A couple of weeks ago Morgan Wade was in Austin with his family for the 2016 X Games. At the last minute we asked him if he could stop by for an interview. Morgan, his wife, Natalie, and their new baby boy, Kotter, came by the gym on Thursday morning, the day before the X Games kicked off, and while Natalie got a workout in, we got a chance to speak with Morgan. Morgan is a phenomenal athlete, but more importantly, he is an amazing human - kind, gracious, humble, and full of positive energy. We are so grateful that he agreed to be interviewed amidst a busy schedule, less than 24 hours before he was set to perform on an international stage.
Note on Sound Quality:
We were having some technical difficulties the morning of the interview, so the sound quality is not where we would like it to be. Be sure to turn the sound up. Or, enjoy the written version of the interview below.
Morgan Wade: Enjoy the Ride
Jeremy: All right guys, we’re here with Morgan Wade, the man himself and his new little baby boy, what’s his name, Morgan?
Jeremy: Guys this is an awesome experience for us. Morgan is in town for the X Games here in Austin, Texas. We invited him in, his wife, Natalie, is an avid barbell mover and shaker so she had to get her WOD in and Morgan was able to come in and get an interview in. So we’re super grateful for your time
Morgan: Thanks for having me.
Jeremy: So we’re just going to dive into your story and just get a little background about your experience with the X Games, the sport of big ramp…big vert…I don’t know all there termonology but you can fill us in on where you got started with this.
Morgan: So, basically every kid rides a bike growing up and builds a ramp in their yard out of a couple of pieces of plywood and a block or whatever. And that’s literally where it all started. I have two older brothers and we would always build little make-shift ramps in the yard growing up. I guess when I was fourteen that’s when I really started trying new tricks. I bought a trick bike and just started goofing off with flat ground tricks and stuff. We had a skate park in our local town in Tyler. And it’s kind of all downhill from there. I would go out there all the time and ride. I was home schooled growing up so I would finish my school work by about noon every day and then I’d go to the skate park until it got dark, or much later sometimes. As time goes on you start getting better at it, and then you go to some events, and people start noticing, and you start getting good. That’s how sponsors happen. This is a very short version.
Jeremy: [laughs] Yeah!
Morgan: The more contests you go to the more you get noticed and the more stuff you get invited to. I ended up at a contest that was actually a qualifier for X Games back in 2003 and that was my first X Games, so ’03 I got in there, and every year since. I always rode the park competition though, which is just a course of ramps that are all set up - every course is different, they always change them up. That’s a completely different style of riding then what I’m doing right now. Which I still ride park, but as far as what I’m doing at the X Games now, I’m doing the mega ramp, the BigAir jump. Which I think is an 80 ft. roll in, 70 ft. jump, and 30 ft. quarter pipe roughly. It’s basically one hit. You just roll in, hit two jumps and you’re done. It’s a little easier, there’s a little less thought that goes into it because you just hang on.
Jeremy: Right. I’ve been able to go out the last couple of years and watch you ride, and it’s pretty phenomenal. The mind shift of getting up there, taking that height and the flight. It’s a wild experience. From what I’ve watched the last two years, you’ve medaled. Previous to that, how many medals do you have in the X Games?
Morgan: So 2006 was the first time they had the BigAir event. Like I said, I’ve been in since ’03 and 2006 was the year that I actually medaled, but it wasn’t in the big air event, it was actually in the park event. I got silver in the park event, that was my first medal. All of the other ones that I got since then, I have seven total now, have been in the BigAir event.
Jeremy: And the last two years you were what?
Morgan: So I got second place the last two years. They added a new event, what they call BigAir Doubles, which basically they take the top skaters from the skate comp and the top bikers from the bike comp and add our scores together. We all rode again, and then they add our scores together and kinda made teams and made a different aspect that the people would watch, And that one we actually one last year. So me and Bob Burnquist teamed up and won that won.
Jeremy: So what do you think this year, to take gold is going to take?
Morgan: [laughs] I think it’s going to take keeping my rubber side down. That’s usually a good start, trying not to crash. I mean that ramp can be very dangerous if you don’t respect it. But as long as I can keep my wheels down and keep rolling, I think I’ve got some stuff that might be worthy of the podium at least. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t ever really worry as much about the color of the medal, I just like to get top three.
Jeremy: Absolutely. So kinda like stepping back into your story of getting started with BMX and riding, and growing up in the city of Tyler…what first came to mind is ten thousand hours of developing your craft and your skill. So it sounds like you were just putting in hours upon hours of work.
Morgan: Lots. I mean, it didn’t feel like work. But looking back, of course that’s what it was. It’s time on tools. The more you do something, the better you get at it. I don’t think I can even count how many hours I put into it…riding a bike…because it’s so much fun.
Jeremy: Yeah. And it’s like second nature to you.
