May 2004 interview by Chris Ard and Jeff Slavik, VintageBMX.com members.
If you rode at all during the 1980's, you know the name. Woody Itson is a flatland legend. Together with other pros such as Martin Aparijo, RL Osborn, and Eddie Fiola, Woody helped push the popularity of the sport to new levels.
Woody was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for us. Enjoy.
VintageBmx: What have you been up to since your freestyle days?
Woody: After I quit riding professionally, I attended college. I was an accounting major at Cal State Long Beach and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business. That and I learned to pay for my gas and lunch money during my senior year by playing 9-Ball in my down time.
After college I was recruited by GT Bicycles (Richard Long & Todd Huffman) and spent the next 10 years working for them running their freestyle program. I basically ran the team and helped design bikes and parts for the freestyle line. After Schwinn had acquired GT and subsequently filed Bankruptcy for the second time, I decided a change was needed. So I met with the folks at Giant and worked out a deal to have them sponsor my team. Most of the old GT freestyle and bmx team members came with me and the rest is history. I've been with Giant for 2 & ½ years and have a deal with them through the end of 2006. There are committed to the team and so am I. Strange job for an accounting major-LOL. But not so strange for a bike rider I guess.
I also recently got married and started a family with my wife Jacqueline. I have a 7 month old baby girl who is the light of my life and two small dogs that take up most of my time. I waited a long time to do this (I will turn 41 this summer-ouch) but I don't feel that old. Anyhow, things for me have been really good, so I can't complain. I feel very fortunate to do what I do for a living and to have the family life I have. In fact, I wouldn't change a thing.
VintageBmx: Do you still ride?
Woody: Yes, but I get tired quicker and I sweat more. It's still fun, but life gets in the way so I don't really ride as much as I would like to, but then again, who does these days. Instead of trying "new school" tricks, I just keep my old ones up the best I can and that's usually enough for me.
VintageBmx: What do you think was the reason for the decline in popularity of freestyle in the late 80's early 90's?
Woody: I'm not sure really? I know the bike industry works in cycles and about that time mountain bikes were becoming all the rage and bmx sales were slowing way down. It's just like anything, things get popular for a while, the market gets saturated, and then they fade a bit. Seeing that I was a bit older than most of the riders that I rode with, I just figured it was time for me to get on with my life (what ever that is suppose to mean) and head down a different path. Fortunately that path lead me right back to bikes. Funny how that works.
VintageBmx: What are your thoughts on the old school vs. new school scenes?
Woody: The old school scene seemed a bit more friendly and accepting to people. Sure we may have dressed a bit flashy, but at least we looked a little different from everyone else we stood next to. Today if you have a pair of black jeans, a black t-shirt, and a trucker cap, you're pro. Well, at least you look like every pro out there and every other person you stand next to at a contest.
The new school seems to have a few more "agendas". They are also quite a bit more territorial than the old school was for sure. We use to be welcomed with open arms if you wondered upon some new place to ride in the middle of no where. Now you need a "bro-bra" pass so you don't get hassled. This is not the case every where, but I hear about it a lot more than I like.
Back "in the day" when we rode, all we cared about was riding. Now everyone wants to be socially conscientious, kind to animals (which I think is great) yet mean to people, and they worry about their "images" like rock stars do way too much. Last time I checked, damaging and defacing someone else's property was considered vandalism, not righteous? Maybe it's just part of getting older, but I don't understand a lot of the attitudes out there today.
VintageBmx: What are your thoughts on old school bikes vs. the current ones?
Woody: Old school bikes were lighter, colorful, had variation to them (every frame didn't look like a carbon copy of every other frame), and were made and designed here is the USA to ride in an upright and comfortable position.
The new bikes are heavier, stronger, and black. They share the same basic design (they all look the same today, just different stickers) and are mostly made over seas. Even the rider owned companies are importing bikes (except for a few) and selling them for the same price as the US frame companies. I have no problem with bikes from over seas, but they should be sold in the same manner they are purchased, very affordably. Also, the new bikes are set up in a way to help kids develop a spinal disorder and shoot around like human lawn darts (no brakes). Every time I see a little kid riding without brakes in the street, I hold my breath. That trend was started by flatlanders a long time ago to progress their riding, that I understand. But to ride around town in the streets without brakes on your bike where there is traffic, is asking to get hurt.
