Remember that guy in high school who spent all of his free time at the skate park on his tiny BMX bike and swore someday he'd turn pro? Remember how you always figured he was full of hot air, especially since he picked on you all the time for being a super nerd?
That guy was Austin Coleman
and we went to high school together. One of Ride
Magazine's Top 10 Riders to Watch in 2003, he's in Portland for the next few days competing in the Vans Invitational AST Dew Tour. While the tour is in town, the Rose Quarter will be overrun with BMX, skateboarding, and motocross enthusiasts. But at least Portland is benefiting from it: Vans, sponsor of the Portland Invitational event, just donated $10,000 to the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
Coleman, 23, has been riding park (where dudes bike around a obstacle course full of ramps and pipes) professionally for the past six years, but he's competing for only the third time in vert (where dudes ride up a 15-foot or taller half pipe) at the AST Dew Tour.
Even though I remember Coleman, who is originally from Los Angeles, as a bully from high school, I though I'd find out what he's really like, now that he's all grown up and semi-famous (and I am still a super nerd).
WW: You've been to Portland several times in past decade while on road trips up and down the West Coast. Why do you keep coming back?
Portland has an awesome BMX scene. In Oregon and Washington in particular there's a lot of great skate parks and trails: Beaverton, and of course Burnside, which everyone knows about. The locals here are really great, because they're really into riding their bikes and keeping their trails up.
What do you do in Portland when you're not riding?
It's funny, because in most cities I go to I have favorite spots, like I've gotta go to such-and-such in Austin or such-and-such in New York, but in Portland, not really. I suppose it's because Portland is very culture-rich, and from my observation, there's lots of different factions and segments to it, so every time I come here I like to see something new.
Okay, be honest. Is it weird being interviewed by someone you went to high school with, especially someone you made fun of all the time?
I didn't make fun of you all the time! I was frustrated by a lot of things in high school, and I thought you were frustrated by a lot things, too. I felt like we saw eye-to-eye on that, but at that point in time neither of us had very good communication skills. And you just assumed the worst about me all the time!
Maybe I had a chip on my shoulder in high school. Coleman's not such a bad guy, after all. He graduated from University of Southern California with a degree in Urban Planning in 2006, and he just bought his first house in Greenville. And, yes, he's a good athlete: He pulled off a double downside tailwhip twice during last night's vert prelims—a trick almost never seen in vert competitions. Plus, he's qualified for the finals in vert, and this was only his third professional attempt at the event.
But his most endearing quality? Every rider in vert gets to choose the music played while they ride. Coleman's choice: James Brown.
“Last year I rode to Prince,” he says. “I had to find something to top that.”
See Austin Coleman compete in the vert final Friday at 7:45 pm. Three-day passes for the AST Dew Tour are $35—but you can win a pair of day passes here or here. For a complete listing of events, go check out the tour's website.
Here's Austin in action: