TJ Perry Interview! – Texas Toast AM Flat Winner!

Intro/Interview: Effraim
Photos: Jim McKay

Flatland is full of surprises. watching TJ Perry’s winning run, I would never have thought in my wildest dreams he would ride to Tears for Fears. But it happened, and it seems to fit pretty nicely. TJ has been off the contest scene for a long time, so after this big win this weekend I wanted to catch up with him to talk about his return to the contest scene, his run, helping out with the contest, his setbacks with illness. He’s certainly not scared to voice his opinion, but and heres the but….he backs that up by getting involved, and making a difference. Without further a due lets get right into this.

Firstly congrats TJ! AM winner this past weekend in Austin Texas.You’ve had a rough few years with illnesses, this must make this win feel pretty good?
Thank you very much. It was part illness part injury. I messed up my left wrist very badly a few years ago in an accident coming home from the grocery store. I could never afford surgery to get it sorted out so I had to sit and wait this whole time in order to ride. I picked up my bike for the first time in a long while back in the summer and just rode with my left wrist wrapped very tight. After all the weird things that have happened to me these last two years this feels like I kicked bad luck square in the teeth, and it feels AWESOME.

You mentioned you hadn’t been riding much, how much preparation went into this contest for you?
This is going to make me sound stupid on a few levels, and it’s a long and weird story, but here goes.
I wanted to come down to Austin to stay with Adam Diclaudio and check out the scene since it has gained such an awesome reputation over the last couple of years, but we could never figure out a date that worked. A series of weird events lead to me being able to pick out a plane ticket, but then I got a job and couldn’t request time off right away. At this point I didn’t know about Texas Toast. I wanted to come down for a full week and Adam wanted to take off a full week so we could really get some riding in.

Rewind to York Jam. I had spent a few weeks riding here and there while I was looking for a job so I would be able to ride and enjoy myself in York, but immediately after my insurance dropped me and my stomach problems popped up again. From July 1st all the way through to maybe the beginning of August I couldn’t touch my bike if I wanted to. I felt sick all the time and was really really bummed out. Finally, after the help of a few doctors who were willing to give me some advice on over the counter things I was starting to feel healthy again. At this point I was healthy enough to work, but didn’t have any time to ride. So far, no riding in July, and I got maybe two 3 hour sessions in during August because of my work schedule.

After August my hours were rolled back and I was able to ride more so I set aside some time to ride. It rained a bit so I missed out on most of it, but I did get a day or two in. On September 10th I was at work and completely threw out my back similar to what Adam did this past weekend. My lower body completely gave out and I couldn’t move my legs. I pretty much had to be carried home to bed where I stayed for roughly three weeks. I had bought my ticket at the beginning of September and I was freaking the hell out that I wouldn’t be able to go to Austin because I couldn’t stand up without help. I was on painkillers 24/7 for at least a couple of weeks, but I did manage to watch every season of Breaking Bad, so that was a plus!

A few days into October I was able to stand up and get around on my own and physical therapy helped me limber up enough to get on my bike. I went out and just tried to do tricks to build up my lower back and my core a bit since they were the most damaged from the strain. It was a few days of pinkie squeaks and hang 5s. Real basic stuff until I felt confident pumping again. Pumping can absolutely destroy your lower back at my spot because you have to constantly pump anything to keep speed. If I can’t pump it or scuff it at my spot I can’t really do it.

I got on the plane to Austin really worried I would get down there and completely screw my back up again. I was so nervous just riding at the OG that the first few days I hardly pulled anything. I think it took me twenty or thirty tries to pull any of the links I eventually came up with for my run. I don’t know why I can ride just fine in public but in front of other riders I get very nervous until I “warm up” to them. That took a bit longer because there are a lot of really good riders down there (Adam, John Yull, Frost, Alex Johnson, just to name a few) and I was shaking at the OG. I don’t think anyone knew though since I don’t think anyone aside from Frost had ever seen me ride in person.

So in case all of that was too long for anyone to read: I was in no way prepared for this. At all. Seriously.

From the Facebook updates, It seems like you really got stuck in before the contest helping out cleaning the floor everyday, what was the set up there, why was it so dusty?
I don’t want people to misinterpret any frustration I vented on there to be a reflection of how I viewed the contest itself. The venue was basically the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s just a huge lumber yard that Taj magically transformed into this amazing contest site practically overnight. I don’t think flatlanders can really appreciate the craftsmanship that has to go into making a solid street course, or the trails that they had to actually bring dirt in for. When it came to the flatland area, it just wasn’t a super high priority with very good reason: we are not important and haven’t been for a long time. That might seem like a kick in the gut to some people, but if we as riders have any hope of being brought back into the fold of BMX we are going to have to pick up the slack and put our backs into it.

