RE-PRINT: Lucky Stars - The Harry Mills-Wakley DIG Interview
"I still have that passion for riding fast and going high"
Photos and Interview by Andrew White | Originally published in DIG issue 99.5 Summer 2016
I knew very little about Harry before I met him in San Diego for the final filming trip for Still United in 2015. His riding is a tad quirky. I first saw him when he was on the cover of Ride UK doing a one foot X-up out of a rail and thought that an interesting idea for a rail trick. In the era of homogenized BMX street riding different is good.
During the course of a week I spent with Harry I saw a very promising up and comer with a good head (jury still out on dreadlocks). He’s smart and very talented on a bike. Able to do the cookie-cutter stuff on spots, he tries to elevate his riding to branch out of the expected. Harry is right on the verge of coming into his own riding-wise which is exciting. You see it a lot with riders who get a solid foundation, get sponsor attention, travel a bit and gain new experience, and only after all this find a groove in their style. Pay attention to this one in the future, he’s one to follow.
So, how’d that last very last trip go?
I think that was one of my funnest trips. For me it was a blast. I know other people might not say the same thing. Basically everyone else had the worst trip.
Yeah, I seemed to have the lucky star for some reason. I survived! That was my first time on the West Coast, you see all the California spots in videos, to actually go there and ride them was pretty fun and surreal. What was it like growing up in Exeter? How’d you get introduced to BMX?
Growing up in Exeter was good. It’s a pretty small town in the Southwest of England. Still, considering the size of it there’s a lot going on. There’s always been a super strong scene here. All the older riders are really good.
Who are some of the older guys?
Jamie Skinner, Josh Kew, Those are the two who influenced me the most. They still ride present day, they absolutely kill it.
How old are you then? What years are we talking about growing up in Exeter?
Born and bred in Exeter, 21 Years old. I started riding when I was 12 I’d say. And then rode ever since then.
What got you into it?
Before that I used to race motocross every weekend. My dad’s always been into bikes. Since 7 or 8 I've been riding motorbikes off road. I had mountain bikes and then got my first BMX which was kind of a junkyard type thing, then somehow loved it and started riding I guess. Got my first proper BMX when I was 13.
What was it?
It was a Diamondback Grind. I was quite short when I was that age, and my local shop couldn’t get an 18” in. I wanted the Hoffman, the classic one.
What was the first piece of proper BMX media you saw, whether a web video or print mag or whatever?
Man, that’s a hard one. Probably one of the first videos that I’d say would be Riding West from the local scene. From 2006, that was a full length project with all the local guys. Maybe [first] big video was probably Empire Chill Bro.
It was on Google Videos and somehow I came across it and I just watched it so much. I loved, loved that video.
That was pretty formative for you? Who were some of the riders in that video you liked?
Chase Hawk was definitely my favorite section. I liked Aaron Ross’s section as well because at that time he was doing crazy stuff, insane barspin and tailwhip maneuvers with really crazy bike colors. A lot of his section was filmed at night and there’s just something about it that made me like it.
How did you start to get noticed?
When I was 15 the local bike shop here asked if I want to be part of the team.
Is that what led to United?
Yeah. I rode for the 4Down shop team through the local bike shop. Tim Ruck sorted that out with Ian. So at 15 I got my first free United frame which was one of the first Motherships. I was on the shop team for about three years then I got asked to ride for Verde UK flow from my friend Martyn Tambling who lives down this way. He’s the TM of Verde in the UK. So I rode for them for six months and then went back to Hasting on a trip for Tim, and we hung out with Ian on the 4Down ramps. Ian asked if I wanted to ride for etnies and United. At the time I said no to United cause of Verde, and then two weeks later I got a phone call from Martin saying they dropped the UK team. I thought Damn! Ian just offered United and I said no. I spoke to Ian again and he said come on board for the flow team. Just got on from there really.
How do you describe your riding?
That’s hard. I feel like in the modern era of BMX with the younger riders doing the most insane technical lower height ledge and grind stuff- I do that stuff- but I try not to do all of that cause I grew up as a trails rider originally so I still have that passion for riding fast and going high.
You got that motocross background.
Yeah the racing background. I like to keep it varied, I don’t like riding one thing, try to ride it all.
What’s your favorite thing to ride if you could have one setup?
I’d probably still say dirt jumps. If it was one thing to have fun on definitely dirt jumps.
If you got to step into the skin of one other rider, you get to be him for a day and ride just like him, who would you pick?
Ever since the internet allowed you to view videos and view photos I’ve always followed Nathan’s stuff. I’ve had every frame of his, always run Mothership frames. Dunno I guess his mentality as a person. Getting to go on trips with him is pretty surreal to start off, even now getting an email saying you wanna go on a trip with Nathan Williams. It's like, Oh my word that’s insane.
