Antarctica, astronauts and action sports: In conversation with down-to-earth BMX duo Ryan Williams and Todd Meyn

Freestyle stars Ryan Williams and Todd Meyn surprised local skaters in Salford earlier this month as they hit the ramps at Graystone Action Sports Centre.

The Australian duo, who are two of the biggest names in the BMX and scooter world, were in Manchester promoting the 2020 Nitro World Games – an annual extreme sports event – which will be held in Cardiff next May.

Queensland native Ryan Williams, 25 (above left), is a Nitro World Games quadruple champion and the first competitor to win three consecutive BMX Big Air gold medals at the X Games. R-Willy competes on both BMX and scooter and has completed over 100 world first tricks in his career.

Meanwhile 27-year-old Meyn moved from Perth to America as a 15-year-old to pursue a career in BMX. Since then he has competed at both the Nitro and X Games and is a member of the Nitro Circus, a touring company of the best action sports stars in the world.

Ryan and Todd took a break from signing autographs to discuss all things action sports.

First of all what are the Nitro World Games?

Ryan: It is controlled chaos. It’s the Olympics of action sports. It’s the biggest ramps, the best athletes going the highest you can possibly go and doing tricks we’ve never seen before. All under one roof you’ve got FMX, BMX, skateboard and scooter.

How do the competitions work?

Ryan: It’s a best trick contest. The best possible tricks and tricks that haven’t been done before, that’s how you win.  

The Games are coming to Cardiff in 2020, where would you like to see them held next?

Todd: AUSTRALIA! I reckon we see how it goes in Cardiff. It’s a huge stadium and if we can pack that thing out then I’m happy to come back again.

If you could ride anywhere in the world where would it be?

Todd: Spain has a lot of awesome stuff to ride.

The mountains or the cities?

Todd: The city! Spain has a lot of street features that you don’t find anywhere else. You turn up somewhere in Spain and it looks like a skate park but it’s not, it’s just a normal plaza on the street. Spain is known to be one of the best street parks in the world.

Ryan: I would say somewhere with the same weather as the UK like Antarctica. No, I’m going with Stonehenge. Let’s set some ramps up around Stonehenge and jump over the stones.

How did you both get into BMX and scooter?

Todd: Just like any other kid riding around the neighbourhood, jumping kerbs and little wooden ramps. Then I found the skate park and fell in love. I’ve been at the skate park every day since and I love every moment of it. Hanging out with your friends, progressing action sports and living the dream.

Ryan: Yeh, I can’t remember the days before I went to the skate park. It’s hard for me to say what made me go there the first time. The thing that kept me going there was all my friends and the atmosphere. It was a getaway and I wouldn’t think of anything else outside the skate park. I’d always be thinking about what trick was next, you know “that was cool I want to do that trick that my mate just did.” It’s a freedom.

Ryan, on your bio for the Nitro Circus it says that you wanted to be an astronaut or a fighter pilot. Is that true?

Ryan: That is so true! I wanted to be a fighter pilot. An astronaut was a bit far-fetched, but I definitely want to go into space. If anyone wants to send me there, please go for it.

Todd: I didn’t have any dreams like that! My plan was to go to university and do all that stuff but I ended up leaving school at the end of Year 10 to pursue my BMX career.

You moved to America at 15, right?

Todd: I got the opportunity from a professional [Colin McKay] who I looked up to on TV. He invited me to come and stay with his wife for a couple of weeks. I went over there, met some other people that invited me back to come and live with them for free. Every day is a new day and you’ve just got to take the opportunities when they come.

Ryan, you ride scooter as well as BMX. Is there any friction between the scooter and BMX communities?

Ryan: I would say so. People have this weird stereotype of scooter kids because there’s so many that are young. It’s an easy sport to get into because a scooter is cheaper than a BMX so parents will buy a scooter. The thing is you can do 10 tailwhips on a scooter but you can only do 4 or 5 on a BMX. At the top level they’re just as difficult as each other but when you start out BMX is the harder of the two. I feel like BMXers think that scooter riders are taking the easy way out.

‘ACCIDENT’ PRONE: Todd Meyn told MM his world-first double backflip 360 no-hander was the product of a mistake

Has your scooter background helped your BMX career?

