Words and Disposable Photos by Kris Fox | Intro Photo by Graeme Murray
As a BMXer, I’ve learned that every trip one is fortunate enough to be invited on is enough. If you’ve been invited you’ve already won, you’ve already beat the odds. There’s nothing else that needs to be done. Now with that being said it’s also true that there are certain trips that simply hold more weight than others. There are certain trips that radiate a particular feeling, and that feeling is the simple validation of embarking on the shit that only comes once or twice in a lifetime if you’re lucky. Some trips even have the possibility of being so heavy they almost feel like a joke. It’s almost hard not to become pessimistic on the whole matter. At times it feels like some sick bastard is waiting for me at the airport with grim news. “No you idiot,” I envision him saying to me as he emerges from a dark corner puffing on a cigar, “You don’t deserve any of this. I just wanted to get your hopes up, raise the dopamine levels then cut it all down at the knees.” And as I was dropped off curbside at LAX alongside Bowie and Hucker with my eyes gargling the stoke of Queenstown, New Zealand, that’s how I felt. I felt excited yet unworthy, like it was all too good to be true and someone else should have been standing there instead of myself.
However, even though the mind loves to seek out the bad through fear of the good going wrong, the bad never came, and after some amount of time I found myself sleeping shoulder to shoulder with two legends somewhere over the deep Pacific. I took a quick glance at Hucker. His bag was blown open between his legs and vomiting drone batteries, drone components, his passport, his helmet, and “The Little Motherfucker” – a tiny red gnome that constantly flipped everyone off. Two tiny empty plastic cups were wedged in his seat pocket. They were stained with red wine. His mullet looked like a pigeon recently used it to pass some time. I thought back to the airport bar a couple hours prior, before security had to run him down as he trundled through the airport slugging on a beer. I thought to the moment before that when he dislodged everything in his lower intestine and coated the bar and its temporary patrons in a dense layer of fart. I thought it was a beautiful thing, man. Humans like Hucker are like an endangered species: They’re a fantastic element of the world and need to be preserved. They’re some of the toughest sons of bitches out there yet they have a nonexistent ego. For introverts like myself they’re living proof that the bad in life that seemingly leers around every corner can be beaten, and like life’s horrors, they show that the mind in the skull that holds the power to drive us into total insanity over something as trivial as a long line at the bank can be beaten as well, and it all can be beaten easily.
Our gigantic commercial airliner among thousands of others that happened to be rocketing us hundreds of humans among billions of others across the single planet began its nosedive into the gut of paradise. I watched the sunrise over the wing. It pierced a dense crimson through a thick quilt of cloud below. The rays shot though the window of the airliner, shot through the cabin air, which regurgitated everyone’s farts, belches, body odor, and morning rank breath, then shot into my eyes. They burned themselves into my retinas and I welcomed them. I would take them with me as a reminder of what we’re a part of, what’s out there waiting for us to enjoy if we simply allow it in. Soon enough Hucker, Bowie, and I were perched on the curb waiting to be picked up. The Queenstown air felt sharp and crisp, a seemingly foreign sensation from the dense sludge of Los Angeles I’ve become accustomed to. I staggered in a circle absorbing the view of the jagged mountaintops clawing at the sky. They surrounded lake Wakatipu and writhed along her tranquil surface. They flowed with her and she flowed with them. It was refreshing to witness two elements of life so opposite of one another unite and work together so well, and the outcome could only be described as pure beauty. If only humanity could finally relinquish its stubbornness and take some advice from nature.
