The first time I met Erik, it was at a session at the now closed Renegade skatepark here in Minnesota. My jaw hit the floor… literally. I was blown away by the weird tricks he was doing all over the place. Fakies across the park to half body varials out. I just sat there and stared the majority of the time. We talked about doing an interview, and for some reason or another it ended up taking a really long time to pull everything together. It worked out great though, because now he has a BRAND NEW edit that I know will blow minds to go with this. So check out some of the very entertaining responses Erik has, some good photos, the edit, and then leave him some love in the comments! All photos by Ryan Mense!
“What I’ve done here is successfully perform the meticulous task of blacking out an etch-a-sketch with vertical lines. When you do this you can see a metal cross hair and this cute little drawing pad’s magic evaporates. If you don’t believe me try the experiment for yourselves; it’s an excellent usage of time.”
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, North America
Five orbits round the sun.
What was it that first got you into BMX? Any early memories?
Just like any other kid, I started out racing. I was pretty into it for a while and entered a few competitions in my day. During one, I was lined up at the starting gate next to this seriously determined kid. He was doing stretches, breathing exercises, running in place, and polishing the rims on his expensive looking bike. I had a bad gate start but somehow managed to catch up. It came down to the last straightaway and he was leading with me close behind. The race ending like one of those cliche sports movies; the finish line was in middle of a jump so we were both in the air at the same time but my front tire managed to slide a foot ahead of his. Unfortunately, BMX races don’t feature scoreboards with buzzers because if they did it would’ve really added to the ambiance of the moment. It was quite the victorious moment until I saw the kid crying and his body-builder-of-a-dad approached me. Now this was quite some time after the race ended and I was about to leave. His dad comes over and claps a hand on my shoulder a little too hard. “Son,” he says, “you got balls.”
“Ahhh, thanks,” I say trying to smile.
He didn’t share my smile and staring me straight in the eyes with a voice wavering with intimidation, he said, “You got balls fer doing what you did to my son. Now, if I ever catch yer cheatin’ bee-hind pullin that shit ‘gain, you ain’t gonna have no balls. Ya understand?” And he pulled out a big boy sword–I mean pocket knife.
I didn’t cheat in that race but for the sake of my future family, I quit racing altogether and took up freestyle which happened to be the right decision.
Why do always spell your name differently?
There are many ways to spell “Erik.” I just like to utilize as many as I can.
You are one of those real unique riders that come along that gets everyone stoked, but you almost appear to be a total secret, except to those who know you only. Where have you been hiding?
It’s weird because I’ve been sending sponsor-me tapes to every BMX related company for the past few years now to no avail. Kidding, that’s a fallacy. Perhaps because I live a relatively small town with not many well known riders around.
Vader on a Holga.
What’s up with your riding anyways? Where do you come up with all the stuff you do? Why aren’t you all about barspins and tailwhips like everyone else?
Well basically, I learn as many tricks as I can. Like, I don’t do them bizarre tricks all the time; I actually used to be known for doing lots of barspins. If I feel like a trick is do-able then I’ll try and learn it regardless if everyone else is doing it. My tailwhip/barspin intake has definitely decreased recently but I occasionally flick em around. To me, the best tricks are the ones that you laugh at but are still blatantly difficult. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the satisfaction of landing a new trick. Well, when you land a weird new trick that you’ve never seen before or makes your friends laugh, that satisfaction is magnified by 14. Those are the kind of tricks I like to film or do at cool contests so I guess it may appear to you that I do stuff all the time. But yeah, I think over 50% of time I do weird tricks.
I hear you have an older brother who rides a lot like you too. Is he one of the biggest influences on your riding or are you both just really into doing stuff that isn’t typical?
I think in general, BMX bros are closer than most brothers. You can really relate to one another, you share friends, go on road trips together, etc. Yeah, I reckon he has a quite a lot of influence on me trick wise and the way I am wise. We learned nancy stalls together (it’s what we call the trick where you’re upside down on your butt/back). He did alligators before me (the trick where you put your hands out in front of you on a rail or ledge and lift your back wheel up, for example, I did a superman and frontflip alligator in the April video). He got me into good music and kind of got me into photography. Thanks, bro.
You are living in a pretty small town/woods at your parents cabin resort. Is there much to ride around there? Where are you usually riding?
There is nothing to ride at all! Usually we just ride around bump-jumping road kill or make jumps out of piles of cow manure. Actually no, that is not the case. I feel like we have a healthy selection of obstacles to ride. There isn’t a decent box jump for scores of miles and big quarters are scarce so you really have to think differently to keep riding little ramps and limited street spots fresh. If our local park had a sweet bowl or we had dialed trails I might just be psyched doing airs. The only time I think there isn’t much to ride is when it’s winter and the clouds urinate a heterogeneous mixture of slush rendering my miniramp unridable. I pretty much ride my mini every day (weather permitting) so it hits hard when the nearest indoor park is two hours away and I don’t own a car. I sometimes find myself riding the flat, cramped space in our garage during the winter. That accounts for a lot of the technical footjam stuff I do because you can learn that stuff on flat. A lot of times though, we just build weird setups to ride. If you have a ramp and a trampoline in your possession, you’re having a good time.
