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24 years ago today, Mat Hoffman pulled the first 900 air on a BMX bike, at a 2-Hip King of Vert contest in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. At the time, 17-year-old Hoffman was a rookie pro who had just quit riding for Haro. It was his second pro contest, and his second time trying the 900 air.
Talk of the 900 air wasn't a new topic. Two years prior, Diamond Back pro Mike Dominguez was attempting 900s and reportedly coming close, along with UK vert pro Lee Reynolds one year later. But the trick remained a mystery, until Mat Hoffman pulled his usual 'Wait till the last possible minute of a contest, throw the impossible and see what happens' routine, a routine that worked out all too often for Mat.
According to Hoffman, the trick wasn't exactly calculated. "It was a mass of spinning confusion and then you notice yourself riding across a flat bottom and a smile is stuck on your face from ear to ear," said Hoffman about pulling the 900. And other eyewitnesses to the first 900 can attest to Mat's go-for-it attitude, including Steve Emig, who writes the Freestyle Mag Tales blog.
At the time, Emig was a cameraman for Unreel Productions, the video division of Vision Street Wear, who sponsored the 2-Hip King of Vert contests.
According to Emig, "In his second to last run, Mat Hoffman did three back to back 540's, which I'd never seen anyone do before. He still had one run to go. I'd known Mat long enough to know he was setting up for something. The thought of a 900 popped in my head."
And his assumption was correct. Mat went for the 900, and pulled it, in front of maybe three video cameras and no more than a few hundred people. The crowd flocked to Mat, the ante on BMX progression had been upped and Hoffman won the contest. But Emig's tale doesn't end there.
"After the contest, we were heading out to eat, and met Steve Swope and Dennis McCoy in the hallway. We asked how stoked Mat was after pulling the 900. Swope just said, "Look through the peephole." Mat was sitting in front of the TV, holding a video camera, and watching himself doing the 900. He'd watch it, rewind, then watch it again, over and over and over. Swope said, "He's been doing that for an hour, he just keeps watching it." After talking a couple more minutes, Swope opened their door, yelling at Mat to put the camera down and come eat. We finally got him to leave, and we all went out to dinner at some place similar to Denny's."
24 years ago today, Mat Hoffman pushed the boundaries of BMX progression by pulling the first 900 air, and to celebrate, he rewarded himself with the Canadian version of a Grand Slam breakfast, somewhere in Kitchener, Ontario.