We’ve been working like mad on our special 100th issue of Ride BMX, and one of the features is an interview with the Father of Freestyle, Bob Haro. Bob also founded Haro Bikes and was heavily involved with the company until he sold it in 1992. The following text is a taste of the interview, but make sure to check out the 100th issue for more. Issue 100 is going to be good, so don’t miss it.

What year did you first start doing tricks on your bike and riding in skateparks?
That had to be ’74-’75. We used to ride in gullies before skateparks were even out. That was in ’74-’75, doing dirt jumps and all that other stuff… I used to skateboard and BMX, and I was racing motocross first. I took my dirt bike apart one time and didn’t have enough money to put it back together the way I wanted, so I started riding my brother’s BMX bike, and that’s how I got into BMX. It was by complete accident. It was kind of a cross between being a skateboarder, a motocrosser, and a BMX guy.

When you got on the BMX bike, what were some of the first tricks you did?
Back then the tricks were dirt jumping and things like that: cross-ups, tabletops—all the normal things. It wasn’t until we started emulating what skaters were doing in gullies and things that we figured out how to carve, do kick turns, and all the simple, basic tricks. At the time it was kind of cool.

Did you have anyone to ride with that was doing the same kind of stuff?
I did. My sister’s boyfriend, John Swanguen, lived down the street from me and he was the guy that I rode with all the time. The bummer, or fate as it is… He should have been an early superstar because he was actually a better rider than I was. My parents got divorced and I moved to Los Angeles and moved in with Oz {Bob Osborn, publisher of the original BMX Action} because I was doing artwork at the time. I moved in with Bob and R.L. Osborn, and you start hanging out with all those guys and the next thing you know you’re in it. My friend John stayed in San Diego, and the rest was history. The magazine promoted R.L. and me, and they started writing articles about BMX trick riding, as they called it back then. But it was a little while before Oz knew that I was a decent rider—I was just the staff artist. It was just strange little twists of fate that happened.

When you started doing shows, was it your team or the BMX Action team?
When we first started doing shows I was on staff at BMX Action. Oz used to always see R.L. and me because we had ramps at the office. R.L. was doing his sticker business and I was doing my numberplate business, and in my other time I was doing cartooning and page layout for the magazine. During the day we’d pull the ramps out and ride, goof around, jump, and everything else. I don’t know how we all thought about it, but it was something weird and novel, and we started doing some demos at a couple races. One was in Anaheim, and then one was in Chandler, Arizona. That was our first real big show. It was kind of goofy stuff back then, just basic riding. Halfpipes, riding quarterpipes, jumping through a ring of fire, bunnyhopping stuff… But at that time it was all super new, so it was exciting because no one had seen it. If you look back on it now it looks archaic (laughs).

How long were you on the road doing shows?
I would say that when I split up with Osborn—we had a falling out… I did my own tour, and I was the first guy to do tours before {the BMX Action team}. I was the first guy to do BMX freestyle tours, travel, put the shows together, and really do it. Our first year we did it with my brother Ron, myself, Bob Morales, and all that. We were gone like three and a half months. We didn’t realize how long three and a half months in a van would be. It was fun, but you want to kill each other after you’ve been on the road that long.

How did you get into the page llayout stuff you were doing at BMX Action?
Because I was the staff artist doing cartoons. You know, the magazine only needs so many cartoons an issue (laughs). You can do a drawing on a bike, a drawing on a track, an illustration for an article, but all of the rest of the stuff is, “You need to help lay out an ad. You need to help lay out a page.” Or I would go to BMX races and do a report in my own words and Oz would clean it up and make me sound like I had a high school education (laughs). It was just kind of the natural evolution. I had an art director that I worked with, and she really taught me a lot on the formal aspects of design and page layout and stuff like that.

When and why did you start Haro Bicycles?
Haro Bikes was basically an offshoot from doing the numberplates and all the design stuff. The company was originally called Factory Plates, and we made numberplates for BMX bikes. Then we did brake levers, jerseys, gloves, bags, and real simple items. We were real popular with the numberplate. They were the plate to have, and we had some good luck. We had about three years where no one really copied us. I don’t think they really took it seriously, so that gave us some time to gain momentum as a little business. Doing the bicycles, I was riding for Torker, but my bike was never a stock bike. I always asked for a custom bike, changing the geometry, the head angle was steeper, the dropouts were thicker, and we were riding coaster brakes, so a mount for coaster brakes. I liked the double top tube because at the time we were doing tricks that related to that. I went to Torker and said, “Hey, I want to build my own frameset. I’d like to do it with you, but I can do it without you if you’re not interested.” They helped me out, and it was real small numbers. We did 50 to 100 in our first year; it was really small and they were real expensive, and that’s what started it. Then freestyle started turning into a facet of BMX. Again, I don’t think anyone at that time took freestyle seriously. It was just kind of the sideshow of BMX. It wasn’t really a legit sport yet. Haro started in little baby steps. We made numberplates, made something else, and so on and so forth, and we just did cool designs on each of them.