Words & Photos by Robin Pearson
In my personal opinion, Dennis Enarson is the greatest BMX rider in the world. I use that word because quite simply, he does truly great things. He pushes his level of riding constantly, across every terrain, all around the world. People may have different favourite riders who they will claim are number one, but I still stand by my original statement. In BMX, Dennis defines greatness.
I clearly have a high opinion of the guy so it was a real pleasure to visit him in San Diego back in February, stay in his swanky new house for ten days and get to know him better. During my stay we rode a wide variety of spots with a mixture of Dennis’ friends, all the while shooting pictures and filming clips but most of all enjoying ourselves. As Dennis put it, it was an honest interview – he was just riding how he usually rides, with riders he usually hangs out with, in mostly local areas.
The thing is, usual for him is pretty unusual for anyone else. I’d shot a couple of random things with him on previous trips but this time I got to see his craft day-in, day-out, and really consider the level that he’s riding at. Not only that – I also found the photos stacking up and up from day one – Dennis can’t seem to help being productive. He’s that driven, he’s a real professional and is truly genuine. Here’s what else I learnt about him.
One of the first things a lot of people think of with Dennis is his dog Rudy, who really is a superstar in his own right – he makes cameo appearances in Markit edits, Demolition’s Last Chance DVD and Markit Zero – and is loved by all.
“He’s pretty much my best friend. I like doing road trips with him, I’m always talking to him but it’s funny that he can’t talk back to me. I used to have my roommates look after him a fair bit but since I moved I’ve had to take care of him 100% of the time, he’s all my dog now. It does feel like a little more responsibility, yeah, when we’re out riding spots and I’m trying a trick I’ve got to keep my eye on him the whole time. He messes with me sometimes, following me around and getting in the way. I feel bad for filmers and photographers when he messes up a shot, but it’s funny, he’s a dog, you know.”
Rudy has become such an important part of the riding scene that he now dictates the spots Dennis rides. For instance, at the weekends everybody rides schools in San Diego, but Rudy can’t jump into schools with big fences, so Dennis has to think of spots where the fences aren’t too high.
Dennis got Rudy just after he moved into his first house, when he hurt his spleen at a contest at the age of eighteen. It wasn’t a debilitating injury but it’s dangerous to not let that sort of damage heal fully, so doctors advised him to stay off his bike for a couple of months. That’s when Dennis suddenly thought he would get a dog.
“I realised as soon as I healed I had forgotten how much I travel, so I had to get some help looking after him. I was just being a dumb eighteen-year-old kid, not thinking about the commitment of owning a dog. But I’m twenty-three now and I still have him so it all worked out.”
It’s fair to say that that first house Dennis found when he was eighteen has become pretty well-known in the BMX world. Now that he’s moved on and left the place in La Mesa behind, I asked Dennis to reflect on the time in his old house – the Henderson house, or as it’s better known, The Markit House.
“The house is still sick, some of my best memories are from there. In those five important years, from eighteen to twenty-three, a lot went down. It was such a good house for my life at that time, it really helped me grow a lot, meeting so many people. I had a hell of a time. I’m glad I did that, living with roommates the whole time and sharing it, we had some of the wildest parties ever… And it’s right down the street from my parents’ house too so I always had the ramps close by.”
Ever since Dennis bought the place it has been a straight up BMX house. When most of your housemates don’t have to go to work, you have the freedom to run things exactly how you want and in the case of the Markit house, that made it really productive. Christian was always on hand to film everything, teams would come and stay all the time – Dennis says there would often be a sea of air mattresses from one end to the other. I believe him when he says getting sleep in that house was sometimes impossible.
“Looking back now it sometimes felt like roughing it! It was never the cleanest house, you just had to man up and carry on with it, be easy going and get on with your friends. I’m happy to say that in the years living there I never got into any fights with anyone. No drama, we’re all still best friends.”
The house got its name when it was just the Markit crew living there – that’s actually how the brand started, with that group of people living together. Dennis still enjoys spending time there but now he’s made the move out and plays the role of landlord, it doesn’t feel like home to him anymore.
