It’s lonely at the top. Ask BMX icon and stalwart punk rocker Rick Thorne. After hustling hard for the better parts of two decades chasing the American dream of action sports and music, he discovered that achieving those goals meant losing a part of himself in the process. We caught up with Rick Thorne to gain some insight on success, music, and why haters never prosper.
A firm believer in speaking the language of possessing a positive mental attitude, Rick found himself having to combine the recipe of authenticity and deleting all the naysayers and negative energy. The location of success is at the intersection where preparation and opportunity meet. We all chase this location in one form or another, be it personal or professional, and often times finding it can be one of the most polarizing journeys in life. This is something Pro BMX rider and punk rock star Rick Thorne knows all too well. “I don’t think I would ever take back the success I’ve had; it’s just that with success comes unwarranted criticism,” says the dynamic rider between sips of his Spanish latte at the downtown LA hotspot Urth Caffe. “Don’t pay attention to it; I did. I did because I had been riding for so many years with people that were my friends and I got absorbed in the negativity and hating and it messed me up for a while.” This affliction of “hating” that Rick speaks of has reached an unfortunate apogee in 2015 in today’s unapologetic culture, where it is more commonplace to negate a man’s success rather than praise it. “I think I was pushing people away because of the energy I was projecting into the universe because when I was coming up, I was that bitter-ass hating little kid,” he candidly admits. Fast forward a few years, Rick is the unwavering ambassador for the “Stay Rad” and PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) movements. Rick’s confidence is certainly contagious, and spending an afternoon with him is enough to reinvigorate even the most defeated of souls. Like the mag wheels on his bikes, Rick has come full circle and made growing up a cool thing to do in the process. Even if Rick’s accomplishments warrant the title “legend”, don’t call him that. In Rick’s opinion, legend means, the past and done. He’s only just begun.
When did you start riding?
I started riding in the early 80’s when there were no contests. Well, there were, but none from where I’m from, Kansas City Missouri. I rode just to get out of the house, straight up. What was it that motivated you when you started to ride? I wanted to feel alive and ended up sticking with it. Even today, I still ride for the love of it, to get that feeling. I go back to that versus the dreams of job opportunity, fame, sponsorships and things like that. Back then it was just to feel good and deal with life when we all had commonality whether we had broken homes or not, it was our outlet. For the love of riding and camaraderie.
Was it hard to get started when you didn’t have the resources or money that others might have had?
We had no fancy ramps or big jumps. We had a brick and a board and little dirt jumps. It was about creating a lifestyle by riding. The sport was relatively new. My mom was a single parent and worked nights and I just didn’t want to stay indoors. We didn’t ride to get into the X-Games, not that that wasn’t totally rad. for us it was therapeutic. That’s what it’s about.
I bet it must have been hard for your mom to have to struggle, but I’m sure it was hard on you to try to do what you love and maintain a normal life.
People don’t know this but, I worked at Olive Garden bussing tables for 7 years. I’d ride to work because I didn’t have a car and lived in my mom’s basement. I graduated high school at 17 and bought myself a bike. I rode for 14 years before I made a salary from a sponsor, paying my own hospital bills and travel bills along the way. I was doing little tours here and there like bike shows, car shows, state fairs, things of that nature. After the shows, people would ask me to go party and I just said no, I want to go ride. I told myself then that’s what I wanted to do. No girlfriend, no car, no school, just stick with my dream hold on to this feeling. I love it. People thought I was crazy, but I’d rather save what little money I made, for my career and do what made me happy.
So when did things start to turn around for you?
I was about 25 when the X Games came out and still wasn’t making any sponsor money, but I was still grinding. Opportunities weren’t flowing, but I made the decision to move to California when I was 27. As soon as I moved out to SoCal, sponsorships started flowing in and I was offered a job to host on MTV. Shortly after that, ESPN hit me up and asked if I wanted to do a show and that’s when I knew it was on. I was a grown ass man when success came. I wasn’t a child prodigy like kids now.
With so many claims of performance- enhancing drugs in the world of sports and concerns about which drugs athletes should be tested for, there is one substance that has been a gray area, marijuana. What’s your take on that?
Weed, Marijuana, MaryJane, whatever name you call it, I’m not against it. I don’t smoke myself, but I feel if you have pain, anxiety or some medical ailment and it helps you, I’m all for it. It’s probably better than the prescription drugs out there now. Prescription drugs just numb pain versus healing you. I’m no expert, but drugs have all kinds of chemicals, weed doesn’t. It’s from the ground. I think there should be regulation though but should be readily available to people that would benefit from it. It’s just an old law and mindset. It’s just a matter of time before its legal. They did it with alcohol and it’s more destructive in my opinion.
In this industry, you have to stay relevant to keep making money, how did you overcome this to keep the income coming in?
I competed 26 years straight and started a band called Good Guys in Black. It had gotten to a point in my career that I was being taken care of by my sponsors, it almost didn’t matter where I placed. I have a strong personality and I think it was more about that than anything. I didn’t need to compete to make a living and have it be my end-all. If you don’t compete, it’s over. I was very fortunate to have such good sponsors that believed in me and allowed me to branch into TV, Radio, film and other things. I currently even do voice-overs and have my current band – Rick Thorne but I’ve been able to channel my riding and still love it.
So, how has the music thing been working out for you?
I did 14 Warped Tours. Music was my original passion and I could have pursued it, but circumstances back then didn’t allow me to. Riding was more immediate. Always be able to change your plan quickly under direct inspiration, and don’t beat the same path to a dead end road because you’ll keep hitting a dead end road. Not one BMX athlete has ever started a band like the way I have at this level. No one in the BMX world has. It’s funny to do what I do because I don’t like being judged. I quit racing bikes because I didn’t like the competitive side of it and that’s what I get from music and riding. I get one thing from riding and another thing from music. From music, I’m telling my story without rules or boundaries. There is more freedom in music then there is in action sports. If it doesn’t make me happy, don’t do it. It’s that simple. I don’t want to live a phony life. I didn’t get into music and sports for money. I did it for passion. It makes me happy.
Besides the sports and music I’ve also heard that you’re involved in a few campaign projects, tell us a little more about that.
I came up with this phrase “Stay Rad”. It’s very PMA–Positive Mental Attitude. Stay rad in everything you do. It’s all about having a positive attitude in your image and style, what you say and how you speak. I always think about what it felt like before you had all these pressures of life. Staying Rad is all about projecting positivity in life and understanding that positivity always wins over negativity every time, always. You’ll never get a positive result with a negative attitude or thought. Nothing positive can come out of negative, especially speech. What I learned is what you say becomes your destiny. You have to control your tongue. Look at the brighter side of things. Ever since I started this stay rad campaign, things have just been amazing. Because I say it and believe it, I’m projecting it. It’s all positivity. It starts with your speech. So, stay RAD! Kids, when you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, tell yourself to Stay Rad! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.
Any last words or thanks your want to leave us with?
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