stepping down from being a professional rider:

This industry can chew you up and spit you out. You only ever hear of the seventeen year-old driving a Maserati and doing triple tailwhips. If you don’t want to ride and you’re not focused, you get hurt. At the end of the day no one else cares, other than your close friends... When you’re done, you have to figure out your own path. When I stopped riding professionally, my bank account was at zero. Then as an operating engineer, that’s when I started building from there. That’s when I really started my life. There’s not many people who can make a career out of it long-term, and there’s rarely a retirement.

3. Befriending skatepark kids:

When I was young, any person that rode was instantly my best friend. Now, you go to skateparks and kids have headphones in and sometimes give you a vibe. I get weird with them, straight up- “YO WHAT’S UP! HOW’S IT GOING?” I try to be best friends with them, because that’s the way I’ve always been. We’re doing the same thing.

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA TABLE RD 12

"Enns had heard about it, and I don’t think it had really been ridden yet. It was a really unique pool, cool shape, and really good transition in the deep end. You don’t really get to ride pools like this too often. We had to search through a gated community; we hiked up through sticker bushes, up the side of a mountain, and it looked like an old sleep-a-way camp on top of a mountain. A pot of gold at the end of a rainbow."

4. The balance of life:

People have their struggles in life and they have their priorities, and priorities change. I myself had a struggle with having a hard time riding for two years. I was mentally twisted with marriage, divorce, having a son, trying to fit everything with work, trying to keep everyone happy. I was last on my list, and it kind of exploded in the end. I really understand that I need to be totally happy in what you do in order to give everyone else a hundred percent of yourself. If you’re not, you’re not really doing anyone or yourself a favor.

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA TABLE RD 08

"Enns will give me shit for this tabletop until I die. He was doing tables at this pool. I was really excited and confused at the same time, and I said I really wanted to shoot a table. In my own words it came out as, 'I can do a better table.' Enns looked at me, and said, 'Fuck you.' I was like, 'Oh wait, I didn’t mean that; I meant that’s the only trick I can do worth shooting here.' He made me laugh, and gives me shit about it pretty much to this day."

5. Injuries:

It’s about learning about yourself. I went from riding my bike to a lingering wrist injury for two years, and finally got it fixed. I had almost nine months off my bike, and I decided to focus on other things, like photography and different passions in life, and forget about bike riding. Bike riding is always going to be there. If you keep thinking about your bike while you’re wrist is broken and just sit there, you’re going to waste away. You need to re-direct your passion towards something else.

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA POOL RD 15

"This is an odd pool with a bunch of different transitions; I could riding this thing all day, just trying to get around that corner."

6. The secret to longevity:

In life you never stop searching. It’s all heart, that’s what will keep you in it. It’s your job to take care of yourself. I’m an advocate for taking care of your body, eating healthy, exercising. Just keeping yourself in shape; the more you do that the longer you can ride.

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA TABLE RD 01

"I’ve been riding BMX for over two decades and I don’t have to do a hundred tricks or the craziest thing. I just do what I want to do. If my friends are with me, it’s as good as it gets; I just want to have a good time, and have fun with my friends."

7. Next chapter in riding:

I haven’t been a professional bike rider for about a decade, since I was 26. For me, I like pushing myself. I have two launch ramps in my side yard that are four feet tall. I set them up thirty feet apart front of my house and jump them when I’m by myself, because I have nothing to do. It’s fun, I’ve always liked jumping stuff. I’m excited- the older I get the more excited I am to ride, every day. I’ll be back in an excavator in a few days, digging holes, thinking about this pool trip, thinking about the same things that I did when I was 16, 18. It’s recollection, reflection of your life, and thinking about what you’ve done, and creating new memories. If you stop making memories to look back on, you’re going to get to a point where you’re pretty upset. Getting old is doing what you want to do.

GARRETT BYRNES BMX INTERVIEW CALIFORNIA PIPE RD 04

"Ever since I started surfing I got really into smooth lines and trying to carve stuff fast and fun. This is really what comes down to my passion in riding. I can stay healthy and do this until I’m 70 years old. For the most part this is what I want to do."

Related Video

Pool's Gold - Episode 1

Three legends on the road together for the first time since Criminal Mischief - More Info

Related Video

Pool's Gold - Episode 2

"Such a raw, basic aspect of bike riding" - Jason Enns - More Info