Without a doubt, Mat Hoffman (45) is responsible for how the freestyle BMX looks today. He invented dozens of new tricks, inspired hundreds of thousands of riders, and has already become a living legend for a whole generation.
Already at the age of seven, he was a boy without fear. Together with his brother he built a flying machine from wood and jumped a 15-metre-high ramp with it. He was injured while landing and his brother broke his hand. However, ramps of any kind became immediately his obsession. After he got his first BMX bike at 11, his father built a ramp in the backyard where Mat learnt his early tricks. In spite of being extremely gifted in other sports, such as wrestling, Mat had only one vision – he wanted to dedicate his life to BMX. In 1986, Mat sent a couple of photos to the BMX magazine and the response was surprisingly positive. Already at the age of 15, he was described as a boy who ignored all boundaries and redefined known vert riding.
He made his forever mark in 1989 when, being only 17 years old, he completed the competition both as an amateur and a pro. It was the day when he not only collected 2,200 USD for winning in both categories but when he gained the nickname Condor for the incredible height of the tricks he performed.
In 1990, he started a row of achievements never before considered possible. In 1990, he landed the first ever backflip to fakie at the Bercy Stadium in France and, a little bit later, he managed to perform a 180° backflip, very soon called the flair, which was beyond anyone’s imagination at that time.
Unfortunately, in the early 90s’ the sport was slowly dying, sponsors’ cash flow was drying up and the BMX magazines disappeared from the shelves. Although the time was not good for the scene, Mat didn’t change his resolution and in 1991 he launched his own Hoffman Bikes brand. In order to pour fuel into the declining business, he founded the Hoffman Promotion company, which soon became the most active BMX event organiser across the country. With the support of the main sports channel ESPN, the first X-Games were introduced, which brought an immediate interest in extreme sports including skateboarding, inline, or BMX. The golden era of the sport was once again ready to come into bloom.
In 1991, Mat decided to show he’s the best and built a ramp high enough to take off and fly almost 10 metres over its coping. To push it even further, Mat incorporated a small motor into his bike and ventured for a new record attempt. Unfortunately, the weight of the device sent him off balance and Mat crashed onto the ramp with his full weight. His spleen exploded and without the immediate transport to the hospital, he would die. However, he was back on his bike within weeks.
After a series of injuries, he underwent a semi-legal surgery in Canada in 1998 when a doctor drilled his bone to fix his ripped ligament without using anaesthetics. The operation, which cost ten grand that had to be paid prior the intervention in cash, was more than excruciating as Mat had to help the doctor to stabilise his drill machine with his own hands. When thinking about heaven just to avoid thoughts about the unbearable pain, Mat realised there was a scoop of red and yellow goo piled out of his leg. However, right after the surgery he could leave the hospital and ride home by a cab and after a couple of days he could even walk without crutches. And a week later, he was riding his bike! This story shows not only how cool Mat actually is but also what is he ready to sacrifice in the name of BMX. Few of his riding mates described him as ‘a real-life Rambo’ for the ability to endure pain without passing out.
In 2001, he set the new world record after being towed by a motorbike towards a jump on a home-made giant ramp in Oklahoma. Still not satisfied with the result, Mat decided to improve the record but this time he crashed at the bottom of the ramp after a 17-metre fall. Mat was in a coma for seven days and lost his sense of taste and suffered from amnesia for six months. It wasn’t just your regular crash – this was about an actual brain damage. It took a year before he fully recovered.
Just to recollect the taste he started to eat the spiciest foods in the world to get some flavour in his meals. With so many injuries, he’s already learnt that even after the hardest impacts his deepest emotions came back, followed by memories. To regain the flashes from the past, his wife helped him by showing old photographs. Besides other things, he was not able to remember if he ever visited Japan. Jaci told him he visited Japan for more than six times. He said he’s suffered more than 100 concussions, injuries he called an almost “weekly act”. Because of this he was, for example, surprised to see his wife pregnant after one of his accidents. She assured him she already was in the eight month.
Reluctant to refrain from riding, he applied for starting at the X-Games in 2002, winning silver after he stunned both the jury and the audience by completing a first-ever seen 900 using no hands. Since then, only one another rider repeated such a stunt.
Where the others would stay on the ground and give up, Mat rose from the ashes and in spite of pain he always managed to somehow to carry on riding. Because of him, the BMX scene has become more spectacular and attractive for the media and teenagers exploring it as their new passion. Apart from the legendary Dave Mirra, he’s the only BMX rider who inspired creators of digital games to produce Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX video game followed by a successful sequel. He’s doing well and his company celebrates a 25-year anniversary, so it’s time to wish him the best of luck for other adventures!