STEPHEN MURRAY HAS BEEN DRIVEN FROM THE DAY HE WAS BORN TO NOT ACCEPT ANY LIMITS AND TO PUSH AND CHALLENGE EVERY ONE OF THEM THAT HAS BEEN PUT IN THE WAY OF HIS DREAM. WE’VE ALL BEEN FORTUNATE TO RELISH IN HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND THE PROGRESSION HE HAS CONTRIBUTED TO OUR SPORT.
THEN THERE WAS A DAY THAT CHANGED ALL OUR LIVES. SUPERMAN HAD FALLEN AND DIDN’T GET BACK UP. I WON’T DWELL ON THIS MOMENT BECAUSE IT’S THE WAY STEPHEN FACED THIS MOMENT THAT CARRIES THE SIGNIFICANCE. STEPHEN MURRAY STOOD UP IN A WAY MOST OF US COULD ONLY IMAGINE. HE STOOD UP WITH THE STRENGTH OF OUR ENTIRE COMMUNITY AND FACED THE ODDS THAT ARE RAISED TO THE HEIGHT ONLY THE SPIRIT OF BMX COULD REACH.
STEPHEN MURRAY IS BMX. STEPHEN’S LIFE AND ALL THE NEW FORMS OF CHALLENGES HE FACES EVERYDAY REPRESENT THE STRENGTH AND HEART THAT OUR COMMUNITY IS BUILT UPON. I USE STEPHEN’S HEART FOR INSPIRATION EVERYDAY TO FACE ALL ODDS THAT GET IN THE WAY OF MY DREAMS. HE MAKES MY PAST OBSTACLES I’VE FACED, LIKE NO HANDED 900’S ETC., AND FUTURE ONES I DREAM OF EVERYDAY SEEM LIKE A WALK IN THE PARK.
I HEARD A GREAT QUOTE FROM A CARTOON RECENTLY. “TO MAKE THE IMPOSSIBLE BECOME POSSIBLE, YOU MUST BE AWESOME”. WELL, STEPHEN MURRAY IS AWESOME!
STAY STRONG STEPHEN. YOU CARRY THE SOUL OF BMX…
Intro – Marco Dellisola
Interview – Chris Mason
Photos – Scott Papiro – Blake Peterson – Bo Bridges
For those that don’t know, Stephen packed up and left the UK in 1999, with only a few grand in his pocket he headed for the BMX Mecca that is Huntington Beach, California, to follow his dream of becoming a full time pro rider. With his likeable personality and unrivalled passion for BMX: there was no way this Geordie kid was going to fail. Coming from a successful racing background, he was know for being smooth, fast and stylish on the track, 360’ing doubles at 11 years old and throwing backflips mid pack in pro moto’s – he was always one to watch and made riding look effortless. Off the track he was a sly, funny, cheeky, kid who always guaranteed entertainment and some form of mischief where ever he went: a character the UK race scene definitely missed when he headed to Cali.
The mind-set and focus he was used to applying in his racing days are what helped him to the top in 2001 when he won gold at both X and Gravity games, pulling double backflips and 360 flip variations… innovative tricks that had eluded his competition. Murray became known for pushing the envelope with his do or die, go big approach, an attitude that would see him either on top of the podium or down in tenth place, but whatever the outcome – he was respected by his pears for always sending the risky tricks! Self-confidence gave him the edge that season and he was now officially “living the dream!” Experiencing all the high and lows that go with the rock star lifestyle but nothing that would prepare him for the life changing tragedy that struck at the Baltimore leg of the 2007 Dew Cup when his life took a dramatic U turn.
A double backflip attempt in his third run went horribly wrong and he was left paralysed from the shoulders down. Stephen had shattered 3 vertebrae in his neck and fractured another – flat-lining in the ambulance after regaining consciousness on the dirt course – none of us could have ever imagined his life was ever going to take this path. Now when Murray tells a story it’s usually highly eventful and very entertaining…he’s known for not holding back and speaking his mind and this story is certainly no different.
One day his life tale will make an awesome book but until then, grab a drink, kick off your Vans, get comfy and enjoy the uncensored Stephen Murray interview.
"...I tried to get up, but I was pinned, like someone had strapped me up in a gaffa tape straight jacket,
I couldn't move anything, what the fuck's going on?..."
So, Stephen, talk us through your early racing memories and highlights…..
I started racing back in November 83. It was right before I was 3 years old. My mum and dad took me everywhere; I was always away at competitions all across England. They were such good times and I met such good friends…I still have some of them in my life nowadays. I really can’t remember how many times I was British champion or National champion, I think it’s something like nine times British champion and 10 times National champion. I do remember that I beat Marco two years in a row though, haha. When I was 5 years old my first really massive achievement was getting 8th in 5 and under expert at the 1986 world championships at Slough, I got 2nd in the European championships 3 times in a row…yeah…I had a really successful amateur career in racing, that’s about it I think.
Was it you that started the fire at the Swedish European champs?
Ha ha, yeah I was about 12 years old. I remember it was a fucking big fire, yeah I’m ready to admit after all these years…it was Marco…the CSI found salsa at the scene.
You moved away from Newcastle down to Worcester…what the hell for?
Yeah, I really didn’t want to move away from Newcastle. My mum and dad got divorced when I was 14 and I ended up having to move to Worcester. Thinking back I think moving to Worcester from Newcastle was a blessing in disguise, I wasn’t up to too much good back there in North Shields and if I’d stayed there I’m sure I’d be telling a different story…Ha ha. I didn’t want to move away, you know what, I still love the place to bits, every time I go back there it just feels like home, it feels normal, well, apart from the shitty weather. I moved to a really posh area of the country, I had to go to a school wearing a suit and tie and horrible shiny shoes. I was like “fucking hell, you’re kidding.” I always tried to get away with wearing old school Vans instead of those fucking shiny shoes, I kept getting called into the headmaster’s office and I’d get shit for not wearing my shiny shoes. Everyone spoke dead posh and I had a thick Geordie accent no one could understand. It was hard; it was completely different than my school back in North Shields. I wasn’t used to dealing with posh twats, they were trying to take the piss out of me, “fucking hell”. Most of them were a bunch of fairies, man. But…I eventually ended up meeting some really good people. There were some funny people hidden amongst the posh twats.
Leeroy wants a mention…
Haha, the fat croc-wearing pervert… My brother had gone to Worcester 6th form so when I finished high school I followed in his footsteps and went to college. I always looked up to Martin; he was always a big influence in my life. I didn’t really care what I was doing, all I wanted to do was ride my bike, but I went to college to study Sports Science and Leisure and Tourism. One day I met a lad there who asked me if I was into BMX, he said one of his friends had a track in his garden, anyways he takes me over there one day and I met Jason Alliano, he lives in the most beautiful place, he had the best family in the world, just amazing people, I can’t say enough about the Alliano family. I asked Jason “Would you mind if I built some real big fuck off jumps here?” He said, “You can build whatever you want.” I said “fucking right” and that started the whole DTR scene, Jay, Scott Edgworth, my brother and me. Before you knew it we had the funnest, raddest trails ever. I missed so much college building and riding. My mum would get a call from the college asking why I hadn’t turned up that day and she would make an excuse. She would then get straight on the phone to Jay asking if I was over there and why I wasn’t at college, knowing fine well I skipped college to go and build or ride at the trails. I’d always get Jay to lie for me saying he didn’t know where I was when really I was busting flatties in his garden rather than being in some shitty leisure and tourism class. I’ve got no idea how I got good grades and passed college but I did and I got accepted into Worcester Uni.
You started moving toward dirt jumping about that time?
I always loved to jump the whole time I was racing. When I was a kid I’d make jumps out of milk crates and planks of wood just around the corner from where I lived in Preston Grange shopping centre. It’s weird but all my mates made up a nickname for me when I was about 8. They would call me Steve “the American boy” Murray. Brian Foster was always my hero, he could race and jump. I just wanted to race and rip on the dirt jumps too. Dale Holmes, Neal Wood and Jamie Staff had all moved out to California, the weather made it perfect conditions to ride, I’d hear so many stories about the place. When I was about 16 I started to focus more on jumping. I still had a lot of success in racing in England; me and my brother once got 1st and 2nd in A pro and I also won the dirt. I started getting invited to European dirt contests, this was such a good time, not going to bed at 9 and up at 7 for gate practice like at the races, at the dirt comps it was more like coming in at 7 in the morning and riding at 8 at night ha ha, much more relaxed. I started doing well in these contests, I started to win a lot of them and I was beating people I thought I’d never be able to hang with, people like Marcus Hempell from Germany, amazing rider. When I was about 16 I watched this video called Soil made by Ryan Brennan, Barspinner. It blew me away, I could not believe the scene, all the people I looked up to were on this video, everyone lived in Huntington Beach, they had the life, they all rode Sheep Hills every day, Hidden Valley, Honda Hills…
Don’t forget I was still heavily involved in racing, I’d raced all my life; it was not something I found easy to let go. I really wanted to go out there to Huntington Beach but my mum wouldn’t let me till I finished my education, I said fair enough. I finished college and began saving, I had a stash of money I’d made from some dodgy deals. I remember selling fake Calvin Klein kegs at race meetings, I won’t mention any names but you’ll all know who I’m talking about, this guy would come to the race meetings, open up his van and say in a Scouse accent “here you are ladies and gentlemen, straight from Italy, designer gear, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Burberry” all day long, all this shit. I’d buy some stuff from him and sell it to my mates at college, snide gear was a good earner but I had to get a real job too to earn some cash for my trip. My first job was working in a factory making garlic butter stars, classy eh? All my mates from school worked there too, you had to wear overalls, gloves and a fucking hairnet like an old granny. My job was to squeeze all the butter out of this big tube thing and it squirts out in the shape of garlic stars, I felt like a fucking robot making garlic stars, I thought this is fucking shit so I got the garlic and stuffed it in my mate’s mouth, the bosses weren’t too happy about that so I got moved to the carrot line with a character called Barry the carrot, he was so fucking fast at peeling carrots, you wouldn’t believe. Like a blur.
Martin’s told me about Barry the Carrot…he reckons he was dead fast too…
Yeah…deeead fast. He’d worked there all his life, Mr Barry the Carrot, he was rapid I tell you, but he was a Wanker, he used to complain that I was slow at peeling carrots, I was like “eh…fuck you, I’m chopping them as fast as I can” so they moved me again, this time to the bloody lettuce line. I’d cut all the dirty shit lettuce from the good lettuce, you’d have a sharp as fuck knife and gloves, one time I cut me fucking hand and it filled me glove with blood, it was me and bunch of old grannies. I’m sat there with me hairnet on thinking what the fuck am I doing here? I went outside and thought fuck this shit; I’m never working in a factory again. I jumped on my bike and fucked off 12 miles home… But 2 weeks later I had to bite the bullet and get a job making blueberry muffins in another bloody factory, I had another big fucking squirty thing full of blueberry and I’d squirt it into the muffin mix. Sometimes when I was pissed off which was most of the time I’d err…hokk tooo…spit in the muffins, I fucking hated it there I thought “what the fuck are you doing here man you stupid little blueberry muffin squirter?” I walked out of there as well, but I still didn’t have enough money, the next job I had was ok, it was in a cool bike shop next to Worcester skate park and I eventually saved up a decent amount. That was it, I didn’t want to be stuck in a factory all my life, I wanted to ride, I borrowed / was lent some extra money from my parents and off I went to California.
How did you like it?
I had seriously the best time ever man, going there after seeing that Soil video was all I wanted to do. I was lucky enough to be able to stay on Dale and Neal’s floor along with about about 12 other people, I didn’t care, living out of a sleeping bag, living on peanuts, rice and tuna, all we did everyday was ride, we’d do sprints, go to the gym, we’d do gate starts, we had our own starting gate in front of the house, I’d be doing gate starts in the front street with all the pros, Leveque, Foster, Allier etc. I got to ride sheep hills, my lifelong dream, that was something I can’t explain, that was just special, you turn up and every single pro racer was there, every pro jumper, all different characters, it was amazing man. But after a while it was time to go home, I was gutted. When I got home straight away I said to my mother I didn’t want to go to university I just wanted to go back to America, I said “please let me go back out there for another 3 months.” I’d gotten a lot better at jumping at that point and that first trip to Huntington Beach made me so much better, I’d been making this video for the past three years called Bicycles and Dirt, it was inspired by that Soil video by Barspinner Ryan. I had filmed all over the world, I filmed, produced, edited, designed the box, the lot, everything…I made 2000 copies and sold the fucking lot of them…that paid for my next California trip and that’s when it all happened.
Yeah…within the first two weeks out here I got a call from my ultimate all time hero Gary Ellis, he was a BMX legend man, he asked me if I’d be interested in riding for Nirve. I rang my mum, dad and brother and said “I can’t fucking believe it…Gary Ellis called me, they want me to ride for Nirve…shall I do it? Shall I do it?” My mam said “do it”…my brother said “fucking right”…. so I rode down there and they had a two year contract waiting there on the table, it was err…$1000 a month, I told them I couldn’t survive on that cos’ my rent was $500 a month, I had to eat, travel etc…So they raised it to $1400 so I signed on the dotted line. That was a dream come true.
It didn’t go too good at first huh? Seven broken bones in one year?
Yeah… 2 broken clavicles, 1 broken shoulder blade, 2 broken legs, 1 broken scaphoid bone, 1 broken wrist I think that’s it isn’t it? I broke my thumb as well… I got referred to this doctor, people can think whatever they want about this but basically if you don’t try things out you never know. He was so good that every time I broke a bone that year I would get a flight home ASAP to get fixed. What he does is a bit radical, he started doing clinical tests on race horses, these filthy rich Arab people from the far east would invest millions in horses, you know what happens if a horse breaks its leg you’ve got to shoot it, put it to kip cause it can’t survive if it can’t stand up…so he came up with this treatment…he’d weld the bone together with lasers so that the horse could instantly start putting pressure on its leg, you’d still have the soft tissue damage but you have the beginnings of a healed bone, he started using me as the first human trial…I was a test pilot…the first time I went there it was the Sunday after the King of Dirt contest, for some reason I did a double barspin and err…I missed my bars and broke my collar bone, my shoulder blade and my scaphoid? Bone all in one, and I was literally paralysed on the left side of my upper body, so I went to the airport and went on standby, had to wait 12 hours in the airport, I was absolutely minging. I get to the doctor geezer and he did this thing called magnotherapy, it creates a negative charge around the breakage and draws the blood and healing properties to that point, immediately following the treatment, about 45 minutes later he does laser therapy, it’s completely painless, there’s no scars, just a sense of mild tingling. Normally if you get a broken bone you get a cast put on, then within two weeks your bone forms a meshy substance made up of calcium and other things. It begins to mend the bone, then it takes another four weeks for it to harden up, during that process your body is going through a tremendous state of atrophy, then you get the cast taken off and you get a bunch of cottage cheese on your arm…it takes another 4-6 weeks to get back to good and normal. Well I couldn’t wait six weeks. On Sunday I’m in New York, I’m in a mess, he does this treatment on me and then afterwards he tells me “lift your arm up and point towards the ceiling”…I’m like “no way…it’s broken man.” But he says do it, so I lift it up and it’s pretty sore but I lift it all the way up, he makes me do it 20 times, the more you do it the better, he tells me. I got home from New York on Monday, got treatment Tuesday and Wednesday and by Friday I was riding my bike again…four days…sorted.
What gave you the belief you could go and beat some of your all time heroes?
I didn’t actually believe I could beat them…
You didn’t think you were good enough?
I was just in there doing whatever I could do, I was just so excited to be there that’s it, I always thought they were just superior and professional, I was just loving it.
What was a typical day in the life of Stephen Murray back then when you first got on Nirve (around 99 – 2001)?
I’d get up round about 10 o’clock.
Fuck off…tell the truth
11 o’clock…that’s when we’d all ride, I used to ride with Marvin Lotterly and Chris Slope a lot back then, I mean Nasty never got out of bed until half an hour before it got dark, I was lucky to catch a half hour glimpse of him in the daylight, he used to be a man of the night, and he’d put his night vision on at sheep hills for secret ninja BMX training. I wasn’t living with Nasty then, I was still living at Dale and Neal’s, I’d get picked up by Marvin and we’d go riding all day, we’d go ride 60 trails, we’d ride Honda hills, a bunch of cement parks, I wouldn’t go back to the house all day. I’d just be living on the cheapest food and gallons of water, I learned how to eat cheap from Marvin, El Roacho…99 cent dinners and all that, Del Taco and all that rubbish. We’d quite often go ride the Vans skate park at night or go street riding, I wouldn’t get into the house till 11.30pm and I’d be absolutely fucked and then I’d have Dale banging on my door at 8.30am shouting “why don’t you get out of bed you lazy dirt jumper?” Trails this trails that “Urgh man…Dale…shut the fuck up will you?” He used to be the most annoying person in the world at that time as he was on a strict racer-training programme but he’s a good lad and he’s helped me out a lot. Yeah that would be a day in the life back then, you know I couldn’t get up out of bed cos’ I’d be that sore and tired from riding and I’d need to refuel my body and I’d just be off again, I’d be on a completely different schedule to Dale and Neal and they’d just think I did fuck all, all day, but it was the best thing, as far as getting your priorities straight, Neal was a bit of an alcoholic at the time but he cleaned his act up, Dale especially is a great role model to follow, he is a real good person to look up to, Neal is Neal ha ha, everyone who knows him knows what I mean. Grotbags ended up living with us from time to time too, I’d bought a Ford Taurus off Todd Lyons, the snakey bastard, and a week later the transmission blew up and I had to buy a complete new engine so I asked him for money for it and he gave me $100. Wildman is a fucking tight arse, he’s known for it…he can’t deny it…for some reason when I started winning Grotbags thought he was gonna have my Ford Taurus off me for the part he played in my success, he was telling everyone he was gonna have my car…I was “like fuck you are…what planet did you get that story from?” As if you give someone a car for coming riding at the trails with you. I mean, a car? I don’t know if that’s the reason he still doesn’t come to see me to this day, I haven’t seen him for a year, you know he couldn’t have been a better person when I first got hurt (after the accident in Baltimore), he was right there with me in the hospital and was amazingly supportive for my family but six months after the accident I haven’t seen him, he just disappeared. He lives 45 miles away and he’s too busy smoking cigarettes and pretending he’s hard with his black top with security written on the back…he’s too busy to visit me… thanks Grotbags mate…cheers.
…I can’t change anything, I’ve lived my life to the fullest, and now, I’ve got another outlook on life, I’m not ashamed of the things I’ve done, I’m not scared to tell everyone,
I’ve got nothing to hide…
Can I talk about Chris Stephenson?
Well back in Georgia Street where I lived with Dale and Neal I had been promoted from the floor to the couch…this dirty greaser called Chris Stephenson who used to work at S&M (you might remember him as the old SandM Team Manager from some of the old Props videos), he used to come home pissed when I was asleep on the couch and he used to pour washing-up liquid on me and shit, I would be like “what the fuck are you doing?” I was still small then only 18 years old, this dirty greaser would have been 29-30, the drunk twat used to push me and try to start fights with me, I wanted to clock him so bad but I never ended up doing it, years went by and I saw Stephenson and Neil down the beach, I was about 24-25 by then, I saw him at Kilarneys where the secret ninja Jedi jiu-jitsu master Grotbags works…I saw them and he was on my case again. I said “Stephenson you say one more thing to me and I’ll knock you out.” He was saying you and Nasty are shit and all this crap, so we went outside and I was getting ready to knock the fat greaser out but Neal grabbed the cunt in a Neal Wood headlock and kicked him up the arse into a taxi back home…I just want to say Stephenson you dirty greaser…I’m in a wheelchair now but I’ll still kick your arse you fat greasy bastard.
Where did that come from?
Fuck knows…ha ha
Back to the story
Well…After having such a horrendous year in 2000, you know breaking those seven bones in eight months, knocking myself unconscious three times, I really questioned myself, did I have what it takes to be a professional dirt jumper? After such a shocking year I questioned my mind and my body…I thought no, I’m gonna fight through all this, my sponsors were threatening to drop me, I had a two year contract and losing that my dream would have ended. I travelled from Huntington beach to Lake Perris three times a week and got that course down, after riding so hard that winter and actually learning how to crash…you know what, I thought after crashing so many times I need to learn how to crash, in dirt jumping when you’re pushing the envelope I figured I needed to learn how to land on my feet like a cat, you know, if you fling a cat up in the air…it still lands on its feet…I needed to be able to do that…learn how to get out of certain situations safely…so I learned how to crash. I learned how to get out of a lot of crashes that otherwise would have fucked me up, that winter I rode and rode, I met up with Cory Nastazio that winter and became really good friends with him, I rode with him non stop, he was my influence, my motivation and he taught me a lot of things, how to not be scared and go for things, to have 110% confidence in going for it instead of having 90% confidence and 10% worry about failure and consequences. Fuck the consequences. I learned a lot of things that winter and put it into practice by turning my life around and my riding around… I had to prove to myself that I had another year to fulfil my dream of being successful, I knew if I could apply the mind-set I’d learned from racing I could become at one with my bike and all of a sudden everything links together…
The DK dirt circuit came around, it was a qualifier for the X-Games. I’d been practicing on the course three times a week; it was at my local track Lake Perris. Back then it was four runs, three runs that count and err…I’d done three runs, I’m riding up there against TJ Lavin, Ryan Nyquist and Cory Nastazio, every single person I’d looked up to and admired. Two years ago I was sitting home in England in the pissing rain doing shitty little contests for £50 and all of a sudden I was up there on the roll in with all the best riders in the world and I’m thinking “I’m here.” You see how dialled they are, how professional looking, composed, but it didn’t faze me at all, I knew the ability I had, I had it in my head what I was going to do, they didn’t affect me, after three runs out of four I’d already won the contest, I had one last run to throw out, I thought “right, I’m going down and I’m gonna do a double flip on the last set.” It was a bomb hole to a big step up, I mean come to think of it now, there’s no way you can double flip it but I was “I’m just gonna try it, fuck it, I’m gonna give it a go…I’ve got nothing to lose.” I winged it and I pulled so hard I went into a pencil flip, when I used to do diving they’d tell me the more you tuck in the faster you do your rotation but it slipped my mind, I got caught up in the moment, I went into a big scorpion double backflip, you know, not tucked, I was stiff…I got almost all the way round and my front wheel cased it on the underside of the landing and bent my quality Nirve bike in half, I just remember waking up and seeing stars, I’ve got a concussion, I remember everyone diving on me saying “yeah, you’ve won…you’ve qualified for the X-games”…and I’m like “Fuck”, tripping out and then I’m getting interviewed on TV for the first time, I’m like “fucking right, fucking, fucking this…fucking that”…Lee Ramsdell was giving the interview and he was pissing himself laughing, in the excitement my Geordie accent came out and no one could understand a word I was saying apart from fuck…they had to bleep my whole interview out on the TV.
Next was the X-Games…
Yeah…the DK contest at Lake Perris was about four weeks before the X-Games, after qualifying for the X-Games, after beating all these people that have been my idols, people I’d aspired to be like and here all of a sudden I’m on the podium ahead of them, I got this confidence from being the first one to qualify for the X-Games. I knew I wasn’t just gonna go there. I was going there to win. I made up my mind that this is something I have to do. I figured out that learning and perfecting the double backflip was the key to winning it, fuck…leading up to the X-Games I must have done 1000 double backflips into the foam pit. That year I’d always been in the top five, it got to the X-Games, I’d also learned a no hander to turndown backflip, I was going to that contest with tricks that nobody had the balls to fire out on dirt. I’m sorry, Nasty had actually tried one but the consequences were pretty grim. Anyways I knew this is what it was gonna take to win, we go to qualifying and I qualify 5th but I was holding out on all my biggest stuff, I went back and focussed like I used to in the racing days, got my mind clear, practice for the finals was the next day, I said “right”…I’m gonna do a double backflip in practice cos’ if I fuck it up I’m not gonna make the same mistake in finals. I knew there was only a small margin for error; I actually kinda ended up messing with people’s minds a little bit. I waited for TJ, Nyquist and Nasty, all the top riders to get up on the roll in and I dropped in, I knew they’d be watching and I burst into a double flip and I couldn’t believe how clean I landed it. Everyone went absolutely fucking nuts, you know, all the TV cameras were everywhere; it had never been pulled before clean on dirt, everyone was going fucking mental. I was out of the arena within two minutes. I knew in my head I was gonna win, without sounding cocky, you train for something so hard, you’re so focussed, there’s no distractions, no bullets you can’t dodge, nothing was gonna get in my way, the last thing I wanted was the TV people plugging my brain, I wanted to get out of there so I fucked off back to the hotel. The first run of the Finals the next day I ended up over shooting the set before the last set I was gonna do the double on and I thought fuck I’ve just thrown away a run, I still had two runs to do what I knew I could do so I remained calm and focussed. I dropped in on the next one and pulled the double flip…back then dirt was huge, there were 30,000 people in the stadium, it was ridiculous, everybody was just going mental, but I still had another run to put the nail in the coffin, I went down sticking the next run and winning the contest, all that hard work, you can achieve anything you put your mind to it…after that man…I was hearing so many rumours…they were saying “Murray fluked it”. I was like “what?… fuck everybody, you know what, I’m fucking gonna learn another trick that’s never been done and I’m gonna fucking blow people’s minds away.” I was living at Cory’s at the time, I was working on this trick, I came home from the skatepark at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I was due to fly out at 6 to go to my first Gravity Games. “Hey Nasty, come and check this out, I’m gonna pull this trick.” I showed him this video of me doing this 360 turndown backflip, it was just dialled…I’d been doing it again and again and again and again into the foam pit, I’d figured out exactly where I was in the air, where the landing was, I just wanted to silence the critics, I didn’t want hear any more of this fluke bullshit…so I went to the Gravity Games and pulled it and won that shit too.
…My mind tells me to get better, dodge bullets, move mountains, and that’s what I’m gonna do…I’m gonna get better,
how ever long it takes…
Did your typical day change after winning those first contests?
I mean you go from earning $1400 a month which is only enough to get by, you’d pay $500 a month rent and then have the cheapest cell phone you can get, on the fuckin’ 10 minute plan, 10 minutes spread out over the month, I had to ration them out, ha ha. Basically I went from that $1400 a month to within two weeks winning over $90,000…I mean what sense does that make to my brain? 21 years old, growing up in Newcastle, nobody has that amount of money at 21, I know for a fact what everyone would do with that amount of money in Newcastle…they’d err…go places they shouldn’t ha ha…
Did it go to your head?
Did what go to my head?
That you’d just bust out these three contests in a row…you know the money?
Na…absolutely not…but you know I had more than enough, all of a sudden you start to think what can I treat myself with, so I bought some daft cars, I had a fucking blast, the first car I bought was $44,000 I walked into the dealership with cash and said I’d like that one there sir, I ended putting another $16,000 into the car, airbags, wheels, switches, tinted screens, the lot, the car was worth about $70,000 when all was said and done, it was retarded…you saw it, it was a beast.
Yep, you almost blew my fuckin’ eardrums out when I travelled in the boot on the way to a club.
Ha ha…yeah…I got a stupid sound system that would almost blow the doors off and got hooked up with killer wheels….that car man… Fuck man.
Anything else you did with your money?…ha ha
Yeah, (guilty laughing) I did lots of things I shouldn’t have done with my money, but what’s money? It’s just paper…yeah I definitely wasted it on too many VIP rooms and champagne tables and all the other shenanigans, staying up for too long and all that stuff. Me and Nasty were living the high life for sure, I can’t tell you the things that me and him did we shouldn’t have got away with. We’re damn lucky that our hearts are still beating man after some of the shit we pulled…we were definitely a pair of shady bastards.
How were the next few years while the money was good?
After 2002, I was on the point of claiming 2nds and 3rds but I’d never walk away with that 1st place again, it’s like a drug and you’re still trying to chase the high, I’d be non stop but I wasn’t quite achieving it but I was still very happy with the way my life was going, I was earning a lot of money back then, I had a nice new house in with a pool in Corona, I bought it after I won the Gravity Games for the second time, life was good but I still rode everyday and never lost that drive on my bike, I was just trying to figure out the missing ingredient to get me back on top. I really felt that once the judges saw me do these really difficult and dangerous tricks that would be it but they never rewarded me for it the same way again…I know I got judged against myself as a rider instead of getting judged against the rest of the field which I thought was complete bollocks.
Do you mean you were ripped by judges?
Bastards eh…tell me more…What sort of tricks were beating your tricks for points?
In 2004 Gravity Games I remember pulling a 360 turndown flip on the 1st set and a double flip on the last set and then having a blinding run before that with a 360 flip at the end, I thought there’s no way I’ve lost this but all of a sudden I look up and I’m in 3rd position…I was like “eh?” Nobody, ever…still to this day has pulled a 360 turndown flip on dirt and to pull it in 2004 on a 30 foot long jump and get an 89 is bollocks…it speaks for itself.
Shifty cunts eh?
Yeah, 89 is a shit score, I mean c’mon, what’s that all about?
What kind of money were you making in your peak?
Err…with bonuses I think I was making about $16,000 a month.
How much have you spent on tropical fish?
What altogether? Including sharks?
Err…about 10 grand…but that includes the coral reef.
How much on model airplanes?
Err…ha ha ha…well over $5,000 I had some fucking lush ones ha ha ha ha.
What happened to you and Nasty at the NEC for Bike 2003? You both entered street and qualified 2nd and 3rd behind Nyquist and then didn’t even show up for the finals the next day! What happened that weekend?
Well me and Nasty had been asked to come over to England and do a dirt contest and we got there and it was fuckin’ disgraceful, the worst dirt ever, saturated, it had been getting pissed on by brummie rain so they covered the jumps in wood…Me and Cory were like ”I’m not riding this shit like”, who wants to ride wooden shit dirt jumps covered in plywood?…but there was a street course that looked like fun, that year we’d had a mini spine ramp built in our backyard and we’d got really good on ramps real quick, as soon as you get something fresh beneath your wheels outside your front door: it’s on! We’d ride dirt and ramps every single day. I was like “hey Nasty shall we ride street?” He was like “yeah fucking right… are you feeling it?” “Hell yeah”…Nasty was boosting like five feet higher than Dave Mirra over the spine, it was ridiculous, we ended up qualifying 2nd and 3rd ha ha…we were pretty good that year, we were tripping, fucking hell every name was there, it was stacked, so anyways we were canny exited and we ended up going out that night, and one drink led to another and before you know it we were in the middle of Birmingham on it, we met some horrible birds and were still shagging at six in the morning, trust me, back then, me and him, you could have dropped us off anywhere in the world and we’d find some local sluts to entertain us ha ha, we never had any intentions of going to the finals the next day, we’d only rode street for fun, we didn’t care, just did it for a laugh. The finals were in the afternoon, when we got back everybody was getting their bikes out and getting ready to go to the finals and we hid behind a car till they’d gone and we sneaked past the others into the hotel to hibernate ha ha.
Did you have other weekends like this where the partying took over the riding/ comp?
To be honest, I’ve got nothing to hide, I think the first time they had the drop offs at the Vans triple crowns, I remember I’d been out boshing and raving all night, I was up all night and I met up with White Snake and Badders at five in the morning and went out to Denver, when I got there I sat up in the bleachers looking down on the course and all I could see was oranges and greens. All these hallucinations, I just thought fuck, you stupid idiot, why? But you know back then I had so much confidence in my riding, I could go out all night long and run amok and pin it full throttle doing the naughtiest of things, all shapes and forms, whether it was with females or whether it was with she-males ha ha ha…just kiddin’…anyways I qualified 2nd when I was still nst nst nst raving…I just gritted my teeth one last time and I got joint 1st with Nyquist ha ha, fuckin’ hell.
How hard did you hit the party scene?
Eh…Pretty much as hard as you can hit it…
Good answer…What was the party scene like in Riverside?
To be honest it’s not like in England where you go into town and you’ve got a bunch of pissheads, and people getting into scraps, getting up to no good. Out here you have to drive elsewhere, everyone drinks and drives out here and there’d be places for us to go four nights a week, it’s a different vibe out here, before we’d go to the club we’d get wasted before hand and then get more fucked in the club, but afterwards there’d be all kinds of after parties, we’re talking about mansions and shit, parties until the next afternoon, you wouldn’t get home till the next evening, you know the kind of thing, lots of dirty filthy porn star looking chicks all around the place and of course all of them wanted to fuck Nasty so I’d pretty much pick up the ones that failed to get him, there was so many of them…and the Nastyman could only handle so many of them so it was down to Mr Murray to take care of business with the rest ha ha…I’d hang out with the rejects but trust me sunshine they weren’t really rejects. Ha ha. This one time we were in Larry Flint’s strip club with a load of strippers and these lads came up to us and kicked off. We got kicked out of the club and they were throwing fucking beer bottles at us from the balcony, bunch of arseholes, after that incident I went to go get laser eye surgery and a week later we walked into another club called Metro, full of gangsters and that shit, we ordered a couple of drinks and all these people were asking Nasty are you Cory Nastazio? That used to happen everywhere we went so it wasn’t anything new, He said “how you doing?” And this fucking kid just smacked him in the face, turns out these were the same kids as the week before, Cory must have fucked his bird, me and Cory fought all seven of the cunts, we must have chinned five of them before we got threw out, the coppers were outside and they squirted me in the face with fucking mace, fuck, my eyes were burning, it’d only been a week since I had laser eye surgery, I’m on the floor with the mace burning my eyes, it was fucking horrible, that fucking hurts I’m telling you, these two girls picked me up off the floor and were helping me back to my car and my bird came out the club, saw me with these girls and kicked off with me and the girls she’s like “what the fuck…you bastard”…I’m like ”fuck off you stupid cow, I’ve been maced ha ha.”
Did you find people wanted a piece of you and used you?
Yes, come to think of it, there’s no question people did, you know you’re the hot shit of the moment, phoney agents, sponsors that want in at the right moment to capitalise off your name and to be honest most of them don’t give two fucks about you, they just want to exploit you to make their company look good. And there were girls everywhere wanting a piece, ridiculous, the amount of chicks you get cos’ they’ve seen you on TV, they want a piece of you, I wasn’t too shy, I didn’t have a problem being used like that…ha ha. We’d be heavily involved in the L.A and Orange County party scene, it’s all about who you are, what car you drive, how many more champagnes can they get from you, VIP areas in clubs, they’re all in it for the free ride, to be seen with a personality and for the money, shady bastards… but we were stupid enough to give them what they wanted.
Were you smart with your money?
Would you have changed the way you lived your life looking back?
Definitely not, but I wouldn’t have taken a dodgy cheque for my Chevy Tahoe…that $70,000 Tahoe I told you about before, some cunt ripped me off and wrote me a cheque for it and it bounced, they fucked off across the state line to Phoenix with it, bastard.
Did you feel the pressure from the up and coming Aussie invasion and the hungrier kids that were coming through?
You know what, it wasn’t until 2005 that I started to realise that I had become a ship without a rudder, drifting in the wrong direction, any which way and the partying was becoming pretty excessive… Especially with Guettler and Cory Bohan coming over, Guettler dominated that year, it was an eye opener for me, it made me question my ability and riding skills, I’d just been following on from the year before, I was getting burnt out by 2006, I realised that there were a lot of new guys coming up that dominated the dirt scene, it was a shock to my system…all of a sudden I realised I couldn’t hang, in previous years I could hang with anyone but not anymore, this started to mess with my head big time, it led to me being very burnt out…
...Stay Strong means just that. Maybe you just broke up with a girlfriend, your wife has left you, your husband has left you, your pets died, whatever...There's so many things in life that will make you crumble but you have to reach down. I remember a quote from one of my best friends Rob Indri, he said " when you think there's nothing left, just reach down inside yourself and dig deeper" ...
Do you think you not getting tailwhip variations and 360 whip variations dialled a factor in your results at that time?
Err…I mean how many kids can do tailwhips? I can do tailwhips? Why do I want to learn a 360 tailwhip when I’m barely comfortable doing single tailwhips? Never mind triple whips, you know what, that’s not a trend I wanted to follow…I always had my style and I was never one to follow someone else’s style of riding, I had my own style and my own tricks.
You were known for being a flip specialist maybe?
Yeah…that’s what I’m saying.
So do you think it’s ok as riders have different specialities?
Absolutely …who wants to see every single rider doing the same style and same tricks, every fan out there wants to see a different flavour from riders, they don’t want to see the same clones dropping in and doing the same shit, you want to see different things, I was always a rider who would give 110% going for 1st place…if that didn’t happen I’d come 8th, 9th or 10th or I’d end up in hospital, I’m not one of those people that lays in between…
Did you ever think the dream was gonna come to an end?
What you on about?
I mean the sponsorship and money before the accident?
Ah yeah…before my accident GT and all those big companies started to fire the people earning the most money, they released Bestwick, six months later they released me, Simon Tabron got dropped, then Steve McCann, TJ Lavin. All of these riders who’d been a key part in these companies, they just got rid of them, they couldn’t give a flying fuck about them, they were more interested in getting bikes in Wal-Mart, they didn’t care about taking care of the athletes, they used alternative measures that stink…they just shit on us…it stinks.
Was it hard to stay motivated right the way through when distractions came along? Family, kids, bills, and added pressures that weren’t there back in 2001 when BMX was all fun. Did you ever fall out of love with just riding your bike?
Definitely…I got unmotivated… I lost my fire, I didn’t want to ride my bike, pretty much falling in love and having a kid, I met my wife and we had some great times, I was instantly caring for two kids, there was a hell of a lot of distractions, I’d been riding bikes since I was three years old and I’d achieved pretty much everything on my bike, more than I’d dreamed. I’d partied with rock stars and all that shit, but after my son Mason was born it was a full time job, looking after a kid and a baby and keeping the wife happy and trying to snap out of it, trying to find the reason why I was falling out of love with riding, it took me a while but I finally hit the nail on the head, it came about 4-5 months before the Dew Tour, I wasn’t living my life properly back then, I was smoking stupid amounts of weed, I was getting up in the night to smoke, I was smoking whilst riding, stupid dumb shit. I was going from being a fully-fledged party animal to having responsibilities and I thought smoking helped me…you know what, I should have been on a whole other level but I wasn’t.
How did you balance the lifestyle and being a family man? Obviously for a young guy juggling so much comes added pressure and stresses…
I smoked because I was stressed out, going to a contest, everyone’s waiting for Stephen Murray to bust out these big tricks and if he doesn’t he’s messed up, I was known for the do or die tricks, the all or nothing attitude, obviously the people in the crowd know something is gonna go down, and sadly people like to see people smashing themselves just as much as seeing the big gnarly tricks, they know that with me it might go either way, for years and years I could party, party, party and then ride but it got to a point when I couldn’t handle it, success went to my head, I went from being a kid from Newcastle with nothing to a dream come true in America, I had stupid amounts of money, a crazy lifestyle, you can’t comprehend the stories unless you were there, very few people experience these things. You know what? I pissed away some of the best years of my life…no doubt about it.
We know you hit a bad patch before you lost your rides…tell us about that. What kind of lifestyle were you leading?
Looking back, you could say what if? I can’t change anything, I’ve lived my life to the fullest, and now, I’ve got another outlook on life, I’m not ashamed of the things I’ve done, I’m not scared to tell everyone, I’ve got nothing to hide, it’s something to learn from if anything, the journey I’m on now is harder than anything I’ve ever done, harder than anything, it’s everything, you can’t imagine how hard it is just to wiggle a finger, an individual part of your body, to actually try to rewire your brain, contact your body parts, you’re trying to figure your body out again, it’s no trick, I lost my fire, fully pinned 5th gear, full throttle. It gets to the point where you’re burnt out, it’s hard to refocus… I looked for ways to change it, I ended up losing some of my sponsors, I was looking for a way to reignite the fire, I knew what I was doing wrong, I was in with the wrong crowd in and out of BMX, I was in a bad situation with my house in Riverside; I’d let this guy move in and he lived there free for three months but he just started to take the piss, he said he wanted to buy my house but he was full of shit, he was just running up my bills and leeching off me the cheeky twat. I’m starting to see behind his fake persona, one day I came home and my wife was crying on the phone, he’d been bitching her out. I grabbed the phone and told him to come and get his shit and fuck off out of my house, so I’m in the shower and I hear my wife screaming “Larry’s here and he wants a fight!”…I said “pass my Vans”, I tied them up tight as shit so they didn’t fall off when I volleyed him in the head, this cheeky bastard opened the door and walked right into my house past my kids into my room and he was saying “c’mon Murray you want to handle this outside?”…This geezer is twice the size of me, hard cunt supposedly, I was like “yeah, let’s go” and when we get outside he moves into a fighting stance and he goes “you want to do this in front of your kids?” so I just knew, that’s it, I eyed up my target and with all my power head-butted him in the nose, smashed him, instant knock out, it felt fucking great, I hoofed him all the way down the driveway like I was taking a penalty and then I started smashing fuck out of his Sand Rhino quad with a shovel… “go on fuck off you glamis sideways hat wearing cunt.” He fucked off and came back later with the police sirens blaring. Pussy. I’m thinking “shit, this is it, I’m getting deported,” they questioned me and I explained that it was self defence, it turns out this lunatic has got a record for 21 assaults three with knives, fucking hell…I just want to say thanks dad for that piece of advice, “son, if you’re ever in doubt get the first one in” that’s what I did, there was just too much shit going on, I had to get away from it but it wasn’t until four months before Baltimore that I did, I just stopped, flipped a switch, I watched this self motivation video, I picked up the Bible, I always believed in God but that was it, I didn’t take it any further but I started finding my way, I put my feet back on the ground, I was going to lose my house, I couldn’t pay my bills, I didn’t have the money any more, I had this massive stress on my shoulders, after a while I just found my bike again, I learned so much stuff, I felt like a brand new rider going into Baltimore…I never felt so dialled.
