When it comes to street riding, we all know that what we're doing is illegal—we're trespassing and almost always vandalizing when we grind and/or wallride something. Sure, there are certainly far worse things happening around the world—and probably right around the corner from the rail you just got filmed grinding. I think that mentality helps us justify what we're doing—I know it does for me, at least. And I'm not trying to preach what's right or wrong here, when it comes to riding, I live for grinding shit, so I'm just as guilty as the next guy. In reality, what we do usually goes under the radar, and even if we were to climb a fence and carve some fiberglass, the odds are really good that we wouldn't get in trouble like Billy Perry did. The water park mission is nothing new. The temptation of riding some forbidden tranny and slides has had many a rider climb a fence in the off-season to get their session on. We're used to seeing a carve clip or two fly by in the middle of a video part, but that's pretty much been the extent of it. There's never been a reason to document the entire process like Billy did in his recent viral video—driving to the spot, climbing the fence, and of course the session.
But all that changed with the advent of the vlog. And I get it, from a vlogging standpoint, Billy's water park adventure was actually interesting—unlike the other 99% of shit people vlog on about each day. But Billy's massive following was also his demise and he got binged for it. The video was played on the local news and he even had reporters knocking on his door looking for a comment. Billy is currently dealing with a legal fiasco brought on by the property owner, so his comments in this article are minimal. The crazy thing is that Billy and his homies weren't even the first people to ride that park—other riders and skaters have hit it and documented it over the years, as well.
Billy's story got me thinking… Filming has been an integral part of street riding—and BMX as whole—for the last few decades. However, until more recently, BMX videos have been filmed with the intent on pretty much just BMX riders watching them. Where as today, with the reach of social media, and YouTube specifically, what we're doing out in the streets is getting viewed by a much wider audience beyond just BMX riders. I understand that the details of Billy's situation—the highly recognizable spot, his vlog, and his massive following—makes his a unique case which doesn't reflect the typical street riding that we can all relate to. If Billy filmed a session on a rail behind a doctor's office for a Volume video, the odds of someone from that doctor's office seeing that video and recognizing the rail are practically zero. Obviously, the wider reach is a great way to expose more people to BMX and in turn hopefully get more kids on bikes—which is awesome. But at the same time, this turning point in exposure is basically airing out the same illegal shit we've always done to way more people than ever before. So… Is that a bad thing? Does it even matter? Am I reaching? I hit up a few pro riders who have made their mark filming out in the streets to get their opinions. And for the record, I intended to have this article drop much sooner—in sync with the Perry news—but for a number of reasons it just ended up taking this long to wrap it up.
What are your thoughts on the Billy Perry situation?
Sean Burns: "Street riding is a crime—from trespassing to malicious destruction of property. Street is a disorderly conduct. I have no idea why anyone in their right mind would fully document every detail to the public. Especially when you have a huge following on YouTube. Although BMX may seem innocent because we are just having fun, it is not seen that way to property owners and conservatives. If you rob a bank, you don't remove your ski mask and take a selfie followed by a post of it on Twitter for the entire world to see."
Brian Kachinsky: "I look at this situation much like I look at injuries. As BMXers, we do what we do, but every now and then bad things are going to happen. It's inevitable. I think we sometimes get carried away with things and get used to the risk we take. Once in a while it bites back. I think Billy could have been a bit more stealth about the whole scenario by not showing as many details about where the location was, talking less on camera about what was involved, etc. Of course, as a BMX rider I can sympathize with Billy on this. I wish it didn't happen at all and wish they could have just had their fun, rode the spot, made their video and been happy. There is a side of me that always has to put myself in other's shoes. The park owner obviously spent money, time, resources, etc. building and maintaining this place and I can see why they aren't happy about it. At the end of the day, we as BMXers are in the wrong and we can't forget that as we do what we do. That being said, I think the media piece that was on TV was a bit excessive and they clearly needed a story to run that day. I think there are bigger problems facing the world that need to be talked about and I put some blame on the news for turning this into something bigger than it is. In Billy's case, this is much like an injury, you have to take care of it and it'll just end up being a bump in the road of life. It might be expensive and time consuming, but in the end it will all be ok as long as everyone is reasonable and professional about it."