As I continued my gawking another sight sliced across my vision, and unlike the beauty of Queenstown, this particular sight was trending more in the direction of horrific. I witnessed a creature of a man, a carnivorous beast with Woodstock surging through his veins and a Hawaiian shirt draped over his torso. At least his front tooth was in tact for the time being. The element that made it so horrifying was the fact that this creature just happened to be one of my best friends in the world. Like Hucker, Wattzup is one of those “endangered specie” types himself. He’s a real life walking cartoon character. It’s like he was constructed by life to act out one purpose and one purpose only: Have a bloody rippa’ of a time with anyone surrounding him while winging it the whole way. I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled the world with him many of times, I’ve been fortunate to eat those important morsels of life that aid in the maturation process toward becoming a man, and through it all we’ve cemented a solid foundation. We’ve shared bar tops together on multiple continents and through that we’ve crawled around the insides of each other’s skulls. I know what eats at him and he knows what eats at me, so on the flip of the coin we each know what gets the other stoked. I could see his eyes pumping with that stoke when he met our sides at the airport pickup curb. I could sense that he was fangin’ for a time with the boys in paradise. I was feeling the same. I knew later that night we would sniff around the town, and I knew those black early morning hours would more than likely guide us into those moments of consuming more life to take with us for the rest of our days.
Sometime later that afternoon we made it to the Red Bull house, a hillside retreat giving an areal view of lake Wakatipu and all of her companions. The beverages were instantly cracked and consumed as we all caught up with one another out on the deck. We simply sat, drank, laughed, and talked well into the evening almost seeming to forget that the world was still revolving out there. That’s the unique thing I’ve learned about Queenstown. I’ve learned that it’s an area of the planet where problems don’t exist. It’s a crack in the system, a crack where you’re able to fall into tranquility and escape from the horrors and monotonous repetitions of everyday life. It’s an escape from the trivialities that devour us from the inside out by the synthetic way society has chosen to dictate itself. It’s like the lake off the deck actually eats all the worries so we don’t have to. All we have to do is toss them to her and she’ll digest them for us so we can go on living happily.
The next morning was rough. I stared through the spins and the only real memory that stuck from the whole matter was the number eighty-eight. I wasn’t too bothered by it though. In fact, in a peculiar sense I welcomed it. It would have been a damn shame to travel to paradise only to look at skateparks. Those once in a lifetime trips hold more weight than the others, and more weight means more learning. Of course we’ll rip on our bikes when needed, after all it’s what we’re in love with and when that is established toward a craft you’ll do it even if your eyeballs are popping from their sockets, but there’s a substance of life there to be eaten beyond how high you can air a quarter. There’s a point when BMX becomes nothing more than a vehicle of life, a chance to see a world and culture outside of your own bubble, a chance to open your mind so the days and nights can mold you into a more understanding human. Yes BMX is there to rip and sick brag about on Instagram, but more importantly it’s there to crush ignorance, and once that is realized the easier the world will become. It soon became blatant that each morning moving forward would feel like that first one, waking up with the spins of eighty-eight, which to me simply meant that school would be in session. From then on I made the decision to grab at life in hopes of touching something meaningful to take with me for the rest of my days. I would do what I could to rip on my bike as well as rip off of it. Plus I was in Queenstown, New Zealand, the area of the world where problems didn’t exist. All I had to do was toss the hangovers to the lake then go on living happily.
It didn’t take long for the days and nights to begin tiling themselves into one colossal mosaic piece of a damn good time. One of the gnarliest for many reasons was the cross-country slash downhill ride in honor of Kelly McGarry. Now I personally never had the good fortune of meeting Kelly, but I never had the good fortune of meeting Jimi Hendrix either yet that didn’t stop him from having a profound impact on my life. That’s the thing about the greats, they change the world without trying. The McGazza legacy resonates in various avenues of the world and I know this to be true for the fact that hundreds of humans traveled from all parts of the planet and all met in one area just to honor a life lived right. And as I struggled zigzagging my way up the face of the mountain with burning lungs to the spot in the ride that honored McGazza with a glorified plaque embedded into a mighty boulder, the weight of the moment burned into my chest like hot iron. Us as humans have the opportunity to live for days, months, and years because the majority of us need the time to learn how to love and accept one another, but the greats like McGazza were already born knowing how to love and accept one another. They’ve already done it and will continue to do it no matter the circumstances. And as the hundreds of us from the mountain bike world, the BMX world, the Moto world, the road cycling world, and every other world united into one dense mass of family then proceeded to all collectively point it down the mountainside to absolutely send it to the bottom in one gigantic swirling machine of dust in Kelly’s honor, I knew he would live on forever and that’s a damn good thing.
After surviving the downhill portion of the ride Bowie, Jason, and I waited at the bottom for the rest of our crew filthy, in good spirits, and fangin’ for a beer. Soon thereafter Hucker casually strolled up covered in blood with his pearl-while shinbone hanging out of his lower leg.
“Fuck, mate, what the hell happened to you?”
“Fuck, mate.” Jason spoke up, “What the hell happened to you?”
Hucker chuckled. “Ah, man. I was following Matt Jones and thought I was sick, then I ran out of talent. Hang on real quick,” he continued letting the mullet breathe, “I’ll pull the footage off my GoPro.”
He pulled up the footage on his phone and we all huddled around. It was a helmet cam view of him blasting down the mountain laughing about how sketchy he was getting. Then it showed him tuck the front end and slam. He rolled over and looked down at his shin, which looked like someone jabbed at it with a machete. “FUCK!” He yelled in the video, “HA-HA, I NEED STITCHES, MAN!” Then he got up, remounted, and started blasting down the mountain again for another good eight minutes inside all that dust and debris with his raw shinbone slicing through the open air.
“Fuckin’ hell.” Bowie replied laughing, “You’re cooked, mate.”
“Ha-ha, can you guys drop me off at the hospital on your way home?” Which we did, and an hour or so later as we all chilled at the house watching rugby we got a group photo of a stitched-up shin parallel to a pint of beer.
Somewhere inside the whirlwind the actual BMX riding began. Another element I’ve noticed about Queenstown his how it’s seemingly impossible to have a bad session. If you’re at a bowl chances are you’re submerged in a perfect mountain backdrop, if you’re at a set of trails chances are it’s a few hours south on the Frew Farm where the crisp green farmland unrolls for eternity into the deep blue sky and the birds swoop without a worry. Hell, it’s even possible to have a session on immaculate abstract art like Gorge Road, which as one could imagine, is submerged in a valley with jagged mountains smeared with dense green vegetation jutting to the sky all being nurtured by a crew of locals just as noble. Getting the opportunity to ride Gorge is like showing up to a pub where the most beautiful woman in the world is sipping on a cocktail eyeing the scene, and out of all the degenerates trying to get her attention the only one she’s into is you. It doesn’t come often, and might not ever, but if and when it does it’s perfect.
As for our crew, we’ve time spent enough time together by now that filming has become as casual as kicking the feet up on the sofa to watch a good documentary. There was even a few times where I was struggling on a line but that familiar feeling of frustration never sank in. There was no screaming profanities, no bike throwing, nothing. Not that anyone in our crew is one to do that anyways, but frustration under the right circumstances has the potential to transform into full-blown insanity in an instant. I had the boys trashing me on one end, I had the views of paradise surrounding the bowl or trails on the other end, and I was cruising straight down the middle. If I had to nonchalantly cruise my way to the clip for hours I would have. There were no worries involved at all. There was no pressure being applied externally or internally. It was just
BMX, raw good fun BMX.
The only times of subtle struggle was searching for a water bottle after going in on a line. “Are there waters in the ice chest?” I would ask gassed.
“The what?” Someone would reply.
“The ice chest.”
“The chilly bin?”
“The ice chest.”
“Fuck, man! The box that stays cold! Waters!”
“Hmm, I’m not sure, mate. Check the chilly bin in the white whale, there’re beers and Woodstocks in there for sure.”
“Drink a bloody Woody ya sheila.” Jason would chime dropping in.
Then I would slide the door of the van open and pop the ice chest lid. Beers and Woodstocks, about eighty-eight of them, would be floating in the melted ice, no waters. A beer would suffice, and all was good.
"So at one point in a Gorge session I simply stopped to take it all in."
