By Peter Madsen – In the action sports world, the story of somebody stomaching a crappy, dead-end job for the sake of riding is nothing new. After all, you gotta pay to play, right? But a story like Jamie Bestwick's -- that of a rider in his mid-20s leaving not only a career-job but a place in life he enjoyed -- stands as something exceptional.
As an unemployed lad in his mid-20s, Vert rider Jamie Bestwick happened into a stint at an aerospace inspection and repair center. What began as a simple means to a paycheck grew into a source of curiosity and satisfaction as he began inspecting the fan blades of airplane engines. Sound tedious? Not for Bestwick, who said he became fascinated by the science despite harboring no interest in ever clutching a joystick. In 1996, however, Bestwick left friends and family and booked one-way tickets for himself and his wife to rural Pennsylvania. There at Woodward Camp -- home of some of the finest ramps in the world -- Bestwick gave his vert-riding potential a long overdue check-ride.
Now 37 years old, Jamie Bestwick has dominated the Dew Tour BMX Vert competitions, having earned four straight Dew Cups to date. He's since purchased homes in both State College, Pennsylvania, and in his native Derbyshire County, close to the friends and family he visits during downtime. In the following conversation, Jamie talks a little about the European airline industry (tickets go for a couple pounds, apparently) before backtracking a bit to his BMX roots yonder in Derbyshire. Skip to the end for Bestwick's plans and endorsements for the 2009 competition season.
So you really dug your job as an engine inspector... Had you gotten a degree in Aerospace Engineering for that?
No, I just worked my way through the company, I just started at the bottom and worked my way up to become one of the inspectors. I used to just inspect compression engine blades and that was my job, six days a week. As time went on I realized just how much I loved working with the aerospace stuff. We repaired everybody's blades, whether it'd be GE, American Airlines, Saudi airlines, Asian airlines–they all came to us. The environment I worked in was real good–I've got a lot of friends there I still keep in touch with.
So do you find that the commercial airline industry is still pretty healthy in the UK?
It's pretty healthy in the UK. As opposed to America, [European] air fares are very competitive–it's not unheard of that people are paying a dollar for airfare. It just depends. A couple of my buddies just got airfare to the World Championships that cost them two pounds! It actually cost them more for the taxi ride to the airport than it did the flight from England to Germany.
So you never wanted to get a private pilot's license?
No, I'm not really interested in flying. I know the ins-and-outs of it all, but you're at the mercy of the pilot and the other men flying up in the plane and I don't want that much responsibility.
Growing up outside Nottingham, which has a quarter of a million people, it seems like you would have a lot of stuff to ride, along with a good BMX scene, too. Was that the case growing up?
Where I grew up back in England there wasn't a whole lot to ride. The ramps were pretty scarce--just a little vert ramp here, a mini ramp somewhere, a set of jumps, and a BMX track. It wasn't like today where we have huge skate parks and places like Woodward Camp. We got our team on the streets and on BMX tracks.
Was there a lot of trail riding in the forests around Nottingham?
I guess there are trails, but they're not trails that a BMX rider would like. It's more a matter of getting on a cruiser bike or a mountain bike and taking a leisurely ride–that wasn't really something that interested me. But all around England, however, we have a lot of great BMX trails. Growing up, I rode a couple skate parks and some backyard mini ramps and half-pipes. It was pretty much anything I could get my hands on.
Were the skate parks like the wave parks from the 70s?
No, that would have been amazing. There were a few places in England that had the old 70s skate park setup. But the area skate parks then were unfortunately restricted to a five-foot mini ramp or a ten-foot-high dirt ramp, or a very simply laid out BMX track. The first time I started riding freestyle was at a BMX club that had one kick-turn ramp and one seven-foot quarter-pipe. It wasn't a mecca of riding, like some of the facilities are today, but still it was a place that I could go and just enjoy riding BMX bikes. The club finished a long time ago.
What's the BMX climate in Nottingham now?
BMX in both Nottingham and England is just huge. There are a lot of great UK companies and there are a lot of great riders. Some English riders will be coming over for the Dew Tour this year. Harry Main and Mark Webb are absolutely phenomenal riders who are lighting up the internet at the minute. They're doing some of the most talked about tricks. There is a huge pool of talent over in Europe that is untapped.
What parts of the Dew Tour are you looking forward to? You're going to the China Invitational, too, right?
I'm looking forward to going to China again and competing. It was a great time last year and the Chinese are very hospitable. With the Dew Tour, it'll be interesting to see all the riders. I'm always interested in the new talent coming up through the ranks and making their mark on BMX.