The flatland area was in a huge warehouse that had previously been used for storing and treating wood among other things. It almost looked like chemicals had been spilled everywhere on the floor and left to soak in. There was a power-washer there but it was faulty and thankfully EZ Chris Anderson was on hand to help pick up a new one to get the cleaning process rolling quicker. We tried sweeping and using leaf blowers to get some of the dust out but nothing worked. Once we had the power washer we had a lot of work to do, but with people taking shifts power-washing the area we had the contest floor prepped and ready to go for Saturday.

Chris Balles did such a great job getting flat incorporated into Texas Toast and without Taj’s enthusiasm and help this event would have never happened. Both of those guys deserve SO much respect and love for what they pulled together with regards to the flatland contest that I cannot sing their praises enough.

What I and others had a real problem with was a room full of flatlanders who will remain nameless, some of whom take it upon themselves to call themselves “organizers” pack up their things and walk out the door when we asked them to help finish up the last part of the floor for the contest on Saturday. I wanted to take the power washer and spray down the area they were riding in so that they either needed to help or leave but Adam stopped me. Instead we asked for help and were told by one rider “People came here to ride, not help.” right before that person and a whole crowd of riders took their bikes and left. Not only did they leave us to fix the flatland area but they left piles of trash for us to clean up from where they had been riding.

One person out of that whole group came up to me later on and apologized personally for leaving a few things in the area, but nobody else did to anyone else who stayed and helped. I’ve never felt so angry and frustrated with flatlanders before in my life, and it’s not like people reading this haven’t seen or heard me when I get mad about dumb things riders do. I wanted to leave and go session the OG since at that point it was getting to be around 9pm, but I was not letting this event get screwed over because nobody wanted to lift a finger to help out, and neither were any of the riders who stayed. Chris and I finished power-washing the second half of the floor while Adam filled in some cracks in the ground with quick setting concrete.

As mad as I still am about what happened I can say without any hesitation that it went from being the worst floor I’ve ever seen at a contest to being the best floor I’ve ever ridden at any event in all my years of riding. It was tedious work but it really paid off. Once it got hit with a little water and simple green it was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

You haven’t competed in a long time, just for the record how long has it been? What made you decide to compete at Texas Toast?
The last time I competed was at Fight with Flight in Indianapolis in 2009. Before that maybe it was at Battle at the Beach or one of the CFBs. I really worked hard to get dialed for that contest and I just couldn’t hold it together during my qualification run. I think I ended up in 8th or 9th because I touched so much. It’s strange because I came up with very similar links for Texas Toast that I was doing back at Indy and I feel like I was even more dialed back then. I had some very rough stuff happening that I won’t go into back then, but it is what it is. I took a pretty big spanking after that.

A lot of people at the OG were telling me to enter on the eve of the contest. I was feeling so nervous about it but Chris kept encouraging me to enter. I wasn’t really consistent at the OG and I hadn’t ridden the floor at the contest site yet, but after the pre-jam at the OG I went back to Adam’s and mulled it over. After everyone went to sleep I got on my computer and pre-registered. I kind of figured, I’m halfway across the country, I worked hard getting the floor the way I would want it if I were to compete, and I haven’t shown up anywhere in years. The worst that could happen is that I screw up my run and the whole thing is forgotten about in a week or two by almost everyone, so hell why not?

You’ve gone on record many times, saying you wont go pro? For all those that don’t know, explain your decision to stay AM?

Well, first off, I don’t think my tricks are pro difficulty. I know that’s kind of subjective because some tricks are easier for some than others and obviously my tricks are going to be easier for me than say, Matthias’s tricks or Dom’s tricks, but I just don’t think they hold a candle to what the real pros do in their runs. I have a few switches that I came up with on my own, or some that I came up with the same time someone else did, but nothing like what’s done in pro. I don’t have a Katrina, or any of that insane cross footed whiplash stuff Dom does. To me, it’s insane to think I could do anything comparable to the level of riding those guys throw down.

People have pressured me over the years to turn pro, but the reality is I’m just…not pro. I can pay a contest fee and enter the pro class for sure but what does that get me? If I landed my whole run perfectly I have the potential to qualify if lots of other people screw up. Is that pro? I don’t think so. Pro to me is being able to show up and know that if I hit all my tricks, I could take the contest. It’s hitting a flawless run and coming up tied with Matthias or Terry. If I can do that, then yeah I’d be pro. The reality is, I can’t. I won’t be able to for a long time, if ever!