Aside from certain members of our crew being prototype humans off their bikes, there’s no denying that they’re some of the best in the world at what they do when they’re on them. I feel admiring what the boys are doing on a trip can get swept under the rug at times. Selfishness toward ones own clips or photos can be blinding and take away from what’s actually going down in the moment. A ten foot one-foot table in a looming rounded deep end by Jason Watts, or a massive stalled out three-sixty donkey kick by Hucker, or a classic one-handed table over a perfectly sculpted hip by Corey Bohan, all of it needs to be appreciated in the moment because the times will one day be gone and could be gone quicker than expected.
So at one point in a Gorge session I simply stopped to take it all in. Jason was on course fueled by Woodies dumping threes and nosing in tippers while Hucker was on his own program. Mike “Hucker” Clark is the epitome of BMX. I watched him shove the leg that was stitched back on mere days ago into a sweaty shin pad then proceed to drop in and do some of the gnarliest shit imaginable on the gnarliest jumps imaginable when anyone else would have taken the week off. He even nose-cased and body bagged a 450 on one of the steepest and most unforgivable hips… twice. By the end of the session he was covered in sweat and mud. He had mud packed into the shoulders of his shirt, up the ass of his shorts, under his grips, inside his pegs, across his face, and not overlooking the fact that he was still stitched up and still sending it without a twinge of complaint. He’s hands down one of the best to ever do it. Like Hucker, Corey Bohan is also the epitome of BMX yet in his own right. He’s the ultimate legend, a tank of a man and a pioneer for all the style cats that can be seen today. Where the session was escalating and the bigger tricks began being pulled out, Bowie remained in the background meticulously slicing each line to pieces like a skilled surgeon. And although he seemed to want to remain quietly in the background, he was the most conspicuous simply because no one else has ever ridden a bike like him and probably never will. So to witness him flow Gorge was a real treat and something the little kid inside of me never thought would be a reality. His casual flow he portrays on the bike seems to match it off. Bowie simply cruises. He’s soft spoken, rarely wavers, and has enough wit to supply the entire crew. While Hucker and Jason are beaming with savageness, Bowie seems to hang in the background feeding them unlimited fresh slices of humble pie. For an introvert like myself, it’s a nice balance in the van. When the loose units became loose units, I tended to find myself hangin’ with Bowie.
As the days began to thin out moving closer to Farm Jam, the good times didn’t. We were still pinned. Every night when lake Wakatipu swallowed the sun, Jason and I would walk down the hillside to breathe the nights of downtown Queenstown, which meant we would get back to the house far after the others had fallen asleep. Jason and I were sharing a room with Hucker, and one night after getting home and raiding the fridge we trundled into the room to go to bed. It was pushing ninety degrees and Hucker sounded like he was thrashing through an entire forest with a chainsaw. “He’s bloody cooked.” Jason said through the darkness, “I’m bloody cooked.” I then heard some rummaging around and watched as a dark apparition drug a mattress by my bed. I jumped out and began dragging my mattress out behind him. We drug them to one of the balconies that provided one of the areal views of the lake and all her companions. We dropped them to the floor on opposite ends of the balcony and sank into them. The Queenstown stars pierced through the early morning blackness like spotlights.
“Watts.” I said.
“Mmm?” He replied.
“You have some idiot ideas sometimes, man, but you also have your moments where you come up with some good ones and this one in particular might be your best yet.”
The Friday finally came where we would begin our drive a few hours south to the Frew Farm. I jumped in the passenger seat of The White Whale, the white van carrying all the camera equipment and bikes. Haimona, the filmmaker and one of my best friends in life, was the driver. He’s a mellow, amiable cat lathered in tattoos and loves a good conversation about elements outside of mind-numbing social media so I knew the drive would be relaxing.
