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Forward Premiere Ny 2002 1
18 May 2021

etnies 'Forward' - Where are they now? Part 2

Brian Terada, Jason Enns, Rooftop, John Heaton, Mike Griffin, Nate Wessell

etnies

Intro and text by Scott Towne | Additional text by Rob Dolecki | Illustration by Taj Mihelich | Special thanks to Mike OBryan

Article originally printed in DIG MAGAZINE issue #2020 - Dec 2020

See PART 1 of this article HERE

In the late ‘90s, the skate shoe business was becoming a monster. With the once dominant Airwalk circling the drain, and the ever-present Vans largely unchallenged, companies like Sole Technology, the parent company of etnies, were staking their claim in this growing market. Going back a couple of years to the first Props Road Fools video, we saw a glimmer of things to come in the footwear space. “I got my Kostons wet,” uttered Dave Friemuth, referencing his fresh ‘Es Koston shoes he sported in the video. He was also seen wearing an Emerica hat through much of the video—both pieces that hinted at the future connection between Dave and etnies. ‘Es and Emerica are Sole Tech brands, and without getting into too much back story, Sole Tech was juggling brand names around for a couple years before settling on etnies as their “action sports” brand that would exist beyond the pure skateboarding realm. Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla was etnies BMX team rider number one, followed closely by the addition of East Coast raw dog, Mike Griffin. Taj Mihelich, Joe Rich, Nate Hanson, and Dave Freimuth were also among the first wave of riders to be added to the team. The etnies BMX program quickly gained momentum, signature shoes from Rooftop, Taj, and Joe were rushed to market and an instant hit with riders. There was plenty of marketing hype to back them up, with ads in every magazine and video, a booth at the Interbike trade show, and event sponsorships worldwide. BMX was on the front burner at Sole Tech HQ, and it was time to put their money where their feet were.

Nothing lends core credibility, at least the way it did in the year 2000, like a full-length video. Renowned BMX cinematographer Dave Parrick was hired for the immense task of wrangling this project. Two years in the making, filming at spots and skateparks around the globe, on some of the craziest terrain BMX had ever seen, the etnies crew went all-in for Forward. When asked about the meaning of the name 'Forward', Taj recalled that it was simply meant to imply progression, as in “We are moving this shit FORWARD.” The term “progression” doesn’t even skim the surface of describing this video. The riding in Forward is incredible even by today’s standards. For 2002, it was absolutely mind-blowing. BMX changed the day this video premiered, and there hasn’t been anything like it since. If you’ve never seen Forward, now is the time to watch and learn; and if you haven’t watched it in a while, watch it again. As we approach twenty years since its release, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at this exceptional video, ask the majority of those involved to reflect on their parts, and check to see what they are up to today. - Scott Towne

Forward Premiere Ny Parrick Nosleep 2002

No sleep till... As the crowd waited outside a very tired Dave Parrick was getting set up inside at the 2002 Binghamton, NY Forward premiere after being up all night editing (again). - PHOTOS BY ROB DOLECKI

Brian Terada

In a nice blend of West Coast/ East Coast style and finesse, Brian Terada shared a split section with Garrett Byrnes and Edwin De La Rosa. His all-terrain mastery, from 50/50s down big-ass rails to obscenely large icepick stalls on massive objects at parks, was really fitting for the time period. The Skate Street slayer was really coming into his own while filming for Forward (as one can see with all the outrageous clips he filmed at that Ventura, California skatepark in this section). After Forward came out, he was invited on Props Road Fools 10, and came out with a few other video parts, like WeThePeople’s ETC.

By the late 2000s, media coverage of Brian had all but vanished, and it seemed like he had faded away from bike riding. Then in DIG’s 2014 'Scratch The Surface' Southern California edit, Terada made an appearance absolutely shredding pools, and demonstrated once again that just because you may not see someone at all in the media spotlight, doesn’t mean they aren’t still on the bike, and still killing it. These days, Brian is as low-key as ever. But sometimes, you can catch a very occasional glimpse into his riding via his Instagram account, usually when riding with fellow Forward alumni Mike Escamilla around So. Cal. And any Terada action is a treat to see.