Pro is also being professional and taking a hobby you’re passionate about and turning it into an avenue worthy of being dubbed something of a career. I don’t do shows. I don’t have sponsors lined up to cover my air fare. I don’t have anyone giving me parts. In terms of being what a professional actually is, I’m not a professional at all and neither are quite a few other people in Pro at the moment. If I had a regular spot I could ride, and someone helping me cover expenses and a few parts, I would consider it. Until then, I’ll continue being what I am, an amateur.

Has the win got you motivated to compete more again?
Yes and no. I cannot describe how stoked I am on winning solely because of all the little setbacks I’ve had, but I feel it was some kind of fluke. I was so nervous and it was so stressful for me. During qualification Adam asked me what I should ride to since he had his MP3 player and everyone was bringing up their Ipods up with their music and i didn’t have anything. I just told him “no eighties shit!” and he said “what about tears for fears?”. I looked at him for a second and laughed and said sure. I thought it was funny and I attribute my win to just treating it like a joke. If I think about competing again it would be something I’d obsess and stress over. There are only so many cat videos on youtube I can watch to decompress some of that anxiety about competitions you know. Cat videos are finite and contest stress can go on for as long as there are contests.

I love doing well at contests and traveling, but I don’t want it to take over. I don’t look at other riders when they place below first with any animosity or anything, so nobody take this the wrong way, but Andrew Faris said it best at the end of one of the Baco videos and it accurately sums up my feeling going into any contest I’ve ever entered: “Second place is for pussies!”

How was your stay in Austin, you were there for a week right?
I had a blast. We rode every single night, and every single morning after Adam Tyler and I would wake up and go “Ok, seriously, we are taking tonight off” and by lunchtime we’d be talking about when we wanted to head to the OG. I love everyone at the OG and I don’t think I’ve laughed as much as did in the last week as I have in the last year.

As controversial as this might sound, and lord knows I avoid controversy, but York PA is dead. It’s not Mecca. it’s not some holy site that everyone should make their way to once a year. Austin is where the spirit of the sport is for me now. I’ve been to so many York jams and left so disappointed, and every single night I left the OG I felt so happy and motivated to ride again the next day. Everyone is on their bikes. Everyone is pumped for what everyone else is doing. Everyone is motivated. It just feels so alive and I’ve never experienced anything like that anywhere else. I think York jam should be cancelled and be replaced with A-Jams or something.

If you haven’t been to Austin, you don’t know what I’m talking about and probably think I’m full of it. You probably think I’m full of it regardless of my stance on Austin but whoever is reading this, just go. Wait for a contest, or wait for summer to pass. Just go with an open mind and be ready to ride your tail off.

Any final shoutouts?
I would like to thank Adam Diclaudio for being such an amazing host. He let me crash on his couch all week and took me around showing me the sights of the city. We rode every night and I wish we could have ridden more, but tempus fugit I suppose. Please get well soon!

I would like to thank everyone at the OG for being so welcoming, and I would like to apologize if at any point during my stay I screwed up the order of the jam circle and snaked anyone. A huge thanks goes out to Chris Balles for organizing the flat contest and pushing me to enter. Thank you goes out to Taj, and everyone who made Texas Toast happen, especially everyone who picked up the power washer and had their hands go numb from the vibrations. Thank you to Luke and Neil at Bunnyhop Bikes for helping me stay on a working bike these last few years.

Thank you to my awesome mom who helped me get to Austin and thank you to my beautiful girlfriend Michelle for driving me to and from the airport at the crack of dawn and the middle of the night and thank you Effraim for giving me the opportunity to share my experience down south.

Also, if you made it this far, thank you for reading this. I hope it was informative and enjoyable.

Now go ride.

Thanks TJ! Congrats once again, great winning run!

50 thoughts on “TJ Perry Interview! – Texas Toast AM Flat Winner!

  1. Great interview. TJ’s spot on about Austin. Riding at the OG was the highlight of the weekend for me. It was my first time to meet TJ (and many others) and all I can say is it was a pleasure being there with everyone.

  2. E, Chris Balles is the announcer…and the organizer. Cool to see TJ give him the props he deserves. TJ threw down for sure, no doubt about it. It’s cool to hear guys like TJ and Anthony props to our little scene here. We hope to meet YOU some time Effraim. I’m thinking about hosting an annual jam some time in the future. TJ really did put in work, and I’ll add Andrew Wickham, Yull and myself to that list, lol.