Jeff "With Glasses" Ludwig: "It could have been avoided, but here's my interpretation. Just about every rider has either had the privilege to ride a waterslide or has dreamt about making it happen. Billy Perry and his homies made it happen and to me, it looked awesome. However, once the video he posted went viral, the media took it on as an extreme act of trespassing and a criminal investigation was made paramount to ensuring the safety of our country's innocent civilian population. This is more than just a problem of people hopping a fence onto someone else's property. This is a clear indication of blinding the American population of real events that actually press negative impacts on the lives of people on a global scale. There are entire families being obliterated by war in the western region of the Asian continent. People are being beaten and suppressed by the US government military driven by corporate interests in North Dakota. And more close to my home in New Jersey, there are people experiencing rare cancers due to chemicals dumped illegally in the so-called protected lands in the northern parts of the state. I don't intend on ranting about global issues that we should be informed about through the proper use of media. However, the issues that Bill Perry and his crew are dealing with are very insignificant when compared to a different scale of importance. My advice is to take this event in consideration when watching the news: realize who their audience is and how to decipher why they are sending this stupid shit over our televisions."
Have you ever been in a similar situation? Not being on the Prime Time news for riding a spot, but potentially getting hit with a lawsuit/fine for riding one?
Drew Hosselton: "Knock on wood… I have managed to stay out of harm's way.
When you ride street 99% of the time what you are doing is illegal so I really feels it's not a matter of "if" but "when" it could happen.
I fully accept this and a trespassing ticket is a small price to pay for being able to ride what you really want to ride."
Sean Burns: "I have been to court for damages on multiple occasions. One time it was a $2,000 fine for a feeble grind on MIT campus in Cambridge, MA. The charges and fines were dropped down to $500 when I provided proof that the ledge was ridden before me as well. Another was the bowling alley roof drop setup in Anthem 2—where the lady was screaming and I crashed into the fence. The owner claimed that I broke a part of the roof that I didn't even ride. I brought the clip to court with me to show no damages were done to the bowling alley. I ended up having to pay a $200 court fee. I also received a court summons for disorderly conduct from doing a wallride in Boston's Government Center. That one was appealed when the judge thought that the whole situation was pointless for me to be there."
Dan Coller: "When I was 16 and heading home from riding street with Jake Petruchik we pulled over at a town hall to look at a rail. I grinded it one time and decided it was nothing special and we got back in the car. Three days later I woke up to the cops at my parent's house to pick me up and take me to have a meeting with the entire town hall committee for whatever tiny town it was in. Somehow the camera caught my image well enough for the cops to find a 16 year old who didn't live in that town—or have any form of license or ID at that time—and bring me in. Yet, they didn't know who Jake was even though we pulled up in his mini van. I had to repaint this rail I barely touched and they tried to get me to repaint every handrail they had—and they had a lot. I finished painting the one I grinded and I never came back."
"BMX has brought me handcuffs, jail time, lawyers, felonies, restitution, court appearances, fines, and more.
I've been through this whole thing before. My situations weren't televised, but they were definitely a huge headache, put a dent in my wallet and made me think about a lot of things. While in county jail for "criminal destruction of property" a lot of feelings were experienced. I was sitting in jail after being shackled, strip-searched and booked alongside what I would consider to be "real criminals." The guy I shared a jail cell with was in for grand theft auto and obstruction of justice. Basically, this guy had stolen a car (for the second time) and then after a high-speed chase he had given the cops a fake name and did not cooperate. I was listening to his story as we sat in the slammer and thought, 'Ok, this guy is a danger to society and should probably be taken off the streets.' Meanwhile, I was in the same filthy jail cell as him, eating the same shitty food and getting treated like shit… for doing a wallride. The whole time I questioned what I was doing there and whether or not I deserved to be there. It was very mentally taxing. The police basically wanted to make an example of us and they succeeded. It was a horrible experience, but in hindsight it all got worked out. It made me lose a little faith in the criminal justice system to this day, but it is what it is. Nothing is always fair, but I still feel like it was a waste of law enforcement resources to take me off the streets."
Although people have been riding roofs and high profile spots for years—and with little or no regard to security—they've become much more brazen with it over the last few years…
Sean Burns: "I think riders are riding things that they always have. It is just being documented more than ever due to cell phones and cameras/Internet. Perhaps people are just less secretive about it now. Since everyone is addicted to self promotion it would seem that most riders now feel they have to post on Instagram constantly. The early 2000s was a huge spark for riding spots on government property—such as fullpipes. But were Joe Rich and Mark Choquette airing out their illegal ventures for the general public to see? Absolutely not. It was mysterious and had character value. There is a significantly large line drawn between street riders back then and street riders today—patience and obedience then, versus promotion and instant gratification today. The instant gratification is what makes it high profile. In this day and age people document the entire situation to please a crowd of viewers. I could go ride a water park tomorrow with two friends, no cameras, and come home safe.There are ways to keep it from getting you busted… Don't post it where more than half your viewers are sitting there with their parents!"
Christian Rigal: "It's definitely become a more common thing, dudes like Mike [Grey] and Tyler [Fernengel] just climb upon roofs all day like it's nothing [laughs]. But there's a way to go about riding spots like that, and as long as you pick the right day/time to ride it and have a homie or two keeping watch for you, it shouldn't be any different then a normal spot."
Brian Kachinsky: "This is something that's gone on for decades and as long as people are rebellious this isn't going to change. I do, however, think there is a right and wrong way to deal with police, security, property owners, and random citizens. I think it's important to keep in mind that other riders might want to ride that spot one day and by being a dick you are ruining it for people to enjoy the spot in the future. The best way is to vaguely explain what you're doing, apologize for being there and then leave when asked to leave. Sometimes, if you're cool enough, they will let you stay or they might say "come back later when I'm not around." I usually say something like, 'Sorry to bother you, we were just wanting to ride our bikes here and have some fun and get some exercise.' Usually that goes over a little better than, "Fuck you, I'm trying to get a clip grinding this rail." Keep in mind that some of those people might someday buy a bike for their kids or something. You don't want to turn them off of BMX and risk losing a potential BMX fan or future rider because you wanted to be a dick. You just never know someone's full story much like they don't know yours."
Chase DeHart: "You just have to know that you're wrong and if someone who owns the property says leave—just leave. If someone has a problem with you being on their roof, it's their right to have a problem with it. But obviously BMX riders are always going to be tempted to ride what's in front of them. You can't blame anyone—you just have to know when you're the asshole and accept it. Sometimes we're not the asshole, sometimes we are, know the difference and act on whichever you fall into that day."
Jeff Ludwig: "The thing is, a lot of riders know what to do when they find a super rad spot that happens to be on a roof or in a privately owned, fenced off property. Find out when the best times are to come back to minimize the risk of running into the law or the property owner. Go in, have a good time and leave. I'm partial to keeping spots private so they don't get too much hype and security is beefed up. When it comes to breaking the law in general you try your best not to raise any alarm. Billy Perry kind of screwed up here. The dude has a ton of followers, including young kids who are supervised by concerned parents. That video made me want to ride a waterpark and I can only imagine what the local kids were thinking when they saw a video of dudes shredding the transition on the slide up the street. We aren't the guys busting up windows and turning the place upside down—we just want to ride our bikes."
Is it possible that the new age of social media runs the risk of getting BMX [street riding] over-exposed?
Billy Perry: "In this case, yes the video did blow up more than I could have foreseen. It definitely had a lot of viewers from near me where the establishment is located and it didn't take long for them to catch on. It could happen to someone in a similar situation as me even with far less views if people are quick to snitch. As far as BMX being over-exposed, no I don't think this is a turning point for the exposure of BMX."
Sean Burns: "Only to an extent. I think social media is a nasty demon. It is an advertising propaganda that has created an addiction problem. As far as it over exposing BMX… I don't necessarily see that as a problem in the future. BMX is small and it always will be. It may have gained some non-BMXer views over the last few years due to YouTube, but I don't see it extracting further viewers beyond what it already has.