Terada Forward Riding
Terada Forward Grey

Location then and now: Camarillo, California - PHOTO BY JASON ENNS

"His all-terrain mastery, from 50/50s down big-ass rails to obscenely large icepick stalls on massive objects at parks, was really fitting for the time period."
- DIG

Jason Enns

Big and burly Jason Enns came down from Canada and put in work for Forward. Shoulder buzzer inverts, endless whip variations, rail hammers, and grinds galore. His part is back-to-back bangers, and fades to black with a hearty slam before the encore banger. It’s an all-time part. Jason has the dubious distinction of leaving the Etnies team not long after Forward wrapped, but his part has stood the test of time. “It was always a blast getting out with anybody on the team and riding. The filming almost seemed like an afterthought. It’s possible that sincerity translated to the audience, and is why people still enjoy the video. Who knows? I’m sure there was a good percentage of the team, like myself, that thought the video might never actually get finished.”

He still puts in work for BMX and life at large: “I moved to the Sierra Foothills of Northern California from Southern California about 2.5 years ago. I bought a few bare acres, and spent the first year and a half getting a house up and the land cleaned up, as well as fenced/crossed fence for horses. I still try to ride as much as possible with working full time and the endless jobs that have to get finished around the house. The barn ramp set up has been a savior for squeezing in sessions with limited time.”.

Enns Forward Riding
"It was always a blast getting out with anybody on the team and riding. The filming almost seemed like an afterthought."
- Jason Enns
Jason Enns 2020 Shot By Mike Rooftop Escamilla Grey

Then: Vancouver, British Columbia / Now: Northern California - PHOTO BY ROOFTOP

Mike 'Rooftop' Escamilla

Fufanus while engulfed in flames, backflip-ing over rotating helicopter blades, grinding to flipping off of custom-made rails into massive concrete ditches- there’s nothing conventional about Rooftop’s entire section. It’s one that still has people talking about almost two decades later.

"I remember when I was filming, I lived close to Parrick, I was very aware of the progress of the video. I knew that I didn’t want to film stuff and have people know about it too early before the video came out. So all of my bangers were filmed about a week before the video got edited. Which was sort of a sketchy move, because I risked not getting it, but at the same time I didn’t want everyone to know about it. I really looked at this part different than others. I was trying to make it transcend BMX a little bit, and I wanted to do stuff that I could not do again, maybe ever. Even the 360 tail tap off the cement lip into the ditch, I was worried it would get out, and someone else would do something over it before then.

When you’re in the middle of doing it, you think, “Oh, that’s cool.” Then you’re on to the next thing; a week later you’re like, “What’s next?” Now looking back, and when I hear people talking about it, I appreciate that I was a part of a time in BMX that could make an impact on so many younger riders’ lives. For me, it would have been like being a part of 'Headfirst' or something. People tell me stories of how the video changed the way they ride bikes, how they got into it, watching every day to get pumped before they go ride. When I think of the videos that I watched and was inspired by when I was young, to have an opportunity to be a part of a project that had that feeling for someone else is pretty rad.

These days I am a full-time stunt man and full-time dad. Hustling and making sure I’m doing something that I enjoy. I get to ride my bike as much as I can. Sometimes I got through phases where I ride it once a month, and sometimes I’ll get to ride it a few times a week. Trying to keep the dream alive; whoever’s dream that is, I don’t know."

Rooftop Forward Riding
Escamilla By Enns Grey

Then: Long Beach, California / Now: Burbank, California - PHOTO BY JASON ENNS

"All of my bangers were filmed about a week before the video got edited... which was sort of a sketchy move"
- Mike 'Rooftop' Escamilla
Forward Dig Adjusted

Illustration by Taj Mihelich

"If you’ve never seen Forward, now is the time to watch and learn; and if you haven’t watched it in a while, watch it again."