Now in his new house, right in the heart of San Diego, Dennis is rightfully very happy. He told me he searched for about a year, so he obviously knew he was ready to move out for a while. Dennis described feeling the need for a change like a breath of fresh air to help him move on and get into a healthier lifestyle. In the Markit house he would often feel guilty about spending time trying to do stretches or even just relaxing in his room, because as he mentioned, there would always be someone over. He was ready to find a place to change that.
“I finally found somewhere I’m super psyched on, the location is amazing and it’s just me and Rudy and my girl and her dog and it’s just a sweet place for us right now. I’m so happy, I’ve been here for a month and you guys are my first guests, which went well, so it’s awesome having people stay here. It’s so central, which is such a nice change from La Mesa – I lived in that area for twenty-three years. Getting off the freeway at that same exit, back to the same old place after every trip, I went to school there, every time I went to the store I’d bump into someone I knew… I suddenly realised I was ready to leave.
I’m really happy with the decision. I’m just loving this house, the view is great, this whole place is a positive spot. It’s nice to have people over when I’m home, it’s a cool place for people to hang out and I want the homies to come over when they want… But they gotta go home. That’s the nice thing!”
He’s right, the view is great. I was hugely impressed when he showed me around the place, it’s seriously classy. I asked Dennis what plans he has for this house now that he’s finally settled in.
“I want to put some more pictures up. I really like my picture of Rudy that Christian gave me and Chris took a picture from the roof that I love too. I think it would be cool to put some of my photos up as well but I think it would be sick to only put up pictures that I’ve taken since living here.
I want to get some other art in here too. I plan on being in this house as long as possible – five or ten years, easy. So I want to customise it a lot and put cool things here and there, but I want to take my time – like with tattoos, I’m in no rush. Just as I don’t want to go and get a full sleeve, I don’t want to go to the art show and get ten paintings. Maybe I’ll get none because I don’t like any. I’d rather pick things up gradually, get random little nicknacks on my travels.”
Dirt jumping is the most fun thing ever, obviously
As a successful clothing project, an influential web video series and with a NORA Cup winning DVD to its name, Markit has built up a huge role in BMX. Despite all this, the brand remains true to its origins in the purest way – it’s just a group of friends having fun.
The crew pushed themselves hard for two years to make Markit Zero, which resulted in a masterpiece – amazing riding and classic road trip vibes to an extremely high quality soundtrack. With all the effort put into making the video, Dennis says they all drew a collective sigh of relief when it was all done. This group sense of recoil has meant a bit of a slack approach to the products recently, of Dennis’ own admission.
“Behind the scenes, away from the BMX part, it’s just me, my dad and my buddy Josh Rosengreen running it. It gets hard when I’m out of town and Josh is at school so my dad kicks more ass than anybody. He does like 90% of Markit really, he does the numbers, the shipping, he’s the one running it.
I’ve learned through Markit that I am not a businessman – it is so not my scene. With trying to ride all the time too, I got a bit overwhelmed so I just wanted to take a step back after the video. I decided to focus on my riding a bit and it was good to do that. Now I’ve got the new house and everything has settled down we’re working on it again, we’re really motivated.
I know I’ve been slacking but that’s what’s kinda cool about it, I don’t have anyone above me telling me to work. Any deadlines are what we put on ourselves, we do it our own way. Thankfully I started it when I was twenty-one so it’s got a lot of years to grow and I’m not rushing anything.”
After the success of Markit Zero, I asked Dennis whether they had any plans to film another DVD.
“We’ve already started on that. Rob, Connor and I have stacked our first clips for it so it’s official now. It was on the Cinema x Markit trip – we got clips we didn’t want going on the web so that was when we officially started filming.
Markit is something I like to do to be able to give back to BMX, to make videos and do things with my friends and not necessarily make any money from. It’s definitely not a retirement plan! It’s just something I’m doing out of my own pocket to have fun and make cool videos and products.”
Markit is quite clearly done for the love of it – Dennis has involved his friends who he believes in to contribute to the image of the brand in all their individual ways. This honest attitude really does shine through in everything I’ve seen Markit put out.