Ryan: 100%. But also the other way round. There are tricks I’ve done on the bike that I’ve never done on scooter. I came into the BMX world and started doing scooter tricks and everyone was like “why didn’t we think of doing those?” Now a bunch of people are doing them.

If you had to choose scooter or BMX for the rest of your career which would you pick?

Ryan: Scooter.

Todd: Didn’t expect that.

Ryan: Why would I have to choose? That sucks! Honestly, if I could stay the same age I’d ride scooters but obviously I’m growing up so I think I’m growing out of scooters a little bit. I make more money on a BMX.

Do you ride scooter, Todd?

Todd: No. Never in my life.

Would you?

Todd: It’s not that I wouldn’t. If I were to hurt myself on a scooter and miss out on things that involve my BMX I’d be pretty upset with myself. It’s the same as when I ask my mates to come to the skate park and they say “oh I’ve got a job to go to”. You’ve got to be smart sometimes and pick you battles.

World firsts are achieved all the time in your sport. What’s your favourite world first?

Todd: I’m going first because Ryan might be here for a while! Mine is a double backflip 360 no-hander. It’s pretty self-explanatory. You do a double backflip, a full rotation which is the 360 and you take your hands off at the same time and hope for the best. I actually learned it by accident. I was trying to learn a triple backflip no-hander but my head turned and it became a 360 and that was the world first.

Ryan: The hardest BMX one is triple front flip, I think. It’s hard because there are different difficulties about different tricks. Some are technical but not as much effort but the triple front flip on BMX is the most effort to land and one of the most dangerous.

On scooter the most technical is the Free Willy. I don’t know who named it, probably [Nitro Circus founder] Travis Pastrana. Basically, I jump off the scooter, throw it into a front flip and do a backflip at the same time. It took me about 60 attempts to land it and then I tried it about 150 times after and never landed. I’m lucky I got the one good attempt on film so it counts. It’s unreal.

Female participation is a hot topic in sport right now. Do you get many girls doing BMX and scooter?

Todd: There’s more girls than ever doing the sport, especially now it’s been added to the Olympics. The number of females getting involved is awesome. At most of the contests now there’s men and women but in the past there would be one or two events a year when the girls would compete.

Ryan: In scootering there’s tonnes of scooter girls and that’s not part of the Olympics. It’s like when I realised there was a skate park I could go to. Girls realise that they can go and ride a scooter, do the same tricks and get the same relief. It’s opening minds. The more girls that do it and the more girls that see them do it can only be a good thing. It’s awesome to see.

In the UK, kids riding BMX and scooters often have a very negative image. How is it perceived in Australia?

Ryan: I don’t know how bad it is here. The bad kids do go to the skate park but not all kids at skate parks are bad. I don’t get that line. It has the same image problem as skateboarding. The stereotype that skaters are the outlaws and break the rules but it’s not like that.

Todd: My opinion is that skate parks are public and if there are bad kids you see them. But there are bad kids, and good kids, everywhere and they’re not always at the skate park. They shouldn’t be automatically associated with the skate parks.

What would you say to counter these views from your own experiences in the skating community?

Ryan: It’s been the best thing in my whole life. Where I live on the Sunshine Coast they’ve invested so much money in skate parks because they’ve seen the impact it has. It creates a sense of being. People go to the skate park and they feel like they have a place to be. Kids have somewhere to go and enjoy themselves. I can go to the skate park by myself and just have my headphones in and have the time of my life. When I’m at the skate park I feel free and it’s important for kids to have that.

How important do you think a facility like this will be for the kids of Salford?

Todd: It’s amazing and the thing is people can make careers out of it. I mean we have. There’s no reason someone can’t come from here and 10 years later be doing what I’m doing or even better because they have such good facilities.

Finally, if you could say one thing to the younger version of yourself what would it be?

Todd: I worked my butt off every day and still do. I still put the same amount of pressure on myself to perform as if I was 14 but it wasn’t to make it professional, I just have a certain standard that I still hold myself up to. Whether that’s BMX, working out or some other goal it’s just setting a standard and raising them.

Ryan: I’d be scared to tell myself something that could change my future. I think I’d just say that the future is awesome. Keep believing in yourself and don’t let the people who put you down get to you. Push on and believe in yourself.

Nitro World Games will be in Cardiff May 23/24 2020, for more information and tickets click here.

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