Did you feel like you had to earn his respect? How was it on those first trips with Nathan you being the young flow dude?
He’s so down to earth and nice and respectful. Made me feel welcome on trips. It was such a big step going on a trip with those guys. You know what it’s like, they all just go insane when it comes to riding. It was eye-opening to see what goes on when those guys are on a trip, when a professional bike rider is on a trip.
" I learned a lot about filming over the last two years."
Tell me about that, filming for United, what you saw. How was it? You’re out there on a mission, it’s not just casual sessions. How was it filming for a DVD part?
It’s been good. We’ve been filming for the last two years. I got to go on the second trip to Tenerife with the UK guys. Jimmy, Dan Boiski, Tom Sanders, and myself. That was a good first trip, Tenerife is really good for spots. We got a lot of content, and then from there I started going on trips with Jeff Koscis, Christian, and Slattery, Corey and Nathan, and been on a few trips with them and the contrast from the first trip to now- it definitely motivated me to do bigger and scarier stuff. More DVD worthy rather than the first few trips. I learned a lot about filming over the last two years.
You learned how to do it ... kind of professionally I guess. Do you think there’s going to be a big contrast in your part from when you started to now? You’re talking [age] 19 to 21, that’s a pretty formative period you know?
I’d say so, yeah. On the first few trips I was maybe filming stuff everywhere and anywhere. Even if it was tiny little ledge stuff or whatever, then towards the end I learned more on what would make a really good clip. Stuff that would stand out rather than any old ledge or rail. Being more aware and how to make it varied instead of just same old stuff throughout the whole section.
What were you thinking when you did the roof setup in San Francisco?
[Laughs]. Yeah it was that little ghetto spot in Treasure Island waiting for Nathan to come back from the dentist and all the roofs had crazy setups. I just pedaled around and looked up and was like, man you could do something really cool on that crazy looking spot. We just made it happen.
"I just pedaled around and looked up and was like, man you could do something really cool on that crazy looking spot. We just made it happen."
"But as well life learning and living away from home at 18 years old was really interesting."
Outside of BMX what do you do? Did you go to school?
Yeah, I spent three years at University and I finished in summer of 2015. I was studying in Liverpool for those three years which was absolutely amazing, so much fun. Got my head down and studied pretty hard and got good grades and got a good career out of it. But as well life learning and living away from home at 18 years old was really interesting. Having to do literally everything for yourself. Living in Liverpool and Exeter are very different cities. Liverpool is massive with so much going on. It was eye opening.
You were exposed to that Liverpool scene. What was that like? Who were you riding with out there?
I rode a lot. The first year I’d say I rode with the younger kids riding a lot of street, cause there’s not an outdoor park in the main area. Then in the second and third year I started riding with Dub Jack, Josh Roberts, the whole whole Dub crew. I met Matty Lambert and Paul Ryan as well. They were all super motivated to get out riding as much as they can, especially in the dry weather. Right at the end of my time in Liverpool we got some new concrete skateparks and I wasn’t at Uni too much so me and Matty would get up pretty early and go ride these concrete parks.
Were you able to hang with the Liverpool dudes party-wise?
Ha, no they definitely win on that front. They party really hard, it’s crazy. Some late finishes! I lived a little out of the center so we’d get out of the bar at six some mornings and walk home. Yeah, you’d feel pretty tired the next day.
What were you studying at University?
I was studying outdoor and environmental education.
Do you plan on doing anything directly with that?
What drew you to that and what do you want to do with it?
I’ve always been quite sportive and active. Before college I did a sports course which was outdoors activities. We went rock climbing and canoeing, and I was hooked on that. Then when I was looking for university courses and came across this one in Liverpool and it sounded really good. Of course being in Liverpool for BMX was amazing also, Liverpool is a BMX mecca. Future wise for the degree I see myself doing more with it, more so with the science point of view. I did a lot of studying geology alongside it as well. I’m quite interested in the impact of activities outdoors and the influence they have on the environment, like if you’re mountain biking the effect it has on the ground. The conflict of other users of that space, I find that area of study really interesting.
Do you consider yourself a hippie?
[Laughs] Umm, not really, no. I like doing environmental education at Uni, opened my eyes to sustainability. I would like to be pretty sustainable but it’s a big commitment isn’t it?
Tell me about your ancestry.
My dad’s side of the family is originally Native American, and my dad’s dad came over during the war and met my nan. We’ve never known his dad’s history, it’s quite a mystery but we know from Louisiana.
So you’re English by way of American Indian.
Yeah. And on my mum’s side as well, since she was adopted same again her family ancestry is pretty bleak to be fair. She can’t trace her family heritage either. We have a rough idea that she’s Celtic background. So the actual English is me is quite limited.
"...the actual English is me is quite limited."
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