Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle? For me, it was at 7 years old (pretty late, I know) and I crashed into a fence a few feet away from where I had taken off. But that sure as hell wasn’t the case for Stephen Murray.
At the unusually young age of 3 years old, Stephen felt extremely comfortable on a bike. Like any normal kid though, he also enjoyed a lot of other sports when he was young – diving, football, ice hockey, trampolining – but nothing ever came close to the enjoyment he felt while racing. This would later become the foundation for his successful BMX career.
It was early on that Stephen's parents started to notice his passion had major potential for something greater than just a hobby. At his first race, at Slough Worlds in 1986, Stephen (then 6 years old) won the semi-final race, ultimately placing eighth in the final. From there, he went on to become the British Champion nine times, runner up at the European Championships twice, and placed fifth at the World Championships in 1996.
For Stephen, he not only found something that he was passionate about, but something he was overwhelmingly talented at as well. Everything else in life, from work to school, took a backseat. This unconventional upbringing helped shape him as both a rider and as a person. Stephen states:
“BMX took me all over the world and made me see the bigger picture in life that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Traveling to many other countries and experiencing so many different cultures was an education in itself. I have made so many great friends and met role models that influenced and motivated me to be the best I could be, both on and off the bike. I always admired and looked up to the most successful BMX riders and saw what it took to be the best at what you do. I definitely missed quite a bit of school but I always seemed to get by.”
But through his early career in racing, Stephen was always attracted to those big jumps on the track. He started practicing and participating in jumping contests, gaining confidence and a discovered obsession for the new discipline. Having raced all of his life though, Stephen found that pulling away proved difficult. He managed to partake in both disciplines between 11 and 19 years old, but realized Dirt Jumping was what he wanted to go all in on after taking a short 6 month trip to ride in Huntington Beach, California.
By 1999, after saving up money, Stephen found it was time to pack up his life and move to Southern California. While the transatlantic move would likely be a big deal for most, it wasn’t a difficult decision for Stephen – he loved what he was doing, and with the desire to make it big in the BMX World, he realized Cali was where this dream would be realized. SoCal was home to the sports top riders, tracks and the best lifestyle for BMX. According to Stephen, “Because of the shitty weather in the UK, you can only ride dirt at certain times, where as in California the sun shines all the time and you can ride every single day.” Within the first two weeks of being out there, Stephen picked up his first sponsor - riding for Nirve.
The transition from racing to jumping seemed to be a relatively easy one. The desire was there and the foundation of bike control and speed was already mastered. Being an athlete of this caliber, you need to have the drive to put 110% into something you actually care about – which is exactly what Stephen did with BMX. Stephen would soon explode onto the BMX scene and become a household name atop leaderboards in the early 2000's.
Follow along as we continue to recount all aspects of Stephen's amazing story. In the meantime, be sure to check out the latest products hitting the shop. From now through the end of September, 10% of your purchase will go towards supporting Stephen Murray.
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