Omi

How does someone become a pro BMXer?

There was a pro from my area that I sort of grew up with [in Wisconsin], his name is Dave Freimuth. He was 10 years older than me but he’s still one of my best friends. I looked up to him growing up because he was local but also known all over the world. I loved how he rode, I loved his skills on the bike but I also loved everything about his lifestyle. I grew up playing ice hockey, that was my main sport. BMX was always my hobby but a hobby that I loved and was passionate about. After high school was over I didn’t really play hockey as much and when I went to college at UW-Madison I started competing [in BMX] all over the country. I won a major event that sort of forced me to go pro when I was in my sophomore year.

What made you want to create The Bakery?

Someone actually asked me that earlier today. They were like, “So wait, you use this facility to basically promote your competition?” I was like, “Well, yeah,” because technically they’re my competition but we’re all friends, especially in my sector of BMX which is street riding. We’ve been on trips and traveled the world together so I wanted to take advantage of that by having some of these guys come visit me and ride my spot, [The Bakery], which is basically my paradise that I built. The selfish component of that is that I have a place to ride 24 hours a day, anytime I want, rain or shine. A lot of hard work went into building it and making it happen.

Where else can we find you riding in the city?

The best place is along the bike path right by the museum campus. It’s right next to the water so it’s fun if you are cruising on a nice day. It has a beautiful skyline view right on the lake and then there’s this big concrete wall. It’s almost like a big curve that goes on and on for 200 yards, maybe longer, and you can almost carve up on it. It looks like a BMX ramp but it wasn’t meant to be ridden, obviously. The great thing about Chicago is the city is always changing so your tricks always change.

Do you have a signature trick?

I’m a street rider so that is basically riding on the street in a natural environment on stuff that wasn’t necessarily made to BMX on. You see the big ramps, the jumps, the dirt jumps and stuff like that, those were made to ride on. I do it all but the stuff that I excel in is the street riding aspect of it which is staircases, hand rails and things like that.

What is the best part about your job?

It’s active, it’s creative and there is a lot of camaraderie. I have friends from every continent, in every corner of the globe that do this kind of thing. I’ve traveled to over 30 countries doing this. It’s a really neat and unique thing.

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Favorite place you’ve visited?

New Zealand. It was beautiful, just gorgeous and the attitude of the people there was amazing. They seem to have it all figured out. They live lightly but are also really motivated and don’t forget to have fun, which is really important to me. The places I like to travel to are places where I’m completely out of my element. My goal every day is to get out of my comfort zone, one way or another. That is really the only way I grow, is to do something I feel as uncomfortable or learn something new so I don’t get stuck in a routine. When you go to places like China, Russia, Thailand and Brazil, especially when you can’t speak the language, everything becomes a challenge. Ordering a beer becomes a challenge.

When you aren’t traveling, what are some of your hangouts in Chicago?

There are a couple of cool places where I live in Pilsen that I just recently discovered like Simone’s and Skylark that are really chill bars. Simone’s is really cool, it’s got a really unique interior. It almost feels like you’re inside of a pinball machine but it’s not really loud or obnoxious like you’d expect when I say pinball machine.

You took home the bronze medal at X Games 16 in L.A. and the silver at X Games Asia the following year. What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?

Both of those were big. I obviously didn’t expect it or didn’t ever set out for that to be my goal. I just rode my bike and had fun. I’ve won some big stuff. I’ve had magazine covers that my mom was really proud of but out of all of the medals, the covers and all of that stuff, I think really the biggest accomplishment for me is the friends that I’ve made, the people I’ve seen and the things I’ve done. It’s the people around you that make it all worth it and make it the best time of your life. That stuff I wouldn’t trade for the world. You could take away the medals and I’d still just absolutely love my life because of the people in it.

How was the experience of designing your own shoe for Etnies?  

I’ve been with Etnies since 2004 but I just got asked last year to design a shoe. I wanted it to be fashionable and functional, to reflect my life story. I grew up in a small town and now live in the big city so there is dichotomy there. I wanted the best of both worlds, for it to be comfortable and homey but also have the look of a big city and be sleek and fashionable.

What is it like to have such a large fan following across the globe?

It’s incredible. I just got a birthday present from these two kids that live in New Jersey and it was the coolest present because they included so many unique things and you could tell that they had read my tweets and Facebook posts. They sent me these little mustache band-aids and other little cool things. Like, how did they notice that I think mustaches are funny? What really blows me away is when you’re in another country and someone who doesn’t even know how to say hello [in your language] comes up and knows your name and you can speak to each other via BMX tricks. That blows my mind and I think it’s just really humbling. I love that BMX gives you that common bond with people who I may have never otherwise come across or been associated with otherwise.

If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?

Anthony Bourdain from “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel. He goes everywhere and I’m super jealous of that. I love the way that he carries himself, he’s funny yet informative and he has a good time. He really immerses himself in the culture which is what I always try to do when I travel. We could trade stories and travel tips.

Photography by Neal Agustin

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Omi