You started popping up around the Minnesota area lately. I met you at Renegade, and you won the Dilly Street Jam earlier this summer. Do you find yourself traveling much? Do you have any trips planned for this summer?
My travels are usually confined to around a one hour radius. These excursions are usually spontaneous or planned a few days before. I’m not even sure if I should classify them as travels. Regardless, I would like to travel more. Minneapolis is pretty close (under two hours) and it roosts a hefty amount of deck people and things to ride. I want to go there more but really I’m down to go anywhere to ride. I have a two week trip planned at Lake Owen but that’s it for planned plans.
Who is your usual riding crew these days? Anyone you think people should be looking out for in your area?
I ride with my brother Nick and Ryan Mense mostly. It Seems like it’s getting harder to find people to ride with these days and those two will be moving to Madison at the end of the summer so it looks like I’ll be riding alone a lot this winter. As far as shredders, look out for Cole Money; his last name is better than yours and he ain’t scared to get high off cement.
Have you been doing much filming lately? I know your last edit got over 25,000 views so I figure people are waiting for more of you.
Yeah, travel south on your computer screen and you should see a new edit. It features a lot of mini ramp riding and it was really fun making the super clean bro dialed intro (it’s a joke). As for the April video, I am just shocked at how many views it got. I recently bought a camcorder because I always liked watching the old Northoften videos and wanted to make more of them. We just filmed fun here and there and I ended up having a lot of clips so we decided to make an edit of me. I spent a good amount of time editing it but didn’t finish. My friend Ryan finished it and posted it on Vimeo with the intention of showing me the changes he made. By the time I watched it, 16,000 eyeballs had already feasted upon it (that’s 8,000 views) and it was on a bunch of sites. That is really strange to think about. I hope everyone likes the new edit, I edited all of it and I personally think it’s better than the April one.
I’ve seen you do some ridiculous tricks that I can’t even process half of the time, what have you been working on lately? Have you ever made up a trick?
Lately I’ve been working on all that trickery in the new edit like those bike to bike transfers. There are so many cool many possibilities with bike transferring, I want to see people do more of that. I think the most significant trick I may have made up is the half body varial. I’ve never seen anybody else do it but I don’t watch every spicy web edit either. It needs a better name though. Half body varial? How about…a Brett Favre.
What’s the North of Ten crew all about?
Northoften is just an adorable little scene site eight and a half months pregnant with inside jokes. The crew is all about cotton candy jams, good times, rubber band man, warm N/A beer, heaps of quotes, nancy stalls and alligators, the woodsman’s drinking fountain, ramp tramps, bikes are fun T-shirts, waffles and reggae jams, Schaffer bikes, filming, backyard ramps, 420 BBQ’s, and riding bikes.
You clearly have a lot of fun when you are riding, what is it that keeps you from getting burned out on riding?
Learning new tricks, riding and building new things, road trips, meeting new people, and of course, getting hurt, having little kids ruin your jumps, and breaking bike parts.
Do you worry much about getting sponsored? I feel like you don’t even think about that stuff?
I don’t worry about getting sponsored because I’m not planning on living off of BMX. If the opportunity were to present itself I would most certainly embrace it with a big woodsman hug, but to plan on it happening and doesn’t seem too prudent. I want to have some schooling in my pants because you can’t really retire off BMX. Actually I have a brilliant idea to solve that conundrum: BMX companies should hire old men (they could be ex-BMXers) to accompany their teams on street sessions during road trips so when a security guard walks over to kick them out, the hired old man would say in a loud authoritative voice, “Like I was saying, you guys can’t be ridin yer little bikes around damaging the property.”
“This carve was powered by that pink friend in the corner.”
What do you think you would be up to if you never got into BMX? It’s hard to say because I feel like a lot of my interests have been influenced by BMX. Making movies perhaps?
My brother is really into cinema and we’ve been talking about making a feature length (90 mins) 8mm film similar to RAD. Similar in that it will take place around the 80’s and involve kids with old-school bikes. Right now he’s writing the script but it probably won’t happen for a while because neither of us have any money.
What are you usually up to when you aren’t riding?
Watching movies, swimming, carving down the hills out in the country on a longboard, eating waffles, taking pictures, jammin on a keyboard or drums, playing monopoly, risk, or super nintendo, at school or doing home work, on the computer, playing ping-pong, answering questions for a BMXunion interview, and listening to music everywhere in between.
I think every time I’ve seen you, you had flannel on. What’s with you and your woodsman clothes?
That’s because I had to cross the infamous Wisconsin/Minnesota border which, as you know, requires a formidable fee to be paid in order to cross, unless of course you are a migratory lumberjack of the Great Midwest or a personal friend of Paul Bunyan’s. Not being a personal friend of Paul (alas), I did the math and made the hustle.
I’ve heard your pretty big into Public Radio. Isn’t that for old dudes with opinions? What is it about that stuff that you like so much?
