Truth To Me: Mat Hoffman
A bird's-eye view of life on a BMX bike, according to Mat 'The Condor' Hoffman
A big part of me hates asking Mat Hoffman to do interviews. I just get the feeling that every time I ask him, he's thinking, "Oh great, here we go again." Yet he always seems to begrudgingly come through. Even if he's stuck in the hospital and doped up on morphine to fight a staph infection, he'll somehow grab the computer or phone and get back to me. Maybe he doesn't actually mind doing them, but I get the feeling that it might be a little old for him by now.
Born: January 9, 1972
Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK
Nickname: The Condor
Highest Air: 26.5 feet above a 24-foot-tall vert quarter pipe
Words of Wisdom: "If you want to experience all the pleasures and successes in life, you have to be willing to take all the pain and failure."
Mat Hoffman has pioneered more than 100 iconic tricks within the realm of freestyle BMX, including the first backflip fakie, the first flair, the first handrail grind and the first no-handed 900. Simultaneously, Hoffman has suffered more than 60 broken bones, endured multiple concussions and undergone numerous surgical procedures, all in the name of BMX progression.
It's hard not to want to constantly interview Mat, though. He is THE guy when it comes to anything BMX, from being the first person to grind a handrail to pulling the first 900 to single-handedly saving the sport from near death in the dark days of 1991. He's written a book on his life, virtually handed his body over to medical science in the name of his passion for riding, and for many years, held the world record for highest air on a BMX bike. But that's only an abbreviated list. Mat started Hoffman Bikes from the ground up, tirelessly promoted BMX to the masses and has served as a main inspiration to the many BMXers that have picked up a BMX bike along the way.
To put this into proper perspective, let's think about BMX minus the monstrous influence of Mat Hoffman. Trick progression would've been knocked back a good few years, as would the state of videos. Contests would not have happened. BMX might not have made its way onto TV. Forks would still be breaking. The highest air might still be in the 8-9 foot range. And we might all still be wondering "What if?" on a less evolved level than we do today.
In simpler terms, BMX wouldn't be where it is today if not for the sake of Mat Hoffman.
We're getting into familiar territory though: the standard Mat Hoffman write-up. Something that's already been done to death. So instead of falling in line and repeating verbatim Mat's story, I'm going to divulge some insider knowledge on Mat. You see, over the years, I've gotten to hang out with Mat a bunch, and underneath the legendary reputation, there exists a truly gracious human being with a penchant for bad jokes and spicy foods. What follows are a few lesser-known tidbits of info about The Condor and the day-to-day workings that don't always make it into interviews or standard Hoffmanian write-ups:
Mat loves the Washington, D.C., band Fugazi, and the work that the band members have done both before and after the band went on hiatus. He has used Fugazi as a soundtrack in his own videos, hangs out with guitarist/vocalist Ian MacKaye whenever he's in the D.C. area, and even models some of his ethical approaches to big business after the band (which is the reason you won't see Mat rocking a Red Bull helmet or wearing Nikes.)
Mat used to ride for Airwalk Footwear during the '80s and early to mid '90s. On a recent trip to Germany, his luggage was lost, so he went shopping for new clothes and bought the same pair of Airwalk Vic shoes he wore in 1987. They even have a lace saver.
Mat has a collection of sketches he made as proposals for the "Jackass" movies that were even too outrageous for the "Jackass" production team. One involved sky-diving into a manmade bodily orifice on the ground.
Mat is a crazy talented artist, painter and poet. He also plays guitar, has produced, directed and hosted his own TV series, and once taught himself to drive a semi truck. It should go without saying: the word "cannot" is not part of Mat's vocabulary.
Mat's favorite possessions include, "My bike, my parachutes and my time."
Mat is the main sport organizer for BMX in the X Games. If he's not riding in the comps, he's constantly on the phone or on e-mail, organizing the selection process for athletes, tallying scores during the contests and conducting rider/staff meetings.
Mat's sense of humor can best be described as "silly."
Mat lost his phone in Las Vegas at a trade show in September of 2008, and instead of buying a new phone, he started carrying around a pen and piece of paper with everyone's phone numbers he needed in his pocket. When he had to make a phone call, he would simply find a pay phone.
Mat did the above "Truth To Me" interview an hour before he was supposed to judge a contest. When the interview was done, we rushed back over to the venue where the contest was. We were late, but the riders, and about 500 spectators on hand, were all patiently waiting for Mat to show up so that the contest could begin.
And finally, about two to three years ago, Mat decided that he wanted to start tattooing people. If you are one of the few, including Steve Crandall, Mike "Big Island" Castillo and Leland Thurman, you might be lucky enough to have a signature Mat Hoffman tattoo, which is an unframed happy face, with two X's for eyes. The tattoos are few and far between.
Thanks for doing yet another interview, Mat. I promise I won't ask again for at least another month.