Being from San Diego, Dennis was drawn to skateboarding, BMX and action sports in general because he was surrounded by the culture. Growing up spending time both skating and riding a lot, he got a kick out of both, but there had to be a favourite. Riding had a different appeal to Dennis because when he rode racetracks he found himself enjoying the competitive aspect. For a few years that competitive thrill of racing fulfilled him but when it wore off, he found he was becoming much more excited about the feeling of riding new tracks and getting better on his bike through that variety of terrain. That’s when Dennis found dirt jumping, as he puts it, “the most fun thing ever, obviously.” At that moment, competing went out of the door and all he wanted to do was ride BMX for the fun of it. Instead of worrying about getting better gates and being faster than the next kid, now he was just enjoying being on his bike. All of his passion for racing translated into enjoying dirt jumping.
When his parents let him build some dirt jumps in his back garden, Dennis pretty much stopped skating. He met other riders in his neighbourhood and BMX took over his spare time. The next chapter, which continues to this day, started at the skatepark.
“The Clairemont skatepark was a huge thing for me. After my first day there, I wanted to go back as much as possible and thankfully my mum gave me rides there from the age of thirteen right up to when I got my drivers license.
The idea of not spending all my time riding never even crossed my mind, I was hooked from that first day at Clairemont. I mean, I was hooked before that but there was something about that day at the park, riding ramps, airing a quarter pipe for the first time, trying a wallride, it was so scary but so fun. And everyone there was so cool, the scene was sick. After that it was all about learning new tricks – the feeling I got from learning something new, I couldn’t get enough of that. I got completely got addicted. I still am.”
Dennis obviously does loads of travelling. Between the filming trips he leads for Markit, flying out to contests and trips with his sponsors, he spends a lot of time away. He knows he’s one of the more fortunate ones, being able to travel as much as he does.
The fact that he enters dirt, park and street rounds of contests means there are always a lot of offers, but he can’t say yes to all of them. I wondered how he decides which contests to go to, is it just a timing thing? Or does he look at the prize money on offer and treat his riding more like a business?
“Well, I used to just say yes to all of them. It didn’t matter about prize money or where it was, I had a travel budget so if I got invited I’d go. But now, after doing it for however many years I take a step back and think about each one. For instance, Simple Session – I loved it. I went three years in a row and had a blast, but now I don’t feel like going back. I think it’s one of the coolest contests and it’s always a sick course, there’s nothing bad about it but I feel like I’ve done it. I’d rather switch it up and try a new one.
Obviously I’ll try and do X-Games and Dew Tour because they’re good money, they’re a kind of easy way to try and make some good money, which I can save or put towards a Markit trip or something. Most contests don’t have money like those two, so they’re a good idea to ride just to have a chance of getting a share of what’s on offer. I don’t want to sound money hungry or whatever but riding is my job so obviously I’ll try and be successful and do well financially. I just try to do it as good as I can.”
It’s understandable that Dennis will choose some contests for the chance to win some money but favour others that let him visit cool places. To give me an example of the latter he spoke about the last Red Bull Dirt Conquers event in Guadalajara, Mexico. Being a fan of Guadalajara as a place, plus seeing the design of the course, he didn’t look at the prize money. He just went because it looked fun.
“I just pick and choose a lot more now. Especially with trying to stay healthy and keep filming through the summer as well. I have to be able to go on riding trips with my sponsors, I try and keep the balance, get a taste of it all. I enjoy contests and I love filming but I just have to be careful not to burn myself out.
It’s a fortunate thing that there are more than enough contests to keep me busy but yeah, between those and the filming trips it gets pretty hectic. Last year I was gone for seven or eight months without being home for more than ten days at a time.
I took a couple summers off when I broke my femur and when I broke my foot, so didn’t travel much, which is why last year I just said yes to every trip. My calendar filled up and it was insane, about five months into it my body was shutting down. Then coming home to the Markit house didn’t feel like time off, because I’d show up and a whole team would be staying so that would feel like rolling straight onto another trip. You wake up in the morning and see everyone packing cameras and stacking bikes in the truck and you’re like, oh, I’m still on a trip… It’s like it didn’t really end for a year. Now, after being home for three months, I feel refreshed and like I’m ready to travel again. It’s good to take a little break to make yourself inspired again.”
Dennis has collected a lot more stamps on his passport than he would have done without BMX, undoubtedly. Those stamps have come from weird and wonderful places too, places he didn’t even know existed. He finds it amazing and I can tell how truly grateful he is when he speaks about his travel opportunities.