Wisconsin Public Radio is your home for classical music. It’s just good to know of a solid classical station because, well, they come in handy from time to time. When all the kids blast their top 40 rap sap in our high school’s parking lot, we elegantly roll on by proclaiming the intrinsic beauty of a flute concerto in E major. Do old dudes with opinions listen to classical? I suppose some do. I may more seriously get into it when I become an old feller and I might have an opinion er two then. I’ll let you know.
What kind of a music is a guy into? Any bands you think people should check out?
Without being specific, a guy is into indie. Lately though, I’ve been listening to late 50’s/early 60’s pop, shoegaze, and Christmas jingles produced by Phil Spector. Listen to whatever you fancy but this is what my ears have been masticating upon… Bands: Animal Collective, Sunset Rubdown, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Dan Bejar, the Microphones, and (Early) Belle and Sebastian. Songs I’ve been listening to recently: New Order–Ceremony, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone–Old Panda Days, Buddy Holly–Rave On, Grizzly Bear–Two Weeks, Fats Domino–Whole Lotta Loving, The Thermals–A Pillar of Salt, The Horrors–Who Can Say, Arcade Fire–Lenin, Jesus and Mary Chain–Just like Honey, and Orchestral Manouvers in the Dark–Enola Gay. Seriously Rad Albums: Fanny Pack–So Stylistic, Antony and the Johnsons–I am a bird now, and Wesley Willis–any of his greatest hits.
I hear your family is pretty religious. How do you feel about all of that? Are you into it or not so much?
I believe in God and am into him. My Dad is a smart man and the fact that he came to God seems like a good reason for me to do the same even though I don’t fully understand everything.
Aren’t you pretty big into photography? What kind of gear are you shooting with? How big am I into photography?
I’m four feet tall into photography (not a two foot midget nor a eight foot tall basketball player but still relatively short). A few years ago I took a bevy of pictures on a little digital point and shoot camera. After its premature death I didn’t really think too much about photography until my 17th birthday when I got a Holga. Its unpredictable effects and whimsical colors sucked me in and I grew almost a foot taller. As of now, it’s the only camera I have save for an old Polaroid camera. Photography to me, is just a hobby; I don’t know all of the technical aspects so the Holga is a good companion for me. I don’t dislike digital, I just don’t happen to have a digital camera. The freedom of snapping a picture anytime and not having to worry about wasting money sounds mighty enticing. The Holga has a 1/100 shutter speed so shooting BMX is kind of unconventional. I would definitely like to have a digital camera to shoot more BMX and such.
What’s up with your bike’s paint jobs?
Well, it started last summer when a friend and I decided to see who could administer a worse paint job to our frames. I flicked and dripped paint, wrote with a Sharpie, and rubber cemented some pictures on mine and ended up actually liking it. My current paint job isn’t as crazy as that one. It’s yellow with blue and red splatters, all done with a paint brush except for the clear.
“This is the best trick I’ve done on accident. I tried to do a can vader but my foot never touched the front tire. Instead, my foot kind of hung out on the fork and I ended up doing a brakeless can can nosepick.”
You got a year left in high school, then what? Do you plan on going to college?
Yeah, but I don’t know where. There a few areas of study I’m interested in…Graphic Design? In Minneapolis?
What would you like to do when you “grow up”?
After 17 years of people asking me this question I still don’t know. A firefighter always seems like a solid answer to this question. I’ve used it before at the dentist so yeah, I’ll go with firefighter.
Do you spend much time on the computer? Any favorite web sites?
A reasonable amount of time, I think. I go on Amazon a bunch. It’s a good place to buy/find new music and movies. When you’ve established an account, which isn’t hard, you can buy things with one click, which is neat. So, uh, Amazon, will you sponsor me? I also go on NorthofTen.net a lot. It’d a good place to buy shirts. Northoften is the new Hollister. Word.
What is your favorite Kung Fu movie?
Wu Tang Temple. I can’t explain it’s righteousness, you just have to experience it for yourselves.
Link to Amazon for the VHS
Another honorable mention is Story of Ricky. It’s quite funny and it is also the most violent film I have seen. Click for proof.
Story of Ricky
What is your most prized possession?
Probably my mini ramp because it took a lot of hard work to make and makes me feel like a champion when I realize I can ride it anytime. Coming in at a close second is my immense baseball card collection which I have been diligently working on since the age of 2.
Who or what are the biggest influences on your life?
My family because I happen to live with them. You know?
What are some things you would like to accomplish in the next 5 years or so?
I would like to have a better answer to this question in five years.
What is the best advice you have ever been given, or able to give?
Been given–“Now, if I ever catch yer cheatin’ bee-hind pullin that shit ‘gain, you ain’t gonna have no balls. Ya understand?”
Do you have any shout outs or thanks?
Jesus, a man named Kurt Hohberger for interrogating me, Ryan Mense who filmed most of the video and took the pictures (I did pay him handsomely to do so though), you the reader, and everybody else that is currently alive and will ever live (it’s very likely I’ll meet someone in the future who will deserve a thank you so just in case).
Anything else you want to say?
Yeah, that story about getting into BMX with the serious kid and his dad, well, I kinda totally made it up. It was fun answering these questions and I hope that story at least got y’alls attention or made you laugh.