VintageBmx: What do you miss most about the old school?
Woody: All my hair being dark, it's about 40% grey these days. Actually not much to be honest. I had a great time back then and I'm having a great time now.
VintageBmx: Any good stories from back in the day?
Woody: The best stories I could tell you would either take too long or let some things out that should remain in the past. So I am taking the 5th on that one.
VintageBmx: What souvenirs have you kept from your old riding days?
Woody: Quite a bit actually. My gold Hutch trick star, the black & gold Hutch trick star (the one that got stolen on tour and then returned a few years later), two of my signature model diamond back strike zones, some of my personal bars, SST hubs (both coaster brake and FW versions), various Hutch parts, old uniforms, etc.. And a million great memories.
VintageBmx: How many times have you watched "RAD"?
Woody: Only once-LOL.
VintageBmx: Why weren't you in "RAD"?
Woody: I and Martin Aparijo did the very first auditions for Hal Needham the producer of Rad a couple years before it ever came out. I was all set to be in it when I got back from tour that year. When I got home the movie company told us that we wouldn't be paid, that being in the movie was going to be payment enough. I smiled and said no thanks. I had just got off tour, almost 6 straight months, had a bum ankle at the time and didn't feel like getting on a plane and going to Canada for a week for nothing after just getting home. So I called Hutch and told him I wasn't going and Hutch called Rick Molliterno and he went in my place and represented Hutch. Then it came time to film the credits, the flatland scene at the end. I would have done that since it was filmed here local, but I was hurt again and couldn't ride. So I had to pass on being "Rad". But I figure I played a big enough part in the very beginning. Martin and I did something right if our riding was good enough to convince Hollywood to want to make a movie about bikes?
VintageBmx: Do you keep in touch with anyone from the old school?
Woody: I see Mike Dominguez, Brian Blyther, and Dennis Langlais the most. Brian has actually been riding for me and helping me out for the past few years. In the past year I have had the opportunity to hang out with Hugo & Oscar Gonzales, Maurice Meyer, Mark Eaton, Chris Lashua, and Mike Buff. I have spoken with even more on the phone, Voris Dixon, Rich Sigur, Scotty Freeman, and Josh White to name a few. But like I said earlier, life tends to be a bit busy. It's been a couple years since I spoke with Martin, but I know he is doing well. He is probably the person I miss talking to the most. Well, him and Richard Hutchins. Hutch and his wife were very good to me back in the day. I hope things are going well for them.
VintageBmx: Out of all the bikes you've owned from back in the day, which one was your favorite?
Woody: That's easy, my Gold Hutch Trick Star.
VintageBmx: Are you amazed at what the old school stuff sells for on eBay?
Woody: It doesn't really surprise me these days. I really don't follow it that close, but my buddies call me every once in a while and say man you know how much that bike you gave me is worth? One on EBay just sold for $$$$$. We laugh about it, but if I told you guys how much stuff I gave away, it would probably be enough to buy a decent new car or make you cringe.
I collect old hot wheels cars (the ones with the red-line tires) and it's the same thing with them, pretty amazing prices they bring. So if any of you still have your child hood redline hot wheels with redline tires just sitting in an attic and want to do some trading, let me know. I collect them loose or in the package, they just have to be in good shape, just like bike parts.
VintageBmx: What are your future plans?
Woody: To grow old with my wife & family and enjoy life as much as possible along the way each day. Having kids makes you look at the world differently. As to the immediate future, I am going on the road this summer with one of my teams on the Sports Illustrated for Kids Summer Tour. 12 cities from one side of the US, to the other and back. I also plan on adding one more family member to the line up when I return from summer tour. I am looking forward to that the most.
VintageBmx: The movie Body Rock (80's breakdance movie starring Lorenzo Lamas - Woody and Martin were breakdancers), and any stories you might have from it?
Woody: You know, I can barely remember it to be honest. But you can add Quicksilver, Clueless, and a Night at the Roxbury to the list of things to laugh about, I do. Hollywood is a weird place with colorful people. It's not really for me, but the pay is awesome when you can find the work.
Thanks for all the kind words guys. I probably can't duplicate my 10 minute run anymore, but I still have fun riding and for me that is enough. I hope this interview provides your readers with something they feel is worth reading.
Take care, Woody Itson.