Ok tell us about that weekend…go into detail about what happened.
Well…err…going into that comp I was 100%…I was at one with my bike for the first time in…well, ever… I had a new S&M black bike that Neil Wood and Chris Moeller had specially made for me, I didn’t have any pressure from sponsors anymore, Oakley had always stood by me through thick and thin, Scurto and just great people over there at Oakley…I felt the same way about Vans too…well that’s another story.
Well tell it…
This is what happened… Kye Forte had put a contest on two weeks before the Baltimore Dew Tour, I’d never felt this feeling on my bike since way back 02, 03, I felt better than ever, I was so exited to get to this contest, I was under pressure to sell my house, I couldn’t, there was no one was backing me, I got invited to go back to England for the Empire of Dirt, the course looked amazing, I thought what better place to get dialled…I couldn’t wait to get back there, I knew a lot of my mates were going to be there, my friends from home driving eight hours down there. People from everywhere, I was calling everyone saying I was feeling great and I was going to be there. Well, prior to this I’d stopped getting any money from Vans, it had been five months since I’d had anything, no contact anything, I must have made 300 phone calls to Jerry Badders and he wouldn’t reply, I couldn’t figure this out, I was in a terrible position with my bills and all that, but I tried to put it behind me. After I didn’t receive my pay checks for five months I was on my way out to Woodward and we stopped off at a gas station and I was flicking through the latest copy of Ride magazine and I saw the latest Vans advert, all the team and my name wasn’t there…ah I finally figured it out. The penny dropped, I eventually talked to Badders and exchanged some harsh words, I was upset he didn’t have the balls to give me the heads up, just dropped me without telling me, I had to find out by looking in that fucking magazine. We argued but after that I sucked it up, I apologised for the words I said to Jerry and he said he’d pay for me to go to England for the Empire of Dirt, I packed my bags and went out to LAX airport, my wife and kids dropped me off and then drove home, I stood in the queue a while and then I got to the check in desk and the woman said “Err…your ticket has been voided.” I was like “Eh…how can it be voided…hold on I have to make a call”… I was tripping out…I called Badders and he picks up for the first time in a long time and I’m like “Jerry, I’m a LAX and they say my ticket’s voided, do you know anything about it?” He was like “yeah…you don’t get to speak to me like that and think you get away with it.” I was fucking furious; everyone was expecting to see me there, my family, my friends… He said, “Mother fucker you don’t speak to me like that.” I said “Trust me…When I see you in Baltimore I’m gonna smash your face in.” So I hung up, my wife had to come all the way back to get me, all the way from Riverside. I couldn’t have had more fire up my ass for Baltimore, I’d had two weeks to brew, I put in the hours more than ever, just rode and rode. Rockstar and Pro Riders helped me to get out to Baltimore, great people. I get picked up at the airport by Chris Gentry and when I walked into the hotel Badders comes walking out…I said to Chris “ argh, it’s gonna go down…watch my bags.” I said to Badders “I think I’ve got a few words to say to you sunshine.” He said, “I’ve been waiting to see you, you think you can talk to me like that and get away with it?” He squared right up to me face to face, he knew I was on the arse end of my tits and that’s how he treated me. I just threw a left hook and KO’ed him, he fell on the ground like a sack of potatoes, all the Vans people came running out, they helped Jerry to his feet, I’m still livid, they’re shouting “If you do that again Murray you’re off the team!”…Badders was saying, “You’re still on the team”…I’m like what the fuck you on about, I’ve seen the advert, I’m already off the team so I clocked him again and knocked him out again. I had two things on my mind that weekend, teach Badders a lesson and win that competition. What I did to Jerry, I mean two wrongs don’t make a right, I don’t take back doing that to Badders. Jerry and me are good friends right now and we have put it all behind us…I don’t hold any grudges. It was just bad business, especially to one of his best friends, I helped him get the job, anyways that was over and done with. Anyways back to the comp, in practice I felt absolutely dialled, the jumps were shit but I felt great, the following day after I’d given Jerry the beatdown, I’d put it behind me and I felt really comfortable riding, I qualified 4th and I hadn’t even dropped any of my big tricks, I was feeling good, I went to bed early, got up the next day relaxed and I go get ready for the finals at night, it was all floodlit, thousands of people watching, dirt was the main event, I was sitting in 1st after my first run, I’m feeling great, everything is falling into place, I know this is gonna happen, so going onto my next run and everything’s sweet, no footer to turndown backflip…table 360…the double backflip…I came down and slid out and bashed my head.
Why did you make the sign of the cross before that last run?
I really couldn’t tell you, I’d never done it before in my life before, it was freaky…I can’t really remember doing it, but it’s clear watching it back on TV that I did it, I don’t know.
When you crashed the second run, do you think you may have been slightly concussed?
Yeah, I was seeing stars, white lights, dizzy, not clear…people coming up and asking if I was alright, loads of people have said since your head wasn’t straight. But it’s like being in the cage and someone hits you and you get wobbled, you’re not gonna quit, nothing was gonna stop me from doing it after coming so close. One more run and I’d have established myself back at the top, I had my heart set on where I was going and no one was gonna stop me doing that run.
Do you believe God saved you that day?
Well, I can’t say that, I have hopes and beliefs. I did die three times in hospital and then came back, there has to be some reason, whether it’s medical expertise or it’s God or whatever you want to call it…it’s mysterious.
The trick that made your career ended it…the double backflip…had you
ever thought about the dangers of that trick and that this could have ever happened?
Ask that question again I’ve got a little bit of A.D.D. Actually …I’ve got a lot of A.D.D Ask it again.
The dangers of the double backflip…
Once I’d perfected how to do it, it was always, always, always a scary as fuck trick… The scariest trick I’ve ever done in my life was the double back flip… You can ask any single person in BMX “ what’s the scariest trick” and I guarantee you they’ll say the double back flip. It’s so quick, there’s a lot of g-force involved. And to pin point the landing is very difficult, There’s a lot of imagery in your head, mental focus and practice, If you’re not 100% focused on the trick you’re looking at massive amounts of danger, I’ve had concussions, I’ve balled my bike, crushed my nuts plenty times, I’ve broke my ribs under rotating it. I’d always tend to do the first one quick and then open out on the second to give myself plenty of time to spot the landing. In Nasty’s back yard one time I slightly under rotated it and hit the underside of the landing, I landed on the bars on my ribs and then onto my head, I had a concussion and broke two ribs and I still got up and tried another one, over rotated it and then tried again and landed it, once you crash it and you were so near and the adrenaline is pumping you just go for it again and the adrenaline masks the pain till later. One thing that I’ve always thought about that trick was that there was no way I’d just go out and do a double back flip unless I knew in my mind 100% that I was going to pull it. There’s no ifs or buts with that trick. It’s one thing doing it on a box in a closed environment but it’s another thing doing it on dirt where you’ve got other elements to think about, like wind, climate, conditions, the dirt, the lips, the ruts. It’s scary as fuck.
Waking up in hospital, what do you remember about the crash?
Nothing…can’t remember anything.