    • Thanks Tod! Just curious that’s all. Haven’t seen him announcing before. The contest looked amazing, such a good atmosphere! I see Anthony filming, hope there’s a special on the event on the up an coming Flat web TV episode.

  3. I will say there is a brief contest recap in the works as I did a couple interviews. It will be less “edit” and more post game recap. Look for some words from Dom, Terry, JF and Michael Van De Kroft. I would hold out for Jim McKay’s edit though to really capture the essence of the event, it’s sure to be amazing.

  4. Some of it was my garbage. There was no garbage can. I (and many others who were riding) swept before TJ and Adam showed up, and left just as they arrived. It was a collective effort.

    The contest was awesome, though, so I’m not going to sweat over it. It was good to meet everyone from the internet, and finally put faces to names.

  5. So using the same logic, anyone in the expert class that can’t compete with TJ, Todd Carter, Alex Johnson, etc, should be in the novice class?

    And what about the riders currently in the novice class, that won’t be able to compete with all the non top 5 placing experts that move down, which class should they fall to?

    TJ has a very specific and different definition of “pro class rider” than most others do, which helps him justify sandbagging the expert class, while putting down other riders that want to step up to the pro class to challenge and push themselves.

    My above questions weren’t rhetorical and I am very much interested in what his response to them are.

  6. First of all congrats TJ on overcoming everything and putting it all together in your second run to take the win. You have very polarizing opinions that you are not afraid to share; agree or disagree with you its obvious that you simply want what You think is right for flatland.
    Now to play devils advocate….TJ’s view on what category he should enter. I agree he is NOT a pro class rider, I also agree that there are quite a few guys now entering Pro that might not be ready either. I believe AM Flat needs to bring back the Masters class to offer these guys a level playing field. It was the second largest category to Expert the first two years yet the Novice and Vet classes remain while the Masters class is cut? Discuss…

  7. A rider in a pro class is a rider that can adapt to any riding surface and still pull tricks with consistency of at least 95% and can hold it together under stressful situations. In order to do this their life is about BMX. They wake up in the morning and the first thing they think about is “I am going to pull the combo today” then spend countless of hours riding and this is done everyday. Riding is #1 priority.

    For most of us we have this thing called work which is counter productive for flatland. Yeah we can wake up in the am and think about pulling that combo but then we go to work or take care of other things that take priority in our lives. Bottom line is until we reach the pro level of riding we remain in expert class.

  8. Great interview! I agree with Mr. Perry. I would not ever consider turning Pro unless I knew that I would at least place in the top 5. If I didn’t have tricks on the same level as Dom and Matthias, then I would enter in the Expert Class.

  9. @Trevor you are correct that I have an invalid point, you can work FT and get to a pro level. Its a lot of work but can be done but that point doesn’t make my entire comment invalid. I think that what would make most sense is to reignite the Master class.

  10. I finally met TJ, he was cool most of the time although he did try to start arguments from time to time. Not much of a debater in person though, without the luxury he has online of being able to spend almost unlimited time to think of a rebuttal he was often at a loss for words.

    I’m sure TJ helping get the venue ready had nothing to do with the fact that it was almost time for the big jam at the OG to begin and his ride to the OG wasn’t leaving until the powerwashing was finished.

    I agree with him competing in expert. Spend $80 to compete pro with little chance of winning anything or spend $50 and have a good shot at placing? I choose the latter.

    Nice run TJ. Hope you stay healthy and compete more in the future!

  11. Interesting debate about turning Pro which I have talked quite a lot with the Pralex crew. This down time in the contest season, might be the perfect time for the much promised article about this. It strikes me reading this back this morning, that in the US the gulf between Expert and Pro is huge. Its a big jump to make, that is where I always believed Masterclass comes in, it works well, in past years in Europe there have been occasions when the Masterclass level was as high as the Pro.
    I understand TJ’s point that even if you ride well and don’t feature in pro, whats the point in making the move.
    In relation to the US (North America) I think the Masterclass would work well within the Am Flat series, i.e, win a big contest, or top 3 year end in AM could turn Master. The AM Flat series is growing, and it seems to be outside of that series looking in, theres a huge gulf that the categories dont cater for.
    I don’t imagine Todd Carter wants to go “pro”, but I think he would make a great Masterclass rider, TJ of course fits in as well. I wouldn’t see this about having rider numbers, but being about rider level and “helping” riders make a more confident “i’m ready to turn pro” type of deal.

    Good discussion I’ll leave this stickied second post down today!