You can't mall grab a bike and look cool. It is not and never will be a piece of flair like a skateboard can be. So in that case, it will never be majorly exposed to the point of risking BMX.
If anything, I feel as though things have gotten easier over the years. Now that I am 32, I am noticing a lot of the cops and security guards that are kicking me out of spots are younger than me and they grew up with extreme sports and it is normalized to them. This brings a whole new level of understanding, where as 15 years ago BMX was not understood by the older baby boom generation. They completely saw it as a delinquency and not as a "sport" or "recreational activity." I think as time goes on it has gotten easier."
Reed Stark: "Yes. Instagram is one thing, but this new YouTube craze is putting BMX on blast. People who would have never known about what we're doing are now able to see exactly what we're up to every single day. I don't think it'll ever get too gnarly with the police and whatnot, but if it does you can find me in France. Chip up a ledge at a police station there and the cops will watch and give you a high-five."
Christian Rigal: "I'm sure if Billy had a clip of him ripping down a water slide in his next Volume video part it would have gone by unnoticed by the general media. But when you make a whole YouTube video based and titled around it, I think you're putting yourself at risk of catching some unwanted heat."
Drew Hosselton: "In Billy's case that is exactly what happened, but for your average middle-class pro without the ability to produce a viral video I feel the risks are pretty low.
I've always thought that it could come to a point where it was flat out just no longer feasible to ride street and this little incident is just another step that direction."
Brian Kachinsky: "Possibly, but again, this is nothing new. When I got arrested back in 2009 and charged with a felony (later reduced to a misdemeanor) one of the first things they did was search through my phone, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. The officer searched my name and said, "Looks like you ride on other people's property all the time." And wrote that up in the report. Upon being released from jail with a court date pending,I deleted my Facebook, Twitter posts and other things I thought they could use to make me stop riding. I had been through enough already and didn't want them to make me stop riding street. My lawyer later said that I didn't have to worry about that since this was just this particular instance, but it still made me think a bit. Fast-forward to today and social media is a million times bigger than it was back then. There's a chance it could get over-exposed in certain instances, but I think all in all the reasonable people out there know that we face bigger problems in the world than people riding their bikes."
Chase DeHart: "I think back in the day if you were out filming it was less understood what you were doing and people would want to know if you were up to no good. Now it's like, "Oh, you're doing YouTube videos, that's cool."
Broc Raiford: "I don't think people care enough to find out exactly who scratched up the rail in front their business. Maybe in a small town, where the odds of you getting caught after the fact is a lot greater, but other than that I think people will just get their rail and/or ledge fixed and move on."
Jeff Ludwig: "The new age of social media runs the risk of any emotion, concern, topic of discussion, political view, spots to shred, or whatever of getting over-exposed and blown out of proportion. There are people who work at the buildings we ride our bikes on and they too have social media accounts. When we post a picture of the sparks and chips and shit flying from the ledge we're grinding, we run the risk of that getting back to the property owner. My mom always says, "What if these people get a hold of this video, are you going to get sued?" I always say, 'No mom, that doesn't happen.' But now it has happened. She was the first to tell me about Billy Perry's visit to the waterpark."
Do you think the general public's knowledge of what we do could make it harder to ride some spots and or we might begin to get held accountable for our actions?
Billy Perry: "I don't believe the general public or law enforcement will be following BMX with a microscope. This is nothing new, people in the cities and suburbs are aware of BMX and skateboarding. This was only beaten to death by the local news stations because there is nothing important to report on here now that the election is over.Once it blows over people will continue to have their opinions on what we do whether it be good or bad. I don't think anything is going to change."
Sean Burns: "The public's knowledge of it has normalized it. I used to have to lie to roof owners and others alike and say I am looking for my cat, or that I am lost… Lately I am honest with them and straight up say 'I'm trying to do a stunt.' Recently when riding with Colt Fake we were busted at a spot and as soon as the authority figure found out that Colt was in the X Games he let us go. Now as opposed to 15 years ago… you wouldn't get away with that. That is where corporate BMX normalization works in our favor. Where as vlogging every illegal action on YouTube will get you the opposite."