“It’s one of the best things ever, I’ve been taught more from travelling than anything else and it’s insane that my bike has taken me to all these places.
The older I get the more I appreciate travelling. When I was younger I used to go on trips and just completely focus on the spots and nothing else about the places I visited. But now it’s different, obviously riding new spots is still an amazing thing and that’s why I’m there but also I love taking in the culture, going out to dinner, trying something I’ve never done before, doing what the locals do. That’s one of the best aspects of travel with BMX. The amount of things I’ve seen just from riding a bicycle… It’s such a trip to me.”
Many of you reading this will have seen Dennis’ photo galleries that sometimes appear online after a trip he’s been on. He knows travel makes unique memories and he tries to record these, both through photography and by keeping a journal.
“When I started travelling when I was sixteen it just hit me, like, this is so crazy, I have to write some of this down and keep these memories in writing. Since my first trips I’ve been keeping a journal afterwards – I’ll just write a little bit about what the trip was like, any crazy things that happened, whatever’s interesting. Now I have a book and a half of notes of my experiences. It’s not even to show anyone, it’s more for myself so I can look back and be like, damn, I got to do all that. Looking at my notebooks will bring back easy memories.
My photography is the same idea. I’d always used disposable cameras because when I had phone photos or digital camera shots I never did anything with the pictures. Nothing against digital stuff, but personally I just put them on my computer and I never organised them, they just sat there. So I shot disposable cameras and had them developed and loved getting real photos back, it’s so different.
My girl got me a real nice 35mm camera that’s like thirty years old, I’ve been loving it, it takes such crispy photos, it’s so fun to use. I’ll shoot a roll or two of film on every trip and it goes in my journal, I’ll have a page about the trip then a set of prints. It’s a nice thing to be able to look back on one day. It will be nice to fill in the blanks when I’m old and can’t remember anything!”
Hanging out with Dennis for ten days with all California’s associated long car journeys meant I found out about his music taste pretty quickly. I had heard about him choosing songs for video parts before and obviously a lot of the Markit footage is cut to classic rock, but I wasn’t aware of how opinionated he is.
“Once I started having an ear for music I really liked that certain sound of classic rock, rock in general. I like a lot of different music but I’m definitely picky with it and it’s something I can’t help feeling strongly about. I’ll be sitting in a car and if someone plays a song I don’t like it bugs me so much, it sucks. Good music puts me in a really good mood and bad music totally throws me, I can’t listen to it.
I can’t help having a strong opinion though and the older I’m getting the stronger it’s getting, which is cool because the more opinionated I get, the more I like music too. I feel more passionately about it both ways.”
As I mentioned, Dennis likes to put forward his song choices for his video parts. From early on in his career, he has felt that if you put work into your riding you should be able to pick your song too. That’s if you have as strong a taste in music as Dennis, anyway.
“If you don’t really care about music then whatever, have the filmer pick it for you. But for me, I wouldn’t want to watch my clips to a song that I think sucks. I like to collaborate with the filmer and get my vision and their vision to meet. With Christian there have been songs that I’ve loved and he’s told me straight that it’s not going to work. I listen to him, you know, then we meet in the middle somewhere.”
One thing I noticed immediately when staying with Dennis is his keenness to live a healthy life. He cares about what he eats, always does stretches before and after riding, plus practices Pilates regularly.
“When I first moved out I didn’t know how to cook anything, I would just grab microwave meals, eat whatever, I didn’t think anything of it. I’d eat junk food constantly and I was oblivious to the whole health food thing. Later on I got a couple injuries and I started really researching how to heal as fast as possible, which is when I found that about 90% of it is down to diet. That’s when I started eating really well and realised how fast I could heal when I thought about what I ate. Having my girlfriend study nutrition obviously helps a lot, she’s always giving me cool advice on dietary things and whatever’s new. A lot of people say it’s more expensive but it’s really not, you’ve just got to go shopping more and make your own food, which is something I find really fun. It’s amazing how good you can feel just by eating the right stuff.
When recovering from injuries, riding bikes isn’t necessarily enough. When I’m riding every day and trying to ride to my fullest I have to do therapy too. I had bad shoulders and then my knees started to get a bit weak too so I started doing a lot of shoulder and knee exercises. That was the beginning of me taking care of myself. My girlfriend is also a Pilates teacher and she got me into that – it’s pretty much a full body therapy. I’ve been trying to do that twice a week, it makes me feel so good, especially since I’ve been having lower back problems.
