When Mat Hoffman Met The Battle Of Hastings

Legend Status X 2

1 Jul 2020

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Words and snapshots by Mat Hoffman | Article originally published in DIG issue 99.99 December 2019

If a life in Freestyle BMX teaches you something it’s to drop in and make it up as it comes, expect the unexpected, keep on keeping on and never give up.

BUT this was one of those trips when I had everything planned out. I organized a quick trip to England to experience this phenomenon in our world called, the Battle of Hastings. I was flying Morgan Wade over to represent, like only he can, ride, see some good old friends, make some new ones, and I had a side plan to BASE jump Beachy Head, if the planets aligned perfectly.

But I first have to make a quick trip on the way to the airport to grab some food at my go-to Italian restaurant, in my hometown, called Flip’s, and this is where everything got flipped on me.

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As I finish up my meal, and say my goodbyes, I walk out to my car and my window is smashed in, but everything seems to be in order, until I go to get my passport. My carry on is missing and my passport is gone. Well, change of plans.

Since I had some pretty crazy plans, I thought maybe this is a sign to chill out and quit trying to live 10 lives in one. So, I drive home. Then I get a message on Facebook from someone who found my bag under their car. They went through it and found some prototype drawings of Hoffman Bikes I had in there. They looked Hoffman Bikes up, got my name and messaged me. Now she is on her way to my house to deliver my bag. Maybe it’s not over?

When she arrives, I look through my bag and notice my GoPro is missing. They were taken out of their cases and the cases put back in my bag, weird. My new computer, I just got, is gone, but then I see my passport. Okay, plan back on.

I jump in my windowless car and drive to the airport. I get there but miss my flight. I barter with the airline personnel. Of course, I got the most discounted ticket, and nothing can be done, until in the eleventh hour, someone comes through and I’m on a plane headed to the UK.

I arrive. Whew. I rent a car and drive to Hastings. So many life-long memories were created in this small seaside town in England, and I’ve had the pleasure to experience a lot of them over the last 30 years. But this time Morgan Wade was invited. Nothing will be the same again.☺

I get there, put my bike together and head over to Seventies to check in with the OG that put Hastings on the BMX map, Stuart Dawkins. I get there and catch up on good times. Then Sebastian Keep, walks in and says, “do you want to go to the trails”. I respond, “YEP”, and were off. We arrive and I see Fids, then Darryl Nau, then Chris Doyle, Trey Jones, then… holy moly. We ride.

The next day I wake up and the winds look nice. About 10 or so years ago, when I was in Hastings for something else, I brought my para glider and flew Beachy Head. As I was flying, I thought, I bet I could BASE jump the cliffs. This visit I had become friends with a master jumper and rider, Lewis Jones. So, we meet and drive to Beachy Head for a look. The next thing I know, before a cup of coffee, I’m running off the cliffs of Dover following Lewis, and made this radical dream come true, not thinking that was just the start of one of the craziest days in Hastings.

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I get to The Battle of Hastings and learn from Marc and Rich Moore about how this became reality. This is a project only a BMX Freestyler could make happen. It’s one of those ideas when you just have to jump in the hole (literally with the Source Park) and find a way to get out, by making it up as it comes. There could not be a plan, and that’s why it took over 900 years for the Battle of Hastings to meet the Moore brothers and live up to its full potential.

When I got there everyone was having a great time. The vibe is 100% “we are here to have fun and ride”. This is what BMX Freestyle is about. I see Morgan. He’s walking the course, looking for the challenges he wants to confront, with his crazy eyes. I slide beside him and he points out this line. I just chuckle “of course you’d see that”, and the rest is history.

There is only one Morgan Wade. He is a BMX Superhero. He is the toughest, a warrior, and was the secret weapon at the Battle this year. His determination alone made this trip special for everyone, but also confirmed this event is an example, time after time, anything is possible. You just have to go for it, like so many riders have at every past, present and future Battle of Hastings.

The Battle of Hasting runs with a team format. There are 12 appointed Captains taking their pick of any three riders. The teams for the BOH 2019 brought together the world’s greatest from all aspects of BMX Freestyle who brought more fire to Hastings than the participants of the original battle.

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The highlights from this event would fill a book, but here’s a few. Boyd Hilder feeble smith to 15’ foot bomb drop barspin and style for miles, Felix Prangenberg 540 reverse smith to 180, Courage Adams ridiculous bike control balance, Corey Martinez reinventing physics with his 540 tire stall, Matt Ray doing a 720 double barspin AIR like nothing, Garrett Reynolds being a bicycle magician with his line into ‘manual fakie barspins’, Alex Hiam 720 transfer and more tech than an IT wizard, Dan Paley owning every nook and cranny in the park, Dan Lacey lofting so much jive, Simone Barraco making a bicycle look like an alien machine, Sergio Layos getting inverted and intimate with the crowd on the second storey rafters. All this with a Live Feeds hosted by Scotty Cranmer and Chris Doyle. Oh, and Tom Justice is ridiculously awesome.

It doesn’t get any better, period.

After the madness, it was time to celebrate the love for life and BMX with friends at the Nora Cup and honor the greats. Then as I think all is done, I see a video come on with footage of me and am taken totally off guard and get presented the Legends Awarded. THANK YOU. I WAS SO HONORED.

My bike, my community and my unconditional love for endless possibilities within, has given me the greatest life I could ever dream of, and to get an award for this among the greatest BMX gladiators in the world is beyond words, and that’s why we ride.

How did this whole trip happen when so many things battled to keep me home. You have to drop in and make it up as it comes, expect the unexpected, keep on keeping on and never give up.

Freestyle is freestyle. Enjoy the Ride. - Mat Hoffman

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"There could not be a plan, and that’s why it took over 900 years for the Battle of Hastings to meet the Moore brothers and live up to its full potential."

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Against all the odds, the Battle Of Hastings is back! - More Info

Find out how and why the 2020 Battle Of Hastings is being allowed to go ahead HERE.