We talk a lot about progression in action sports, more so than in any other sporting discipline. The reason being, in sports such as BMX, there is no formal rulebook, no standardized arena to compete in, and no set of plays to run. As much as athletes refine and perfect the tricks they know, they are just as much experimenting with new ones. These sports stay in a constant state of evolution, with new tricks being thrown, venues and ramps being designed, and the proverbial bar forever being raised.
It’s no different than human nature at the end of the day. This idea of progression has allowed the human race to evolve to the point at which we’re at today. The insatiable ambitions of man have fueled everything from the exploration of new lands, to the invention of new technologies, and it continues to drive humanity forward into the future. This internal desire carries over into sport as well. Progression is Tony Hawk landing the first 900, Laird Hamilton pioneering tow-in surfing, first descents in snowboarding and skiing. It’s the rapid expansion of new categories, events, and venues.
And no one knew this better than Stephen Murray. After racing BMX for 16 years as a youngster, his thirst for competition, talent level, and desire for more propelled him into freestyle BMX. As is with most new endeavors, this transition wasn’t a walk in the park for Stephen.
“I got a two year contract and in the first year, I broke eight bones in seven months, as well as suffered three serious concussions. At the end of the year, I questioned everything to see if that was what I really wanted. But I said fuck it, I’ve got one year to prove to myself that these obstacles and set backs were not going to stop me from living my dream” - Stephen Murray
The following year his career took off, winning gold at both the X-Games and Gravity Games. It was also that same year that Stephen became the first rider to ever land a double back-flip in competition, a trick so sketchy that most riders wouldn’t even consider trying.
"He was kind of a superhero rider," says BMX pioneer Mat Hoffman. "He was the guy that just went 25% bigger, 25% higher and 25% faster than anybody else.”
But with progression comes added risk, and that proves to have serious consequences from time to time. Such was the case for Stephen when he crashed back in 2007, attempting the same trick he pioneered 6 years earlier. The result was a broken neck, leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Life may be vastly different for Stephen now, but his focus on progression has remained as intact as it ever was in BMX, just concentrated in a different area of his life.
“I apply the same mindset I had in riding as I do to working hard in rehabilitation” say’s Stephen. “After suffering from my spinal cord injury, doctors and surgeons told me I’d never walk or breath by myself again. I flatlined three times in four weeks and had to be put on a ventilator indefinitely. The doctors gave me no hope, but with intense rehabilitation, I got off the ventilator after seven months and one day, I truly believe I will be walking again.”
"I know he's never going to give up," says another BMX rider, Cory Nastazio. "That's his mentality through all these years. Now, he's got a new challenge. He's doing what he does, which is dropping everyone's jaws, whether he's on a chair or on a bike.
One thing is for certain, after all these years, if anyone can beat the odds, it's Stephen Murray. Stay Strong!
This concludes our 8 part series featuring former pro BMX rider Stephen Murray. Through the last couple days of September, 10% of your purchase from our shop will go towards supporting Stephen and his continued recovery.
Part 1 - The Campaign To Support Former BMX Rider Stephen Murray
Part 2 - The Early Years
Part 3 - Realizing A Dream: Stephen Murray's Rise to Greatness
Part 4 - When Risk Becomes Reality
Part 5 - Adjusting To Life After Injury
Part 7 - Stay Strong: A Brand & Way of Life
Joseph Miller is a freelance writer based in Richmond, VA. He received his BS in Creative Advertising from Virginia Commonwealth University. In between writing editorials and content pieces, Joseph is currently training for his first half marathon, though his love for snacks may stunt his performance. www.josephhuntermiller.com