We snaked along the edge of lake Wakatipu before entering the secluded golden farmlands that draped themselves across the landscape between Queenstown and Winton. I peered out the window. Thousands of sheep freckled the hills and occasionally there were lonely primeval brick chimneys still enduring the scorched and overgrown foundation they stood upon. There was no traffic, no smog, no eighteen-wheelers, no honking, no superhighways, no one yelling anything about eating shit and dying to anyone else, just the open single lane road slicing through perfect paradise. The downtime gave me the peace to finally reflect on a few other moments of our trip. I thought back to the moment where Hucker surprised all of us on a certain rope swing by double front flipping into the lake like a skilled acrobat while biting on a GoPro. I thought back to our boat ride around lake Wanaka and watching Jason wake surf for the first time. We all trashed him for how sketchy he looked on his first runs but praised him at the end of the day when he was ripping, yet not as hard as Bowie of course. Plus the dude did it in jean shorts.
“You didn’t bring any boardies?” Someone asked.
“Nah, mate.” Jason replied, “I need to do laundry anyways.”
“Yeah, man.” I chimed, “That ass stain at the bowl was serious.”
I thought back to the bungee jump day, mostly because Matt Jones front flipped his hardtail off the edge of the world and that ruled. We had to take the gondola up the mountain to get to the platform and the entire way everyone kept asking Jason and I if we were doing it. We kept telling them hell no. Once we got to the platform the boys really sank their fangs into us. Hucker’s insane eyes shot daggers into my freewill, which was fine because all the poor guy really wanted was for everyone to have fun, but my idea of fun is a simple bowl or a nice set of trails at sunset, or maybe a beer and tea with a good book. I’m easy. Not to mention I drive the damn 5 and 405 freeways back in Orange County on a daily basis so I get to flirt with death enough. And who knew, maybe the employee had just broken things off with his chick the night before, maybe he was cloudy inside the skull and was more inclined to miss a strap. However, Hucker’s eyes persisted and my claustrophobia grabbed me around the neck knowing I was suck on top of a damn mountain with the bastards, but Hucker and I have been friends for a long time and he knows I’m soft. Shortly after he was back flipping into the abyss with “The Little Motherfucker” in his arms and all was back to normal. Bowie sacked up and dove off as well. Jason and I had our tails tucked and were content with it.
"Everyone kept asking Jason and I if we were doing it. We kept telling them, hell no!"
Farm Jam has turned into one of my favorite events to ride over the years, and it was fitting that our last days in paradise together would be spent on a secluded farm with no rules. The White Whale staggered up the gravel driveway to the RedBull Basecamp area where we would be camping. I got out and heard dirtbikes revving in an old weathered barn and the echoes of shovels smacking the earth just over the hill. The farm
had seen a good amount of rain the two days leading up, but that wouldn’t stop the boys from letting it rip. Farm Jam is such unique event because it’s one of the rare occasions where MTB, BMX, and FMX are all under the same roof. On one end of the roll-in I’m looking at Jason Watts, Mike Clark, and Corey Bohan, while on the other I’m looking at Matt Jones, Carson Storch, Ryan Howard, and Tyler Bereman. The vibe isn’t like a typical contest but more like a situation where all the boys met in paradise together for a roll, and that’s an event done right.
The jam went over smoothly, and after a few of the boys won some individual awards and drained a few shoey’s on the podium it was time to celebrate. Not only is the actual jam at Farm Jam done right, so is the after party. Since the farm is so secluded, the amazing Frew family dumps loads of tree trunks into a pile and ignites an inferno that stands like an apartment building and lasts for hours into the night. If there’s anything us sleep-deprived BMXers like its beers around an inferno. Needless to say it had a stellar reputation and we were all looking forward to it, but first the Basecamp needed a fire of its own and Wattzup was just the creature for the job. Him and a few of the boys rolled an old steel drum into the middle of camp then axed some breathing holes into the base.