Reed Stark: "The worst situation would be architects figuring out how BMX riders use spots and them designing things we can't ride. If that happens I'll go back to school for architecture, infiltrate the community, and design Skate 3 style plazas on 'accident' claiming they're artistic masterpieces."
Jeff Ludwig: "People do know where skateboarders and riders congregate, but they don't know exactly what we like to ride specifically. We've seen caps on some weird shit that we would never, ever ride. As far as being held accountable for destruction of property, though, I think this might become more realistic. It's not as extreme, but imagine posting on social media about how good you are at robbing gas stations. There's going to be attention to you and gas stations from that. Translate that into BMX and riding spots, etc. and you'll understand where they're coming from. I think some of the amusement parks are going to be monitoring closely for copycat criminals. While the media plays back the most terrifying evidence of a couple dudes riding a waterpark, people are still sort of dumb and only see the waterslides being in danger.
I'm willing to bet there's some guy out there inventing a waterslide cap so guys can't ride down them anymore."
Are there any kinds of spots you won't ride?
Billy Perry: "People's houses. I wouldn't ride ledges, rails, stairs, roofs, etc. where someone lives without their permission. I tend to stay away from guarded Federal property, as well—for obvious reasons."
Sean Burns:"I will pretty much ride anything. I will pedal over gravestones, but I am not going to grind one. I try to avoid disrupting small business because that is something I can empathize. Government buildings and corporate owned properties on the other hand… fuck 'em! If they can spend millions of dollars brutally oppressing Native Americans, then I have no remorse chipping up some marble."
Reed Stark: "Yes.This is where the code of ethics comes into play. An example I can think of is grinding someone's perfect white hubba down the stairs outside their house. Yes, you can grind it. Yes, it will be a cool clip, but you're personally ruining someone's day and they're going to have to spend a lot of money to get it fixed. It's not a faceless business or something that already looks grimey, it's their home. They're going to get back from their job and see dirty tire marks and chips chunked out of something they've devoted their whole life trying to purchase and maintain."
Dan Coller: "Police stations are off limits for me no matter what, that risk is not worth the reward no matter how good the spot might be."
Broc Raiford: "It is definitely hard for me to ride spots that are also artwork. It's dependent on how brittle the spot is though. If it's a purple turtle shell made of solid concrete, I'll ride that because I know my tires bump jumping it won't affect it that badly. But if it's a paper mache boombox and I know trying to icepick grind the corner will collapse the whole thing, I'll let that one slide. Being an artist myself, I have respect for the time and effort that goes into art projects and destroying someone else's just feels wrong. I'd like to think everything else is fair game." [Laughs]
Jeff Ludwig: "I remember way back when Corey Martinez did an interview and said he never rides churches. For a little bit of time I abided by his belief that we should respect these places. Then I realized what I'm missing out on, so I said screw it [laughs]. The only places I don't ride are police stations. There's no reason to disturb the hive, unless I find one with a really good tranny wall, then it's worth it."
I know for me personally, when growing up, it felt a little more innocent riding street because you could get away with it under the guise of"being a dumb kid." Now that we're adults people definitely don't always react the same as when we were kids, but we haven't changed our ways…
Reed Stark: "After writing this article I've started to question my moral compass. Am I fucked up for saying these things and believing it's OK to partially destroy a business' rail, or wall, or ledge? I don't think so, but I've been at this shit for 15 years now. My thoughts about this are definitely skewed to support what I do. Maybe I just never grew up. It all comes down to your personal code of ethics. These vary from person to person. If your choices don't harm someone else or make their life more difficult, then what you're doing is probably OK."
Dan Coller: "I prefer dealing with people now getting kicked out of spots then I did when I was 15 because I feel like I don't get treated like "a dumb kid" anymore and people will actually listen more to my responses."
Chase DeHart: "As a kid I honestly could give a shit how anyone felt about what I was doing to property. Now that I'm older I definitely have a better conscious and it's not that I changed my ways so much, but I definitely try to look at things differently. If I know it's someone's property and not a big business or something I try to just get what I see done and cause as little damage as possible. I don't session it until it's destroyed and so noticeable. And if someone kicks you out or calls you out on what you're doing, don't defend yourself like you are right, tell them you're sorry and that you just couldn't help but ride it or something. I hate kids who talk back to owners and shit as if they are in the right, you ruin it for everybody. Understand what you're doing, I'm not saying don't ride shit, but just have a better understanding of what you are doing before you treat people like assholes who have the right to call you out."
