NEWTON — “I crashed right here,” starts Jason McCormick, pointing to a spot known as the rhythm section on most BMX circuits.
“I came out of this corner here doing about 35 K an hour. I pre-manualed the first roller, I nosedived the second roller, I lost my balance going over the third roller and I slammed right into a tabletop…sideways.”
In all honesty, McCormick’s BMX lingo had me looking for definitions. Pre-manualing? Tabletop? Nonetheless, we humans love our scary accident descriptions, and I remained fixated.
“I tore every muscle in my neck, shattered my collarbone, broke some ribs, broke my pelvis, and tore my groin,” he continued, leaving no doubt whatsoever why he no longer races.
“I was hoping to get back into it. They surgically repaired the collarbone, but there’s still some problems and I still don’t have any feeling in my shoulder.”
McCormick is no kid. He’s 45 years old now, and he didn’t even take up the sport until the age of 35, when a family friend introduced him – and his wife and children – to the jump-happy world of BMX. Soon enough, McCormick and family were happily competing together.
“My wife said, ‘I want to race,’ and I said, ‘If you’re racing, I’m racing’.”
Eight years later, he crashed out of it.
Yet to this day, McCormick remains a regular at Surrey’s pre-eminent BMX facility, Action BMX in Newton. He’s there for familial support, but he’s also the track’s crazy-energetic announcer. And on this Thursday night, as usual, he stands in the midst of the action, bikes zipping by on either side, delivering blow-by-blow accounts to a crowd seated in the small trackside grandstand.
Those hurtling by include 16-year-old Lachlan Hotchkiss. A determined kid with a stunning command of the English language, Hotchkiss has a “mild” form of cerebral palsy that’s knocked him around since birth. But Hotchkiss is a fighter, and he shows it by regularly competing with both disabled and able-bodied riders.
Last Thursday night (Sept. 10), Hotchkiss battled the latter. But he also competes in the world of para-cycling, where he just recently became the provincial champion in the velodrome-ensconced discipline of “track” cycling.
The Paralympics may well be in his future, though the Newton resident would rather be ripping it up on a BMX course than circling around a velodrome. He counts as recent injuries a broken wrist, but writes that off pretty easily by saying calmly, “When I crash, I tend to crash hard.”
A couple age groups below Hotchkiss is North Delta’s Mason Hartley. At the ripe old age of six, Hartley is already a three-year veteran who just recently graduated from the wee tykes’ “half-track” circuit to the fire-breathing, full-track monster.
Dad Leith, who most often can be seen right next to his son at the start line, has nothing but good things to say about the facility, and the people.
“We had a flat tire one night, and another parent gave us a tire. Then a 14-year-old kid came by and changed the tube for us.… That’s the way it is here. It’s such a wonderful society. It gives kids such incentive to ride. They get goodie bags at the end of their races, and there’s a dinner at the end of the year. And when they graduate to the big course (at the age of five), they all get trophies. One little kid last year had a trophy that I swear was twice his height.”
The guy perhaps most responsible for creating that sense of community is track president Dale Murphy. One of the oldest active BMX riders in the region, Murphy says he got involved when his kids – all three of them – fell in love with the sport. That was 13 years ago, when he was 42.
Pulling up on his bike between sessions, Murphy explained that Action BMX is open to everyone willing to learn the ropes and get licensed.
“Tonight we have 70 or more kids and people, from three years old to nearly 60. There’s no age limit and it costs just five bucks to ride.”
Murphy credits the city and long-time partner North Delta Rotary for helping keep costs down, adding that gaming revenues paid for a recent paving job to the big sweeping turns on the track’s north and south ends.
The 2015 schedule is waning, but there’s always 2016. If you’re interested, email Action BMX at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 604-309-6421 or visit Actionbmx.com.
In the meantime, head on over to YouTube and search for a guy named Anthony Messere. He’s one of the planet’s best – and wildest – freeride mountain bikers and, as McCormick will tell you, he got his start right here on a little old track in Newton.