Morgan: Oh yeah. And if you talk to anyone that does something that involves a tool of some kind, if you use that enough it becomes like an extension of your body. For me, I don’t have to think. It’s all muscle memory. Like riding a bicycle. All the certain tricks, I mean I can just do it. I do a lot of shows for like schools, CrossFit events, stuff like that, and a lot of the tricks we do - I could probably do blindfolded. My body just knows how to do it. Tell it what to do and it just goes. Like autopilot.
Jeremy: Right. So you know, a lot of experts in the area of mind and flow state talk about this arena like athletes like yourself and a lot of the competitive athletes get in to - is there a certain mind shift? Or how do you get into this mentality when you’re about to do these tricks or do your thing? Is it just muscle memory or do you have any triggers that you do to get you into the position to do what it is that you do?
Morgan: Ahhh…it’s probably a combination of both. When you’re at a big event, you definitely have to psyche yourself up a little bit. You might be trying something new, or something that has maybe not worked out in the past, or a different trick you’re trying to stick…you’re definitely pushing the limits of your abilities so you have to get yourself in the right mindset for it. For the most part it is also muscle memory because you’re just doing what you know how to do. Before every run I always just pray that God’s will will be done. Whenever I’m up there, usually you’ll see me - they’ll say “Okay, go!” and I always take a little pause. I literally sit there and I’m like, “Your will be done Lord. If you want me to land this trick, then I’ll land it. And if not then I just pray that you’ll be glorified by it.” And that’s literally what goes through my head every single time a take a run in a big contest.
Jeremy: That’s awesome. So you always pull the worm out somewhere. [laughs]
Morgan: [laughs] That’s my go-to, that’s the embarrassment trick. So if you act silly and goofy when you screw up you’re way less likely to feel like a doofus. So I just do the worm or some stupid dance move and the crowd loves it. I actually made Sports Center Clip of the Week one time for doing the worm after a crash. So who knew that you could crash in a contest and still get Clip of the Week on ESPN. [laughs]
Jeremy: [laughs] That’s awesome! I mean you wear…last year you might have had the Texas flag or maybe you had the flag on?
Morgan: We’re in Texas, I gotta play to my people, you know? This is the third year that the X Games have been in Austin. The first year, we were at HEB and one of my sponsor, Empire BMX, they bought us a gift card for HEB. So we can buy food and stuff while we’re down here for X Games. So we’re over there, we’re getting some grub, we had some friends in, we rented a house, and we were always hanging out and I’m in the checkout line and I look and there’s a bunch of flags sitting there. Little Texas flags. I was like, “I’m buying this, and I’m pinning it to my shirt tomorrow for the contest.” And sure enough, best move I’ve ever made, right there. I literally safety pinned that thing to the back of my shirt. There were I think 40,000 people at the bottom of the ramp at that event and they all went nuts when they saw the Texas flag and I was like “Yeah we’re doing that again next year.” [laughs] So the next year I actually had one of my sponsors make me a shirt and the Texas flag was printed on the back of it. And this year we’re going to do something similar.
Jeremy: That’s so awesome. So tell me, who are all of your sponsors?
Morgan: Oh gosh, putting me on the spot! [laughs] I always forget one when I try to list them off the top of my head. So Hoffman Bikes, Maxxis Tires, Noveske Rifflesworks..I think I’m the only action sports guys with a gun sponsorship…Silencer Co., PRIME Ammo…I actually have an ammunition sponsor too, it’s pretty fun I like to shoot if you can’t tell, ETHIKA Underwear, Team Multicam basically it’s a camouflage pattern, they do a lot of stuff with the military and most of it is charity stuff. Like all the guys on the team, everything goes toward raising money for military families that need help. (not mentioned in this segment but noted post-recording: Traxxas, Gas Monkey Energy, Atomic High Performance, and Elite Bicycles)
Jeremy: What about your teeth? Didn’t you have something in the previous years?
Morgan: [laughs] Yeah. So Dr. Jayson Terres out of Tyler Oral Facial Surgery in Tyler, Texas, he actually…I had my teeth all jacked up and one of my friends that’s good friends with him, asked him if he would help me out and fix my teeth because I had knocked my teeth out about six times. I finally got tired of it as was like, “I’m not gonna pay to get these fixed again. It’s too expensive. Whatever, I’m just gonna be a hillbilly.” And he offered to fix them, as charity, because I was too lazy to spend the money to get it fixed again. And basically I said, “Hey I’ll run a sticker on my helmet.” And he was like, “This is awesome!!.” So now I have an oral facial surgeon, he’s actually an amazing, amazing surgeon.
Jeremy: That’s awesome. Though it seems like for you, and hearing all of your stories, fun is like a foundation of your experience. Like you just have a good time.
