AWAY FROM THE BAY
By the time Casey was 6, Lou and Liz had split up and moved away from Barn Bay. They bought a 325-acre farm three hours away in Central Otago, where Casey and her mom lived, while Lou and the older kids traveled back and forth to Canada, eventually relocating there permanently. Casey struggled to adapt to life in Clyde, a tiny town of fewer than 1,000 residents–approximately 994 more than she was used to seeing every day. Wearing shoes felt weird and she didn’t fit in at school.
“I hated it,” she says. “It was really hard going from not being socialized to suddenly being among town kids who have nice clothes and nice lunches.”
They lived in a teepee and failed at growing crops in the arid dirt. After finally homesteading the farm with a mud-and-hay-bale cook shack, a garden, sheep, chicken and a horse, a grass fire tore through the area and destroyed it. Casey and Liz barely escaped.
“We had to smash through fences because our driveway was on fire,” Casey says. “We got to the road finally and the fire truck was there idling; they thought it was too late to come rescue us.”
They moved twice more before settling into a flat in a nearby town. When Casey was 11, Lou came to visit and moved her to Revelstoke to live with him and her siblings. She was the last of the Brown kids to leave New Zealand and Liz was devastated, but the change proved to be a turning point in Casey’s young life.
“There wasn’t much opportunity for me over here because we were so poor all the time. When I went over to Canada, we had mountain bikes, roller blades and toys and stuff. It’s like ‘Oh, this place is awesome. You go back here and it’s dull again.’” Not that Lou had abandoned his hippie tendencies–Casey’s high-school bedroom in Revelstoke was a teepee in the yard.
As a young girl, Casey was more artistic than athletic–she drew, painted and played the cello–but in Canada she started chasing Lou and Sam and his friends around on mountain bikes (Casey still exercises her right brain regularly, as evidenced by the wood art and watercolor paintings smattered throughout her Instagram account).
“When Casey came over here, she hated bikes,” said Lou, and she initially resisted riding with the guys, but “I think she felt left out a little bit. She had to get her skills together pretty quick to keep up with it.”
And she did. Soon Lou could no longer stay on her wheel, and by chasing the boys, Casey developed the riding characteristics for which she’s become known: relaxed, fast, fluid in the air with unmatched style and the unique ability to evoke that addictive feeling of freedom that every mountain biker craves. But racing her bike wasn’t top of mind–she was more preoccupied with flying down the mountain on planks and won the BC Junior Freestyle Ski Championship in 2009. Throughout high school, she skied all winter and rode the Whistler Bike Park during the summer. She may have been content to keep balancing the two sports indefinitely. Then Sam died.