You forgot that week…
Err…well sort of I can remember the nightmares I had, I say nightmares but they were real, psychosis…
Tell me about the psychosis you experienced…
I came from a haze, shock trauma, when you’re in there your life is on the line. It was a living hell if there’s such a place, the most fucked up situation times a thousand, the first thing I remember was waking up, coming out of the black into the light, all this equipment around me, tubes up my nose, everything, the feeling I have inside me is that something is controlling my body, I can’t see, it’s blurred, I can’t swallow, I’m hearing equipment beeping and going nuts, the first thing I see is my mum, and my granddad in the corner, there might have been other people in the room but that’s what I remember, then all of a sudden I went into a massive panic, I tried to get up but I was pinned, like someone had strapped me up in a gaffa tape straight jacket, I couldn’t move anything, what the fuck’s going on, I’m trying to communicate, my mum brought out this letter board, she had to point to each letter and I kinda blink on the letter, the first thing I spelt out was Bible, so she read me this scripture, that’s the truth, I don’t know why, just happened. That was the first memory I had from waking up, then I remember going a bit psycho, I’m thinking all this stuff is real, I was on the 17th story of a skyscraper, my room was on a slanted angle, on the back wall of my room was a sliding glass door, my hospital bed was on bungee cords and I was hanging out of the hospital floor, I could see the streets down below, I started tripping out, I was seeing things, real things, but I was going nuts, psychosis, I’m thinking I’m in one of the main doctor’s meth lab, an ex girlfriend had a spell on me, she was evil, she had me locked up, I’m trying to run but you can’t run in a dream, like a meth amphetamine witch, I believed the doctors were injecting me with meth, I remember freaking out every time I saw them, I’m like fucking leave me alone, they were saying she locked the door. I kept thinking these doctors that were in real life trying to help me were evil. Then after a while I did fall asleep, and I woke up on an evil pirate ship, my son was there floating in the water, they kicked me off the boat, Mason was there in the water, it was horrible, if I couldn’t reach him I was gonna die, I eventually got him and then I woke up, I started going mental, I was in psychosis for two weeks, I was so paranoid, the only one that was a dream was about Mason, all the rest was real stuff. I kept thinking I was at Woodward camp in the snow, for some reason James Foster was in the dream, I was on a mission with Travis Pastrana to find parts of Christopher Reeve’s body in the ice, I was digging through the snow, I was awake, every time I found a bone his family were giving me five grand to pay for my recovery, I’m thinking about recovery already. I guess Travis Pastrana is in my dreams cos’ he came to visit me early on in hospital, but I do not fucking understand where any of that stuff came from. Then I remember my brother and Peach, and my mam and dad and granddad, they were counting down…8…7…6…5…they were saying hang in there, it went to zero and I black out, I think that was when they first took me off the ventilator, I was fighting for my life. I left Baltimore four weeks later, I was fucked for the whole time there, I’d died twice already. On the way out on the air ambulance, they were tripping out on the settings of the ventilator, any mistake is death, I was in the elevator and there was this cord that was undone, they just taped it together, it’s no big deal, I get on the ambulance…it was really bumpy, I was supposed to fly in a super fast lear jet to Denver, next thing I know I woke up, the cord had come undone, two minutes and 42 seconds I’d been dead, they were pushing on my chest trying to resuscitate me, “are you there?” “Yes…I’m fine”… they’d brought me back and I was just saying “I’m fine man…just take me to rehab.” I was supposed to be getting transferred to rehab and I thought I’d be lifting weights there like Rocky Balboa… But they took me to the local hospital for another week…it’s dodgy as fuck there, fuck… another week of this hell…the person in the room next door to me was Amish and he had died and they’d taken his kidney out, the dad had his own son’s kidney in his hand. There were Bloods and Crips, a few rooms down from me was a Blood who’d been shot but hadn’t been finished off, there was a bunch of Crips trying to get upstairs to get to him to fuck him up, people were dying left, right and centre there. That 5th week was horrible, I was thinking more clearly by now and I was stuck in this hellhole, they were pumping my lungs and shit loads of dirt from all the digging I’d done in my life was coming out of my lungs…bash bash bash…it’s just fuckin’ dirt coming out, they were saying what the fuck? A week later I eventually went to rehab in Denver, I thought I’d be back to normal but that wasn’t the case, this place in Denver was the most successful in weaning people off ventilators, so when they first took me off it was two minutes, my respiratory muscles hadn’t worked in six weeks, my lungs didn’t work, I lasted 20 seconds off the ventilator and it just fucked me up…that’s when I knew it was gonna be a battle, this was gonna be the first battle, to get off this thing, after a while I built it up to 18 hours off but the carbon dioxide level was too high in my blood and it fucked me up again so it knocked me back down to three hours off, the battle of a lifetime. I took five months to get off that ventilator that was helping me breathe, fucking hard work, just a massive effort…then I got my chair and began to learn to get around and just rehab, rehab and more rehab…from then to now, everyday.
There’s a lot of love and support out there for you…
Fuck man, there’s no possible way that I could have done this by myself, I went through living hell hanging onto my life by a thread and if it wasn’t for my family, my close friends and the BMX community, skate boarders, motocross riders all supporting me I don’t know what I’d do, I mean Mat Hoffman is telling me that I’m inspiring him, he’s Mat Hoffman, a legend, he’s telling me the shit he’s been through is nothing compared to me, he said he’s died twice, he said I’d beat him cos’ I’ve died three times…he’s great. I can’t thank everyone enough for all the support, I couldn’t have got this far without you, much love to you all…I mean it.
What would you like to see in put in place to protect riders in the future?
I’ve already seen some things put in place since my accident, you know when I got injured I didn’t know which way to look, certainly nothing about which questions to ask, or who to ask, which route to take, which direction. I was clueless and so were my family… It just so happened that the son of a lady from the Christopher Reeve Foundation was at the event when I crashed, he was called Zac and his mum is called Bernadette. He reached out to his mum too and begged her to help me. They were the ones who put me onto Dr MacDonald and Patrick Rummerfield, the only fully recovered quadriplegic in the world. I was very, very lucky that Zac did that… Angels were watching over me and paths were made for me, within the first week of me being injured Dr MacDonald came out to see me, I had no idea who these people were, this crazy scientist guy, they were telling me they could help me, they were a huge inspiration for me, still are. Without that kid in the crowd that day I wouldn’t have been in the position I am today, I wouldn’t have the backing. I’ve been friends with Aaron Cook for years now, we used to go out partying at Club Rubber in the golden days, he set up a PayPal account for people all around the word to help me out. Kimarie Hunt, I don’t know what I’d do without that lady, she’s really guided my life down the right path, I didn’t know which way to go but these people have guided me. We thought, what could we do for athletes that find themselves in situations like this? Aaron created a fund called the ARF, Athlete Recovery Fund, it’s turned out to give huge benefits for people that have been hurt, myself, Mikey Aitkin, people with broken bones. It has helped parents and family to fly out to be with loved ones. Hotels, money, support through the agony, it’s amazing, thanks to Aaron and his hard work it’s helping a lot of people out, whatever you need, the safest and quickest route to hospital, the details to save lives, I was lucky I was 5 minutes away. I hope that this never happens again to anyone else, everyone is showing great support for ARF and its gonna be able to grant more money for athletes that get hurt, at the end of the day it’s your job, a fully paid BMX Pro and then all of a sudden you’re on your ass crack, a family and kids, how do you pay your bills? An impossible situation, what do you do?…
Coming up to the two year anniversary of your accident…. what has changed in your life?
You know, it’s nearly been two years since my accident, I’ve been through the worst, dealing with a spinal cord injury is like nothing you can imagine, it’s cruel, torture, you have to be removed from it, there are no easy days, every day is a hard day, I don’t get any sleep at night, what’s changed in my life is everything. I have a problem with my temperature, I’m either too hot or too cold, I’m battling to get off painkillers, I take about 40 different pills a day to control pain, spasms, blood flow, all sorts really, there’s always been a fire in my heart to do things, I’m proving people wrong already, I can move my hand slightly. If I concentrate sometimes I have small movement and control in my foot, you have to have the perseverance and tenacity to want to break out of the situation, I’m not gonna just shrivel up into a ball and turn into a spasm, I have them 20 times a day, your hands shake, your leg shakes, I try to think it’s just an aftershock, I think fuck that, it’s bullshit, I won’t believe it, I refuse to, my mind tells me to get better, dodge bullets, move mountains, and that’s what I’m gonna do…I’m gonna get better how ever long it takes.
How do you keep going everyday? Is the fire in your heart still there to get better?
People might not know that my wife walked out and left me high and dry. I have troubles outside this, I go to court on a regular basis for child custody but I’ll keep going on until the day I die, I refuse to give up, I won’t let it beat me down… My wife walked out on me there’s not too much I can say about that because we’re in a custody battle for the kids. I always explained to my wife after the accident, if she couldn’t handle this we could make a friendly split, I went through so much shit and I guess she did too but things happened behind my back and it all got not very nice, I didn’t believe all the stuff people were telling me about her, maybe I didn’t want to believe it but at the end of the day if you can’t believe your family and closest of friends who can you believe. My dad always said to me “son…one day the penny is gonna drop” and one day it did, they were right, my wife had been fucking around when I was away at hospital and we had a massive argument, that was the end, she’s gone. Also my American visa had run out, I never got citizenship when I got married, she didn’t post the stuff, she dropped me in all these immigration issues, do I not have enough troubles? How much shit do I have to take? Keep trying to beat me down…I’ll just keep getting up and laughing at you…
Tell us about STAY STRONG and what you hope is possible with the brand…..
