If you were a kid in the early 1980s, you likely remember how BMX, short for bicycle motocross, was the coolest thing going.
The sport was first documented in the 1950s in the Netherlands, according to an article in BusinessMirror.
The sport began in the U.S. in the 1970s and was super popular in North America in the early 80s, in part thanks to the movie ET, released in 1982, according to BusinessMirror. The movie featured its main character, Elliott, riding a Kuwahara BMX bike.
The sport has had its ups and downs in popularity since then but had its Olympic debut at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Locally, the folks behind the Squamish BMX Racing Club are looking to increase its popularity in town.
The club recently hosted the Sea to Sky Nationals, welcoming about 300 riders daily from near and far.
Sea to Sky Nationals
Each day of the competition, which ran Sept. 2 to 4, a team of between 15 to 20 Squamish volunteers worked to make it go off without a hitch, said Vairdy Frail, the club's treasurer, who took over from the tireless Vicki Schenk, who was also formerly president of the club. Schenk stepped down in 2021 after 15 years.
Before the Nationals, volunteers put in literally thousands of hours getting the track ready for that level of competition, Frail added.
"All the volunteer hours definitely paid off. The track is looking really good," she said.
The competition usually rotates between the North Shore, Whistler, and Pemberton, but due to COVID, it had been about six years since the last Nationals in town.
"It went really smoothly," Frail said, adding that visitors commented on how well it went.
A fun side note was that folks really liked the concession, which sold the typical burgers, hotdogs and smokies, but also taco bags that were a big hit.
"You take a Doritos bag, and you cut it up lengthwise. We crunch up the chips and then you put warm taco meat in there, shredded cheese, sour cream, shredded lettuce and salsa," Frail said, adding that folks eat it out of the bag.
"I guess it's a bit of a BMX, traditional food," Frail said with a laugh.
During COVID, membership in the club, like for many sports, took a hit, but now those at its helm want to build it back up.
The Squamish club’s membership is currently around 100 riders.
"We would love to retain these riders and get that number way up next year," said Frail. "We're definitely wanting to grow our membership and get it back to because it's still not where it was before. COVID...I do feel like there's some momentum building, especially with this big [Nationals] event, and there are lots of new parents and new kids coming out — new families — so it's great."
This year marks a bit of a transition, with Todd Pope retiring after seven years as president. Vice-president Scott Murray is also stepping aside.
"They're retiring, so they've left it in a really good place for the new up-and-coming younger families who have younger kids who are still racing," Frail said.
Her own children race and have for about five years.
Frail said the track, with all the work that has gone into it, can accommodate a high level of racing and yet it is still accessible to all ages of riders.
BMX — a gateway sport?
Frail added that what some local families may not be aware of, especially those interested in mountain biking is both the quality of riding that takes place with BMX and how the sport is for instilling the fundamentals of biking.
Frail also pointed out that riders can participate in mountain biking and BMX at the same time. It isn't an either-or thing.
"BMX is a great sport in the sense that you can just drop in and race whatever works for your schedule; you can drop in and practice whenever it works," she said.
"You can buy the yearly membership, and then you can just race as often or as little as you want, depending on your commitment level. But the foundational skills you learn at BMX can be really applied to these other kinds of downhill racing, and then even freestyle mountain biking."
A BMX bike is simple. It doesn’t have the shocks or many gears of mountain bikes, Frail said, so they last, and the cost to get one is much less than many mountain bikes.
"You don't need a lot of gear. BMX bikes are not expensive, and as your kids grow, you can buy them... for $300 and you can use it for two years and sell it again for $200... it's actually a very accessible sport, financially."
The local BMX season runs from April to the end of October, weather permitting.
Many Squamish riders had impressive showings at the Sea to Sky Nationals.
These riders came in the Top 3 in their class.
• 1st place: WYNSTON GARRICK
• 1st place: HAMISH SHERMAN
• 1st place: JACK GIROUX
• 1st place: HAMISH SHERMAN
• 1st place: CARTER LANGFORD
• 2nd place: CHARLOTTE USKOSKI
• 2nd place: JOHN HYATT
• 2nd place: SULLIVAN KING
• 2nd place: OWEN UNDERWOOD
• 2nd place: JAKE BEATTIE
• 2nd place: TORGER (TOR) FRAlL
• 3rd place: JOHNNY HYATT
• 3rd place: ODIN (ODIE) FRAIL
Find all the results on the BMX Canada site.
Next for the club
While the season is winding down, it isn't over.
Here's what is coming up:
• There is racing Monday, Sept. 12 and then Racing moves to Sundays on Sept. 18.
• Gate Practices are Wednesdays at 5 p.m.
• An upcoming schedule for the Race for Life and Bob Warnicke Scholarship races are to be announced.