Broc Raiford: "I definitely agree that as kids we just didn't know what damages we were actually causing and just cruised from spot to spot marking up walls with black rainbows and grinding everything in sight with no care of what it would look like after our session. Now as an adult, I'm well aware that getting those tire marks painted over and resurfacing that planter ledge could be an expense a business would rather do without. However, I think we still throw caution to the wind and ride what we want because that's one of the reasons that made street riding so bad-ass since the beginning."
Jeff Ludwig: "I've definitely used the same excuse when I was a kid. Now, what we do is a professional demonstration, or at least that's my new excuse. Sometimes this works too [laughs]. What happens is, as humans, we have an evolutionary brain development complexity that grants the ability to learn algorithms for situational events. In the case of foraging for food for an enormous population dependent on a monetary system, humans figured out how to increase the output at the cost of minimal input to maximize profitability and sustain business. In the case of street riding, we at least try to maximize the benefits while avoiding the negative consequences through trial and error. Just as the farmer avoids pests by using a myriad of chemicals, we avoid getting in trouble for some stupid shit with really, really good excuses. However, just as those pests continue to comeback due to natural selection, sometimes the security force at the industrial complex is reinforced with a set of more knowledgeable guards. The farmer gets stronger pesticides and we get stronger excuses—or legs!"
Sean Burns: "You can most certainly get away with more when you are a kid. An adult looks more than foolish riding a kid's bike doing blatant illegal things. I have definitely changed my mentality over the years and I absolutely try to avoid riding/damaging homeowner's or mom and pop shop properties. Unless the setup is too good to pass up! Whether people like to admit it or not,
…street riding is a form of rebellion. It is punk rock in its purest form. Every grind you do on public property is a fuck you to authority even if you don't mean it. We definitely forget sometimes that what we are doing is wrong. But Goddamn it is so rad!"
CAPTIONS: (In order of appearance)
•What was once someone's house is now a realtor's office, making Jeff Ludwig feel no remorse about this bump-to-wall-to-storm door entry. (Photo:Zielinski)
•Safe to say Sean Burns has probably been on more roofs with his bike than any other rider. (Photo: Tristan Afre)
•While in Kansas City with the GT squad, Brian Kachinsky had his eye on this oppo wall ice, and a shady grounds keeper had his eye on us. Eventually money exchanged hands and BK sealed the deal. (Photo: Zielinski)
•Christian Rigal has been known to take matters into his own hands and do what he's gotta do to make a setup work for him—and a few railings, fences, and roof shingles have been sacrificed along the way. (Photo: Fudger)
•Sometimes you just need to handle business with the security guard literally standing right there. It doesn't always work out, but damn does it feel good when it does—Chase DeHart, about to feel it. (Photo: Zielinski)
•Gotta love those SoCal schoolyards. Reed Stark sure does. Oppo feeble session… with a 180, 360, and an ice bonk on the little rail sticking out.(Photo: Zielinski)
•Broc Raiford, with a damage-free fakie hop at one of the most scenic spots in Southern California. (Photo: Zielinski)
•Billy Perry, definitely not in the water park. (Photo: Zielinski)
•Riding the front entrance of apartments in a nice neighborhood is pretty much guaranteed to be a short session, but that was all Drew Hosselton needed to get this curved wall-gap-wall done. (Photo: Zielinski)
•You put any amount and/or configuration of handrail in front of Dan Coller and he'll grind it end to end. (Photo: Zielinski)
•Safe to say this will never be a blown out spot… Drew Hosselton with a pocket fence ride. (Photo: Zielinski)
•Riding public art/sculptures can be a touchy subject, but when said sculpture is a metal ledge full of rocks held together by rebar, well shit—the sounds like it was made for grinding. Sean Burns makes some art of his own with a feeble to table. (Photo: Zielinski)