Stay Strong is my job now; it’s a clothing company that me and my gaffa Kimarie Hunt set up, such a wonderful lady. It started off with the t-shirts and wristbands that Aaron, Marco and Chris had made up to raise money for my hospital bills, then Ogio did a backpack for me, when I was a little better we did signature Oakley sunglasses, I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done, they’ve kept things ticking for me, they came out with these glasses, they turned out amazing. I explained to Kimarie, I don’t really want my name on everything, but people associate my name with the slogan Stay Strong so we created a Clothing company called Stay Strong, it’s an on-going thing. The apparel we came up with a range of t-shirts, my friend Chris Mason, the Pigbeast helped me out with a design that’s based on the design I have tattooed on my chest, cheers mate, we used that as a design on shirts, we also put it onto the Oakley sunglasses. Stay Strong means just that. Maybe you just broke up with a girlfriend, your wife has left you, your husband has left you, your pets died, whatever…there’s so many things in life that will make you crumble but you have to reach down. I remember a quote from one of my best friends Rob Indri, he said, “When you think there’s nothing left just reach down inside yourself and dig deeper”. Just like Mickey in the Rocky movies, I’ll never forget it, Indri is a huge inspiration in my life, he’s not here today but he’ll always be remembered. Stay Strong Apparel has taken off; we’ve got clothing, accessories, products. Creating something out of nothing, Marco and Chico are helping to run it in England and Kimarie sorts it all out over here, thanks guys. Reaching out to so many people, I’d love to see it do big things, I’d like to provide myself with a financial future, I’m working hard on it, I just want to be able to support my family, my two kids, big beast of a dog, two golden retrievers, just keep having money to rehabilitate myself and never give up. You always have to Stay Strong no matter what you do…
What are your hopes for the next three years? Would you want to come back to the UK?
A lot of people ask me that… Of course more than anything I want to come back to England to see my family and friends, just to be back home, you know it’s weird, over here (California) feels like home but when I go back home to England I know I belong, I just love the place but I really can’t see myself moving back there now, you know with my injury I suffer from the cold when it’s not even there, my temperature doesn’t know what’s what, it’s probably too cold back there for me. I live in a nice place now, my kids like it, I have trails around my house, I couldn’t go out to the trails to much so I brought them to me, and I’m teaching my kids to ride; Mason’s still a bit young but Seth is already ripping and winning races. My hopes are to regain as much possible movement as I can, that’s my number one goal.
If you made a full recovery would you get back on your bike?
Definitely, I wouldn’t do double backflips, there’s no need, it’s such a sketchy manoeuvre, I’ve done thousands but that one time… It puts the shits up me when I see my friends doing it or anyone else, I thought it would get retired after what happened, it’s been done, why would you want to dance with the devil again? I’d ride, but I’d have a job, I’d just have fun. Anyone that’s doing double flips right now I’d like to say seriously reconsider, it’s not worth it…believe me…I know.
There’s a big debate about the use of helmets in BMX right now. What are your views on this?
This has been on the forefront of my mind in BMX for a considerable time, especially since Mike Aitken had his nasty crash which lead to an absolutely terrible injury, but from which Mike was fortunate enough to survive. I know that Mike Aitken is one of the most influential riders in BMX, hands down! And after Mikeys injury, he spoke in a web video interview of how he wished he had been wearing his helmet that day. For every rider out there who thinks that it is cool to be riding without a helmet, think again, they should definitely be wearing a helmet. To my many other BMX pros and riders, we cannot believe how many are still the “cool guys” riding with no helmets. Even during the Mikey Aitken benefit jam [at Fox] there were friends of his riding without a helmet, this was an absolute disgrace. I was sat there in support of Mikey in my wheelchair witnessing this in disgust of how much disrespect certain riders, friends and idols of Mike Aitken could show. On a further note, major contest organizers are being foolish and ignorant, by still allowing competitions to take place without the use of helmets!!! I just recently watched a street contest in Estonia, full of American pros and riders from around the world, not wearing helmets. If this is the direction BMX is heading, I dread to see who the next victim will be as a result of complete ignorance and disrespect. One thing I know for a fact is, that if I had not been wearing my helmet [when I actually died for a short period on the dirt], after my crash, not only would I be paralyzed from the neck down, but I would have sustained severe brain damage AND UNABLE TO BE ANYTHING OTHER THAN A CABBAGE. On the recent cover of Ride USA, I was in disbelief as I gazed at the front cover, over and over. I could not believe what I was seeing. On the cover was a major statement about the two crashes that changed BMX forever (Stephen Murray and Mike Aitken) then right above this text was a picture of one of Mike Aitkens close friends, doing a superman over a gap (Chris Doyle???). How could they choose such an ill-fitting photo for the focus of the magazine’s major feature?
What sort of example does this set for the next generation of riders?
I think everybody can read between the lines, there is nothing difficult about putting a skateboard helmet on when you go riding, I hope everyone in the BMX community, and contest organizers alike, reads this interview, and unless they have no common sense or respect for fallen riders, they must put sanctions in place, otherwise your all headed for major consequences. I wore my helmet and survived thanks to it, big time. RIDERS —- PLEASE WEAR YOUR HELMETS!!! —- PLEASE WEAR YOUR HELMETS AND STAY ALIVE!!!
Tell us about the people that help keep your life running on a day-to-day basis.
I’ve got a lot of good people in my corner, people who have really stepped up, people always say you are who you associate yourself with and some amazing people came out of the woodwork to help me… John MacDonald became a great inspiration… Patrick Rummerfield the world’s first fully recovered quadriplegic…how much more inspiring can it be, he’s been amazing. Kimarie pretty much dropped everything to help me, she’s given me such great opportunities, stopped me from going out of my mind, she’s the nicest lady I’ve ever met, she’s done so much for me. It’s only in situations like this that people show their true colours, that you find out what people are really made of…and I have some real people of substance helping me. John Jennings found out my wife had left me and he came out to help look after me and he has become my new wife ha ha, I can’t thank him enough. Erika is the full time nanny to my kids, she used to look after Cory’s kid and I kinda stole her from him, she helps me a lot even though she has the most annoying laugh in the world, she’s been a lot of help. Chris Mason comes out a lot to tell me who built the pyramids and where aliens live, he helps me out a lot too, he reckons he’s been alive for 400 years and I believe him, he keeps me laughing for days on end, he’s a funny fucker, sound as fuck but he’s crashed my van three times cos’ he can’t drive for shit. I have all these people to do the things that I can’t do myself. I have a nurse who comes to my house every morning and she gets me out of bed and into the shower, she sorts me out, she’s great, I also need help to drive me around in the mystery machine, give me my medication, help me with my rehab, and who would have thought that the Christopher Reeve Foundation would be such a help? My dad’s been out here 14 times since I got hurt, thank you dad, he’s quit his life and job to help me, without my dad I don’t know what I’d do, he gets shit handled. My brother Martin, again, unbelievable, amazing, all these efforts, fundraisers, things are so expensive, he’s been so much help…
Of course my mum, it goes without saying. Grandad, you’re a champ. Grandma Irene, love you. You know what means more than anything to me, I’d like to thank all the people around the world that I don’t even know that make donations, the people that have had fundraisers, and they’ve sent whatever they can to help me out, that has really blown me away, amazing. I feel like I’ve got the whole world behind me, I can’t thank those people enough…I want to shout an extra special thank you to those people, thank you so much for your support.
Reet…What’s next for Stephen Murray?
I really don’t know what’s next, I’ve started to do motivational speeches, I did my first one recently at Corona High School over here in California, it was amazing, thousands of kids sat there listening to my story, I’d really like to do more of that kind of stuff, I can’t explain how much it means to me all these people coming up and saying I’m inspiring them. I’ve also got my Stay Strong thing going on, we have a lot of ideas for that, who knows what the future holds, I’m just gonna keep fighting to get better and I’m going to get better, you better believe it.
The battle has only just begun and there’s a lot of fight left in me, don’t count me out. Most of all I’m looking forward to watching my kids grow up and just enjoying life.