When Kelly McGarry was 11 years-old, much shorter and was yet to grow his trademark long blonde locks, he used to bike all the way from his family home in Wakefield to the Tahunanui BMX Track. “I was so keen to come in and ride with my mates. I loved it,” he said.
The 32 year-old professional freeride mountain biker – who this year signed with YT Industries – was back where it all began last night, giving tips to youngsters at the Nelson BMX Club. However, this time he caught a lift.
The event, titled Crankin’ with Kelly, was part of the month-long Konica Minolta Bikefest Nelson, where various bike-related activities are being held across the region.
“It’s great to come back to Nelson and to see everyone so stoked on riding and every little thing about bike riding. If I can offer something back to the kids I’m gonna and the response has been awesome so far,” he said yesterday.
“We’ve been in for some school visits and the kids have been so pumped so I’m stoked to be back in my hometown.”
McGarry, who is also a qualified carpenter and helps builds tracks around the world, started off as a BMX rider but quickly outgrew his bike. “I got really tall and mountain bikes were the next logical thing because I fitted on them a bit easier and I liked to ride up in the hills and on rough tracks.
“I always dreamed of making it a career. When I lived here and was riding in Nelson that all seemed so far away, I didn’t know if it’d ever happen. But as soon as I started travelling and doing good in the comps it worked out. I couldn’t be happier to do my passion for a job.”
McGarry’s professional pathway came about when he started travelling across Europe and participating in slope-style and freeride events, where the focus is more about creativity, skill and the ridiculous tricks on display.
His most ridiculous feat was a back flip across a canyon in Utah during the Red Bull Rampage in 2013. Since uploading the video on to YouTube it has reached a staggering 23 million viewers. “I guess I never really expected it would have that many views when I clicked the camera on top of the run but a lot of people have seen it and it brought mountain biking to a lot of people and they can see what the view from my office is like. I’m stoked with how it went.”
Though Nelson is becoming a mecca for mountain biking in New Zealand, slope-style or freeriding is barely seen here. McGarry hopes that might change one day but it will need some proactive riders to ensure that it does.
“Hopefully it will in the future because that avenue in the sport is growing a lot. It’s progressive and exciting but if they want to get into it at this stage of the game they have to go out and chase it, get to the places where slope-style and free-ride competitions are happening.”
McGarry finished ninth on the FMB World Tour in 2013 and was 11th last year. As for 2015? “I want to keep competing for as long as it’s still fun. I’m going to do some more travel to some crazy places and I want to keep living the mountain bike dream. I reflect and I do think I’m pretty lucky. I really appreciate what I do. It took a lot of hard work to get to where it is now but it’s all worth it.”
Photo: MARION VAN DIJK
The Nelson Mail
11 February 2015