Morgan: For sure. That’s the root of why I ride BMX in the first place. Because it was fun. And somehow this fun time turned into a job. Here we are fast-forward. What’s it been…nineteen years? And here we are. But yeah, fun is definitely…it’s not always fun but most of the time it’s fun.
Jeremy: Yeah. Takes the edge off.
Morgan: For sure. I don’t have a nine-to-five, I don’t have to sit inside not enjoying what I’m doing for 90% of my week.
Jeremy: No doubt. So tell me, like, kinda getting on that, not having a nine-to-five, what is a daily routine or life look like for you?
Morgan: Well it depends where I’m at. If I’m on a trip or something like that then it’s whatever the schedule is for the day. Wake up - get food - go ride - do a shop tour, we’ll do bike shops or skate shops, or whatever and hang out with kids. Or like the last few months I’ve been on the tour so literally every weekend it’s fly to a new city, set up, get some practice in, put on a show, go back, sleep, and that’s pretty mush all we do. Kind of eat, sleep, ride, repeat. If I’m at home…when I’m at home I always tell people, “I’m on vacation.” Because they’re always like, “Do you have a spot to ride at home?” When I’m at home, that’s my vacation time. [baby cry] Kotter agrees. So yeah…when I’m at home…
Jeremy: It’s family time.
Morgan: It’s family time. Yeah.
Jeremy: That’s great. And so on another note, I see I know you go to Iraq. You’ve been a few times to Iraq, you shot some big guns out there too it looks like. I see it on your Instagram, some of your posts. But tell me about when you go to Iraq and what you’re doing out there.
Morgan: I’m involved with a group, the group is called Bikes over Baghdad and it initiated, the first trip that we ever went on was the Baghdad. And basically what it is is a bunch of guys that ride bikes and we have two of the best ramp builders in the world. I personally thing that Nathan Wesley is the best ramp builder in the world, and he goes on the trips. We show up at bases over in the middle east with whatever they’ve got and then we put on a show. [baby cries] And Kotter agrees, he things it’s fun too. [baby cries] And pretty much, the idea is that we try to make the guys feel like they’re not in the middle of whatever hell hold they’re stuck in for however long. Give them ten minutes of home for a couple of hours and it works. We’ve gotten a really, really good response. We go all over the Middle East now. It’s not just to Iraq. We’ve been down to Africa and all over the place. Two days after X Games here we’re flying over for ten days.
Jeremy: Nice. Well that’s awesome man. And then what is this, on your Instagram, I think you posted a picture of doing a full loop. What was that?
Morgan: So a couple of years ago there was a project going on called full circle where it was literally just this famous full pipe which is a drain off for a lake, water reservoir, and it was up in Wyoming actually, kind of lost to Salt Lake City, it’s the corner of Wyoming, and basically it was - hey, get a handful of guys, go up there and just ride this bike. Because full pipes are really fun to skateboard and ride bikes in and we basically just went for it and to see what we could film, what kind of tricks we could do, and make an edit out of it. So we did that, and I’m kind of somewhat known for looping full pipe, I’m one of the only guys in BMX that actually does that, and that’s probably one of the main reasons I got an invite to go on that trip. And sure enough it worked out. So that was 2013….2012/2013 I forget…but just recently it’s been getting reposted everywhere.
Jeremy: So not that many people have done that?
Morgan: No. There’s probably only like four or five guys that have ever done that.
Jeremy: That’s amazing. All right man, well kind of wrapping up, you said eighteen years in your career?
Jeremy: Nineteen years. So if there’s like a young athlete aspiring to get into this sport and do this and they’re young, teenager…maybe younger, what’s your best advice for that?
Morgan: Best advice? If you want to do this for a living, the best advice is don’t go into it thinking - this is what I’m going to do. I mean, you can definitely have goals. There’s nothing wrong with having goals. But if you’re constantly just chasing sponsorships and being in the big contests, you’re probably going to disappoint yourself. You can definitely make it there. It’s a select few that make it that far. The main thing is - have fun. Enjoy what you’re doing and have fun. If you’re having fun riding your bike, skating, or whatever your passion is, people notice that. And that’s what they notice more than the tricks. There’s guys out there that are phenomenal riders and they can do tricks that none else can do, but they don’t really have a great attitude and they don’t get sponsors. They don’t make it because attitude is actually more important than how good you are on a bike. There’s a very healthy mix of the two. So having fun is number one and something I always say is always always always wear your safety gear. Helmet, pads, stuff like that. You only get one brain. And if you hit your head hard enough you’re not going to be doing anything normal again. I don’t ever ride without a helmet. I wear my safety gear. So that’s number two. But number one is have fun.
Jeremy: Awesome. Well Morgan, we appreciate you. Good luck this weekend. Kill it out there. We’ll be out there watching you. Thank you so much.
Morgan: Thanks for having me.