After she had flames bellowing from the top, we needed tunes, and once again Wattzup was just the creature for the job. One of the employees pulled one of the RedBull Destroyers around which was equipped with a full DJ booth spouting out the roof. Jason rubbed his grubby hands together then jumped in and began blasting obscure noises that sounded like Optimus Prime was having a scuffle with Megatron over who could drive the first human into total insanity. I found that the more beers I consumed the better the noise sounded. Soon enough that same Destroyer was driven and parked next to the after party inferno a few hundred feet away from camp. The flames from the scene extended 20 feet into the clear black sky. The stars pierced down on the spectacle and watched on as Wattzup climbed back into the Destroyer and began blasting his noise again. Only this time the beers had soaked everyone’s nervous systems and the entire mob surrounding the fire ditched the shirts and began moshing. Jason kept the tracks coming. Later on in the night he even got his hands on a microphone and was screaming jibberish at the crowd. I was in tears with laughter. Everyone laughed, swayed, and moshed without a worry into the night. Another characteristic about Jason that I’ve neglected to mention until now is that the dude is always the life of the party, he always has everyone stoked and it’s a great thing to be a part of.
The next morning seemed to come instantly. Jason and I actually made it back to our tent but both of our air mattresses were deflated and we both woke up fully clothed in the same cloths we rode the jam in the day before. I ripped my hair that was crusted to my face aside and cracked my eyes open into the sun. A few of the boys were already awake stoking the fire and brewing some coffee. I surveyed the rest of the scene and caught the image of a collapsed tent. Upon closer inspection I saw what appeared to be a lump of human under it all. I then thought back to a couple hours prior when we got back to camp and Jason realized Hucker had gone to sleep already. So he trundled over and collapsed his tent on top of him, mullet, drones, and all. The night before he had zip-tied Hucker’s zippers together and trapped him in. Jason was two for two and Hucker, still stitched up and sending it, never complained once. I think we had to remind him about the incidences first before he finally acknowledged them with, “Ha-ha. Nice one, man.”
It wasn’t until we were back in Queenstown from Farm Jam when the realization shredded my guts that I was flying home the next day. I sat on a bench in a field off Windsor Pl. with Haimona absorbing one final afternoon-lit view of lake Wakatipu and all her companions. Like all my recent trips to paradise, I could have used another week. Another week of no problems, another week of no worries, but perfection isn’t meant to last. The last thing anyone wants is to become jaded toward perfection, and if we got perfection all the time we would simply strangle that to death too. Perfection is just there to admire from a distance, and if you’re lucky, taste for a moment. Luck just happened to be on our sides and taste we did. In fact, we had twelve days of eating it. And just like anything else, when you eat something you absorb the nutrients. You absorb the good times, the times that mean something beyond what you think meant in the moment. And just like anything else, when you eat something you expel the waste. The waste of regret, the times of questionable decisions made within a certain moment. In the end we’re all human, we all have each other. Simply being a human is the hardest job in the world, but we’re all here to enjoy the good and empathize in the bad. And with all that being said there’s comfort in knowing that perfection does indeed exist in the world, it’s out there breathing with life. And as regular life would soon begin its assault again I would carry that knowledge in my head, because no matter what happens externally in life, one can always remain perfectly free inside the mind.
As my flight rocketed off the next day I peered out the window toward the lake and thought about how the view resembled the two friends of mine that had passed away some years ago. In that moment the view looked like them if they were both still alive, and to some extent I’m sure that particular view looked that way to many others deep down as well. I thought about the brothers of mine that I had just enjoyed paradise with.
Even though they’re enigmas in their own rights and even though it’s easy to find entertainment in their antics toward life, there’s no denying the type of men they are. There’s no denying the kindhearted nature in which they simply want everyone happy, everyone free of their own inner turmoil. The boys help me more than they even realize while I’m secretly battling my brain, and I thank them for it. I’ll do anything for them. In hindsight it seemed as if we were all meant to be eating paradise together during that exact timeline of life, and living was what we did.
Then she faded away behind the clouds and I was in route back to California. - Kris Fox
The RatPack Round 3 - Destination Queenstown
Feat. Kris Fox, Jason Watts, Corey Bohan, and Hucker - More Info
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