By Derek Taylor
Photo by Nicholas Teichrob
HE WAS ALWAYS A LITTLE AWKWARD. That was the first tip-off. Many action sports prodigies are a little unusual before they find their calling. He never got along with the stick-andball jocks in his rural Idaho hometown. He was gawky, wore his jeans too high, and his T-shirts--usually thrift store pick-ups featuring helicopters and horses--were always tucked in. He listened to cassette tapes through an old Walkman--another thrift-store find. But there was a certain cachet to his nerdiness. His best friend, Pedro, was class president, after all. And his 'fro...well, it's hard to say anything bad about a good afro.
His grandmother's boyfriend got him his first bike--sort of. He bought him a used four-wheeler so the two of them could bond together out on the sand dunes. But he wasn't into motors or pseudo-parental bonding. He sold the ATV and bought a bike, a Sledgehammer--just like his best friend's. Riding was something they could do together. And after his brother got married and moved away, his friendship with Pedro became even more important.
It wasn't long before he and Pedro were tearing up the local trails and the dirt jumps behind Preston High. They laughed about the first jumps they'd made--how 'three feet' seemed so big. Their friend Deb sold the first photos of them, and from there, things just seemed to happen.
Scott Sports--not a company to miss out on local talent--sponsored Pedro head-to-toe. There was no jealousy. He was happy to get what support he did--to score the occasional magazine trip and get away from all the idiots at home.
They had different riding styles, and he knew that Pedro's was just more aesthetically appealing. Pedro was smooth. Backflips were so effortless. His facial expression didn't even change. His style was angrier. Fearless. He would attack downhills like 50 wolverines. That rage followed him off the bike, too. Filmers would ask him what his line would be, and he'd simply bark, "Wherever I want to go!" He constantly seemed on the edge of losing it. But he was always able to channel his anger through his riding.
That was, until this day, on a trip to Chile. It was the llamas. They triggered something. Without warning, he took off, careening down the hill, screaming at the top of his lungs: "The ham, Tina! Eat! Eat the food!"