  12. Stoked on what TJ had to say. He’s got a strong personality, but look past it. He makes a lot of sense here. I’m glad that he helped out a lot. America sucks with the whole health insurance thing. It seems like such a battle. Terrible system.

    After all these years one thing I can’t understand is paying more than $10 to enter a small contest and having to pay at all to enter a big contest. What does $50 and $80 cover? I’m not paying out the event I’m just asking. Maybe this event didn’t have sponsors?

  13. As for turning pro. When I started riding flat TJ was already really good, but so were many young riders like Alexis Bracke for example. Both of those guys and many other guys had and maybe have the capacity to become pro, but it’s a mindset and choice that people make. You have to choose to be a contest rider and dedicate much of your life to being dialled in order to pro. Even if I thought I could, I wouldn’t want to be pro and I’m sure that many riders who actually had the choice chose not to be pro, to enjoy the completely free pursuit of new tricks and originiality.

    As for calling TJ out as a sandbagger… It’s kind of sad that you would rather a better rider be outside your class so you could have an easier win. It shouldn’t matter that much. You should respect other people’s choices. Plus, it was $80!!!

  14. Martin –

    I don’t recall meeting you. I don’t recognize your last name or anything that you’re describing. I was actually trying to hurry Adam up before the incident involving the power washing which he can confirm.

    Thank you for the kind words regarding my health though 🙂

  15. Paul – Prasheel rode in the Pro class. When referencing him as a sandbagger it wasn’t to get him out of the same class, it would have been encouraging him to join the same class and making it harder to do better.

    As someone who may or may not be one of the guys who are riding in pro who some people think shouldn’t be riding pro, I have a couple things to say.

    I have had nothing but genuine support and encouragement from all the “real pros” about being in that class. My riding doesn’t even compare to the top 5 guys, I have no delusions about that. That being said, I have used the jump since Voodoo as motivation to push harder and harder with my own riding. I know I will not be in a top 5 scenario at any major event currently, but that shouldn’t stop someone from riding in Pro just because they can’t crack top 5. There are many guys out there that might not currently make top spots that are very good and pro-level. You do not have to be a “super-pro” (ie Matthias, Dom, Terry, Alex) to ride in the pro class. I would rather do poorly in a harder class, getting motivated to ride better then jump down a class so I can feel as if I’m doing well and get a better placing and prizes. Our sport is about progression, not about staying where we are comfortable.

  16. +1 to Mark Ku. Riding in amateur with such a High level, even you thougth you werent ready, is an abuse and I think it is pretty unfair for amateur riders who spected to ride against amateur riders. In all categories there are the best and the “others”, and it is impossible to be 1 of the best if u havent been 1 of the “others”.

  17. Weird reading these comments and seeing my name pop up, thanks for the kind words Paul! 🙂

    I haven’t been riding as much as I want to the past year and a half. The difference between studying and working a full-time job is immense in terms of time you have to spend on your bike. Not to mention I’m more often exhausted after work than not.

    I for one was never someone who dreamed about turning pro. I love riding, but don’t want to ‘sacrifice’ countless hours to pursue a career in flatland. I always knew I did it just for the love of the sport, no ulterior motives. After a few years I didn’t even care about contests anymore.

    Glad to read you overcame your health problems and came back to the contest scene with a vengeance, TJ!

  18. Just watched the video. Smooth links, hard tricks for sure, but I don’t think this is pro level. I haven’t seen other runs from riders in expert class, but know what Matthias, Terry, Dom and others are capable of and they are simply on another level.
    This is not talking bad about TJ in any way, just concurring with what TJ already said. I’m with him on this one. He would have to nail all of his links and pray to sweet baby Jebus that other riders have some bad luck to make top 5.

    Anyway, I’m sure the contest scene in North America is quite different. As Effraim already explained, I’m sure a master class would do some good.

  19. @ Mark Ku

    I find it kind of sad that you can only be motivated by doing poorly. Simply watching a great rider motivates and inspires me.

  20. @ Mark Ku

    Sure didn’t sound that way in your previous comment.


    Really don’t understand why you would think its required to compete against a pro to become pro level. Chase got 2nd or 3rd in his first comp as a pro and actually had better tricks than the winner. Bill Neuman won his first real comp as a pro. If you put in the hours you can get to any level without competing at all though.

  21. @ Martin – Must have come off the wrong way. I was trying to get across that it sounds like some people would rather pay a cheaper entry fee for a better chance at winning prizes and trophies vs winning nothing at all.

    Its very clear the making a jump from one class to another is a very personal decision and not everyone shares the same opinion on when a rider should do that.