All of this is now tying together – eating well, good exercise, stretching every day. It’s crazy, after feeling this good I really can’t imagine going back to eating fast food and not stretching every day, it would be so hard. After a trip I feel like I need to get back into the swing of things with my diet and exercises. I never thought I’d be like that but it’s just how it’s developed, I’ve had to step up my game to look after my body.”
I asked Dennis if he thinks this new choice of lifestyle has affected his outlook on riding. He said that it has, purely because it’s made him appreciate the time he spends on his bike.
“You know the feeling of riding and the therapy it gives you, how mind-freeing it is? Being healthy has made me appreciate that feeling more, for sure. When I’m healthy I want to stay healthy. It’s affected my riding because the better I feel, the better my riding is. That sounds obvious but I don’t just mean feeling better because I’m not injured, but also better because I’ve been eating well and taking care of my muscles to try and prevent injuries rather than fix them.”
When Dennis does get injured and is forced to chill, he focuses on healing in a big way. He finds this process interesting, saying that you learn so much about your body through injuries, you can then take that information past the injury and keep on using it in your life. He makes a good point. I wondered what else he does when he doesn’t feel like riding.
“I play ping pong, go out with my friends – as I’ve been living in SD my whole life I’ve been fortunate to keep some lifelong friends who I just enjoy hanging out with and having good conversations with. Also spending time with my girl, walking with Rudy… Building relationships is something that always goes along with downtime. I spend so much time on my bike that I sometimes forget how important everything else is. There is so much else to do.”
Chad Kerley has started a new YouTube channel called CEEK Life. Part of it aims to be like a mini reality show, documenting his normal day-to-day life, but most of it will be riding footage since Chad rides every day. Dennis got on board straight away.
“Doeby killed it filming Chad’s first edit so when this interview came about I suggested linking up with Doeby and filming an edit to go with it. I just thought the next edit could be another cool riding one to get Chad’s channel more noticed. It’s funny because he was really surprised that I was up for helping and I was like, dude, you’ve done so much for Markit, I have no problem filming these clips for you.
Everything I did for this I was happy with but we rode my local spots, the stuff I normally ride, we didn’t go too far out of SD, we rode with my friends, it’s such an honest representation of my riding.”
We got talking about Dennis’ sponsors and I remarked that they must be pretty happy when he comes up with ideas like filming an edit for CEEK Life.
“Yeah my sponsors have always been really cool. I’ve had them all for a while and they pretty much let me do whatever I want. Ever since I got sponsored I’ve always felt the same – I don’t feel like my sponsors have to send me places to get coverage out of me. I always like to do things like a little Markit project or this interview, because it feels good for me to put stuff out. If I sit around for too long and don’t do anything I feel lame. I love shooting photos and filming, I think that’s why my sponsors have always been psyched on what I do, they don’t ask for much, they just say, ‘keep doing your thing.’ Luckily that’s what’s fun to me so it works out, it doesn’t feel like much of a job at all. It’s what I’d be doing anyway.”
Dennis clearly enjoys himself when he’s riding but with the level he’s at, I can understand certain things getting to him.
“I really try to not stress about riding but sometimes things will get in my head and bum me out for a bit. I’ve learned now, through all my injuries, it’s better to just say no sometimes. I would never do that before, I would let something kill me. Now if there’s something bugging me and the trick’s not working then I know when to leave it. It’s nice to step back and think things through. Saying no to a couple things here and there, it ain’t bad.
Saying that, I never want to be a pussy either! But that doesn’t matter, I’d rather be able to ride tomorrow, then maybe I can get something I’m really stoked on the next day.”
Learning to be more objective and see a situation from outside your own opinion is quite a mature quality. Along with keeping his original sense of fun, that’s something Dennis has become – mature. As I read back through this interview I notice many instances where his views reflect that, but it’s his choices that really cement it. He has gradually changed throughout his career, it’s been great to watch him grow in his lifestyle, travel philosophy, professionalism and – of course – his BMX riding. Let’s keep watching.
The amount of things I’ve seen just from riding a bicycle… It’s such a trip to me