- Scott Towne

John Heaton

Ontario, Canada’s John Heaton came in hot to Forward with a short section of outrageous tricks and combos. Although there’s a good chunk of contest footage, his riding stands on its own as unique and creative: Huge transfers, casual tailwhips over huge gaps, an NBD flair to pegs, and his signature flip-to-manual all make the cut. “My one regret is not really filming for this video. I wish I could have made more of an effort like the other guys did. I’m still blessed just to have my name associated with one of the raddest videos ever.” These days, John still rides when he gets the chance and has three young daughters. He also works as a police officer: “It’s been such an awesome job. So much to see and experience, but what I bring over other cops is a life time of unbelievable experiences to draw from and connect with people. That's all thanks to riding, traveling and being a part of this whole BMX community.”

John Heaton
Heaton Forward Riding

Then: Woodstock, Ontario CA / Now: Kitchener, Ontario CA

"what I bring over other cops is a life time of unbelievable experiences to draw from and connect with people. That's all thanks to riding, traveling and being a part of this whole BMX community."
- John Heaton

Mike Griffin

Mike Griffin was the second BMX rider on the Etnies team, having been added to the program just a couple of weeks after Rooftop. He brought a taste of East Coast Destruction to the mix, riding the sketchiest setups, throwing crankflips into and out of everything, as well as landing fakie at uncomfortably high speeds. As for his feelings about his part, Mike humbly shrugs it off “I wasn’t really excited on my part, so I didn’t really pay much attention to it. I think the Jason Enns part was big time.” He now lives in Florida working for a glass company and rips around in a bad ass Ford Mustang.

Mike Griffin
Griffin Forward Riding

Then: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania / Now: Florida

"Mike Griffin brought a taste of East Coast Destruction to the mix, riding the sketchiest setups, throwing crankflips into and out of everything, as well as landing fakie at uncomfortably high speeds."
- DIG

NATE WESSELL

Cleveland’s Nate Wessel brought the hammer and nails to Forward. His part is a double-kick bass drum assault of raw, creative riding, giant wall rides, and outrageous transfers; all performed at seemingly ragged edge tolerances.

“That era of filming and riding ruled because we would go on these Etnies trips and we would just ride everything. The whole team just demolished everything that was in front of us. Whether it was concrete, dirt, wood, metal - it didn’t matter. Everyone just wanted to ride anything and everything. I never really could believe I was even on that team. I would look around and I was surrounded by not only my good friends, but they were the fuckin’ best to ever do it. I looked up to and was inspired by all of them. They were all so dialed and for me the filming aspect of it was the hardest part. It always took me so many tries to pull something I was stoked on. Three-hundred tries later, I finally would get something, after of course, multiple punches the head.” One head punch even made the final edit, along with a full section of riding that has never been replicated.

Nate started carving out his future early on: “Being on Etnies with that team were probably the best years of my professional riding life. Of course times change, but I didn’t move far from the world I was already in. I had already started my own business designing and building ramps (WesselBuilt LLC) before I ever turned Pro in BMX. I continued to design and build all through my riding career. When riding started to slow down for me, mostly because the building thing had me busy 24/7, it eventually just took over. I am working full time for Woodward and am head of design / project manager of new projects and builds that we do all over the map. It rules because I always am around something to do with 2 wheels, I hope it never ends.”

Nate Forward Riding
Wessel Img 5968

Then: Cleveland, Ohio / Now: State College, PA - PHOTO BY GEORGE GOTTLEIB

"I'm always am around something to do with 2 wheels, I hope it never ends."
- Nate Wessell
Forward Premiere Ny 2002 1

FORWARD PREMIERE BINGHAMTON, NY 2002 - Photo by Rob Dolecki

See PART 1 of this article HERE| etnies are Official DIG Partners