    This is exactly why I’ve been looking forward to E’s article. What is supposed to happen when a rider is at the top of expert class? Is a rider supposed to stop competing once he/she wins a contest until they are at a level that can compete with this magical top 5 number? Why does it have to be top 5 anyways? Why can’t it be top 10 or qualifying? Are riders who choose to go to events supposed to potentially keep winning contests in expert class year after year until a top 5 spot is guaranteed? Are riders who don’t make qualifying contest after contest supposed to quit riding contests? Or drop down to expert class where they will/can be punished for that as much as riders get punished for not jumping up?

    What’s a non-Dom/JF/Terry/Matthias/Dub/Alex/Uchie/Hiro/MattW/Etc type rider to do these days…

    Although it can happen as mentioned above it doesn’t always happen. Not all the podium pros these days have been winning since the day they stepped up. Most riders won’t just win an expert contest and then make top 5 at the next in pro, it just doesn’t realistically happen like that for most and takes time.

  22. TJ, Don’t take Andrew Faris’s advice unless you want to quit.
    Flatland is not a game that can be won. There is no winning.
    The sport is totally subjective, and even when someone does get 1st it
    is very often argued via public opinion. I think this is one of the reasons
    Andrew Faris and Justin Miller quit, because of the idea that if they are
    the best then they can win flatland like a game of football or basketball. If you
    look at all the top Pro Contest Riders Vicki / Alex / Dom / Terry / Matthias / Matt Wilhelm etc.
    they swap the top placings at all the contests. I’m sure they all strive to get
    first, but I don’t think any of them think they are worthless pussies and should quit
    when they don’t get 1st at any given contest. Sometimes people have good runs and
    sometimes they don’t. No matter how much they ride or prepare. Sometimes
    people win when they shouldn’t based on their name alone or video part recognition.
    The idea of 1st place or nothing at all is completely unrealistic.

    In regards to you being pro level that is subjective as well, but I and I think many others
    would say you could enter Pro. I watched your winning run, and all of your combos are reminiscent of
    Travis Collier links, and he has been Pro for around 10 years, and has placed
    very well at times, and I remember him winning a Pro U.K. contest once against
    very heavy hitters with similar links to yours.

  23. TJ, Don’t take Andrew Faris’s advice unless you want to quit. Flatland is not a game that can be won. There is no winning. The sport is totally subjective, and even when someone does get 1st it is very often argued via public opinion. I think this is one of the reasons Andrew Faris and Justin Miller quit, because of the idea that if they are the best then they can win flatland like a game of football or basketball. If you look at all the top Pro Contest Riders Vicki / Alex / Dom / Terry / Matthias / Matt Wilhelm etc. they swap the top placings at all the contests. I’m sure they all strive to get first, but I don’t think any of them think they are worthless pussies and should quit when they don’t get 1st at any given contest. Sometimes people have good runs and sometimes they don’t. No matter how much they ride or prepare. Sometimes people win when they shouldn’t based on their name alone or video part recognition. The idea of 1st place or nothing at all is completely unrealistic.

    In regards to you being pro level that is subjective as well, but I and I think many others would say you could enter Pro. I watched your winning run, and all of your combos are reminiscent of Travis Collier links, and he has been Pro for around 10 years, and has placed very well at times, and I remember him winning a Pro U.K. contest once against very heavy hitters with similar links to yours.

  24. This is an interesting debate. Back in the big AFA days (87-88), everyone competed so there was an obvious continuum of skill level as you progressed in category and age class. So, it was easy to see where you fit on the spectrum and it was easy to figure out what class you should compete in. Now, there’s such a small percentage of riders who actually compete that there are huge gaps between the skill level of the riders who do compete and its hard to figure out where you slot in.

    At the end of the day, I think the best “amateur” riders in the US do not compete (whether it be lack of money, interest, etc.). So, you can win an amateur contest but it does not come close to meaning that you are the best amateur and thus ready to turn pro. Competing experts have to be honest with themselves and move up only when they are nipping at the heels of the established pros, not when they are beating the few amateurs that do happen to compete.

  25. People that can win expert may not have enough time, desire, willpower or whatever it takes to do well in pro. It seems like some people think its best for those who are better than the average expert to be 2nd class pros who never win anything.

  26. giving tj a podium for this is as unhealthy as his mental state and opinions. he was being a whiny bitch to chris as soon as qualifying was over cuz he didnt think he placed high enough, as if that dude or anyone else gave a shit

  27. The problem with using expert top placement to advance to the pro class is that the ‘expert’ scene in USA is very limited (and contest scene period). A good example is when we had soulstyce out here in California, there were only a hand full of ‘expert’ riders, most of us were just locals. Jamie ended up placing 1st, and his run was in no way anywhere close to TJ’s run here. It would have been a top 3 novice run perhaps in any other ‘big’ contest.

    In Asia where you have a broader selection of up and coming riders and competitors the lines are more clear. I think the ‘Master’ class is quite clearly the only real way to define those lines, but then you ask yourself, will there be enough turnout to have both expert and master? In the bigger events, likely yes.

    I will say this however:

    If you are skilled and consistent enough to *qualify* riding Pro, then you should ride pro. To acknowledge that you can qualify within the pro class but still compete in a lower class I think is the very definition of ‘sand bagging’. However one could argue that if enough people in this position decide to compete the lower class, then you would no longer be ‘sand bagging’ per say, but more like sand bagging against other sand baggers….LOL!

    Also, if you are sponsored by a major manufacturer, then you should obviously ride pro. Sponsorship on that level implies professional. You do not have to be sponsored to ride pro as there are ALOT of extremely talented pro level individuals who have zero sponsorship!

    I think Rich was also correct, but that his statement was too subjective. I do think that in order to become pro that you need a enormous amount of time to devote to flatland. If you asked any of the top 20 pro’s in the circuit how they got to where they are, im sure they will all tell you the same thing: Putting your hard work and time in. Dom may have a job yes, but did he always? How many years has he spent where he just woke up and rode all day every day? I think you need that type of freedom to *become* pro, but that once you achieve a talented flow at pro level that you can maintain and progress while working a job, but not the progression you would have if you did not work a job and rode all day. This seems logically obvious.

    If you are a pro and you’ve always worked a full time job, then I think you have probably been riding longer than these young folks on the scene. When you look at the COB riders profile you’ll realize one common thread: Most riders have been riding under 10 years! I think youth + time in flatland is what creates talent…and you have the most time to ride when you are young!

    Cheers to TJ for the win (and Todd the runner up! yea todd!!!) it was a very very clean run!

    Really sad to hear about the attitudes in flatland towards being a part of the community, helping and the like. I know who the people are that he’s referring to and they of all people should be more helpful and positive.

    Also, there ARE some pro’s (I wont name names) who DO think that they should be 1st every time, or atleast have exhibited this egotistic attitude with their actions/behavior that I have in person viewed when they did not win 1st. Such attitudes are obviously due to immaturity. Im sure they will grow stronger as they grow older.

  28. First off I’d like to say congrats to TJ for overcoming is circumstances and riding so well. and if he doesnt believe he’s ready thats fine.

    I just want to say , after seeing and competing against the riders that stepped up to pro at this event( or 2 events ago) like Prasheel , Mark, Tyler and Diego are in the right spot, and to call them “better than the average expert(s) to be 2nd class pros who never win anything” is a shame. You can’t be an expert forever…

    I’m so tired of people trying to force riders into following the justin miller model of progression. He dominated expert class then in a very very short time dominated pro. Not everyones a mega-talent like that,and to think that you have to not only dominate expert but then as soon as you move up be a podium contender in pro class is absurd. You’ll stifle your progress waiting until your “ready” to be pro.

    The funny thing about the internet is that the same group of people calling these riders that moved up to pro 2nd rate are the same that were begging them to step up to pro because we literally had 4 competing pro’s in the U.S ( Andy Cooper, Matt Wilhelm, Terry Adams, and Dane beardsely). and called Tyler and Diego sandbaggers.

    All in all if the riders actually competing in these contests and contributing to the scene arent complaining then i see no reason to complain about their personal decision( unless they truly are not on the riding level of pro,which i tend to believe is not the case)

  29. TJ, congrats on your win! You ride great… Not just day of the contest, but all weekend whenever I had a chance to watch. You were killing it. Also, big ups on coming off an injury and riding hard. That’s always tough.

  30. @anony

    Maybe my desription of the lower placing pros was harsh. You cant deny theirs a huge difference in level between the top pros and the other pros.

    Why cant you be expert forever? Like I said earlier, many expert level riders don’t have the time to practice enough to compete pro.

    Justin Miller rode 6 hours a day afaik. I doubt any long time experts are putting in that much time and many people can’t instantly change their lifestyle to devote more time to riding.

    Don’t see how continuing to compete in expert could stifle progress. Not everyone needs to be completely destroyed by the competition to progress.
    I personally wouldnt want to have to perform right after Dom or Mathias if I didn’t have tricks on a similar level. I would feel totally out of place.

    So if you practice more than experts but not as much as pros you either never win anything or get called a sandbagger.

  31. TJ it was a pleasure meeting you and riding with you you are always welcome at the OG. It was a tough decision between Tears for Fears & Rocky !

  32. TJ – First and foremost, congrats on putting together a very solid run after a long break from riding and putting it out there to pull the win. It was very fortunate for you and great to see.

    It upsets me only a tiny bit that people would walk away from a venue that they want to ride on the next day and not give any support to helping it be the best it could be. Upsets me, but doesn’t suprise me. Some people are just there to be riders, others are going to go a step further and help make the event better for everyone. I’ve seen TJ step up in this manner before whether it be helping to prep a site, or to sit on his butt for hours to judge when he would rather just be riding. Perhaps this is just the way TJ is wired, and he doesn’t get that not everyone is wired that way. Something he may have to learn about others and to try to just forgive them for not being as motivated across the board.

    As for being pro… TJ is not pro. Could he be pro? Absolutely! He could be pro if that is what his focus was on. If he was riding every day of the week, hours a day, months on end, he has the skill set to not just be pro, but to quality and do well in the pro class. But, right now? He is not pro, and that run was not a pro-level run. It was good – it was solid – it was hard – it was damn lucky! He’s not riding enough to be consistent right now and he is definitely pulling on some older tricks which he has had dialed for a while. If he wants to be pro, and he will need to want it, then he can go pro, and should go pro. But, if someone steps away from riding for various reasons, then upon re-entry, going pro is a lousy choice, and still their own choice.

    I do agree, if we had a nationally organized flatland series, then the top 3 amateurs should be bumped automatically to the pro class. I know when I made the decision myself, I said that if I won any single expert event, or finished top three for the year, I would go pro. Well, I finished 3rd for the year and I won the last event of the year, and it wasn’t luck – it was hours of riding every single day. That is the type of consistency that a rider needs to put out there. Not just pulling tricks you’ve been doing for a while, hitting a run that is as much luck as it is skill, with a whole trunkload of natural talent (which TJ has).

    Other riders need to always keep that in mind… This is the first contest he hit in years. If he decides to dedicate the next year to riding, seriously, and does so for a year, then perhaps sometime next year he could go pro, and he probably would do well. Middle of the pack well, consistently. Maybe a bit better than even he realizes. But, not when you are riding a couple months a year and having health issues.

    Get on your bike, ride it, have fun, and forget the rest. Second place is the first loser, and so you go to ride to win and when you don’t do your best, you are mad at yourself. I’m okay with that. It isn’t that other riders are losers when they get second or worse… the rule only applies to me.

    Once again – congrats TJ. If you ride your ass off for the next year and stay healthy and hit 3 or 4 contests and win them all, then I will personally come down and beat your sandbaggin’ ass myself! :o) ~P~

  33. @Paul. Again, just to clarify…there were people there helping to clean the contest floor. By the time TJ showed up, I had already been there a few hours along with Yull, Andrew Wickham, the Lapsley brothers and a couple of handfuls of others. The day before that I was the only person that rides flat that was there. I helped a dirt rider there put up lights and power washed the floor by myself. I don’t even compete. I can understand TJ’s frustration, but it is only his perception of the situation. It was indeed a collective action to make this contest happen. Overall, I think most people were pleased with this contest, there wasn’t much complaining about the judging, the floor was pretty good, Chris Balles put up much time and effort to make this happen. Taj and crew were invaluable providing the venue and much of the resources. AmFlat did the flat circuit thing and provided trophys for the end of the year. Even the riders that didn’t put actual work into the floor, put time and work into their riding and came(often from overseas) to make this one of the best contests to go down. Everyone was motivated in their own ways…and everyone contributes to make a contest happen. It happened, and was awesome to see.

  34. Just want to clarify something in the article that maybe people aren’t taking the way it was intended.

    The event was definitely a collaborative effort. There were a lot of people helping, like Tod and Andrew, however there were also quite a few people who just walked away without saying anything when asked to help. I wasn’t there every single moment of every single day, and I’m sure that I missed people who deserve credit for pitching in, but I was only talking about what I observed and what one rider said to us directly.

    Apologies for the confusion or underrepresented efforts by others during the event. Thank you everyone for the kind words and motivation.


  35. All together TJ is a god awful rider with horrible links and he should probably just ride in Beginner. He only looked decent because hes tall. One inch shorter and the whole run would have went to shit.

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