Words: Miljan Milekić
It’s hard not to love Kevin Peraza. Not only he’s one of the best riders in the world, who won events such as X Games and Simple Session, but he has BMX engraved deep into his DNA. He comes from the BMX family, and he’s showing his love for the sport and the culture everywhere he goes. Ready to show how the BMX lifestyle actually looks like and spreading it to the world, he quickly became the ambassador of the culture itself. With help from our friends at Monster Energy, we had the pleasure to catch up with him at FISE Montpellier earlier this year and bring you this interview. Check it out and enjoy!
Hi, Kevin! So, you come from the real BMX family. Was there ever any dilemma about what you’re gonna do in your life?
Kevin: Yeah, my dad rode BMX back in the day, he started riding in Mexico from when he was about 10. But then, when he and my mom got married, they moved to Arizona and started a family. So, he had to, kind of, move on with BMX and got into cars, got into drag racing, and a bunch of other action sports. Later on, he introduced us to riding BMX. I was about five or six when I started racing and raced until I was 13. David and I raced for a while and then, just seeing photos from him back in the day, riding his local race track and doing tabletops and hitting the curb and just doing big old bunny hops… I thought it was so cool.
From then on, my life continued to where I started going to the BMX track and then going to go ride the street. We didn’t have skate parks in Tucson, Arizona where I live. We didn’t really have any skate parks until just five years ago. We got like an indoor bike park that we’re allowed to ride. There’s a lot of cement skate parks where we got tickets for riding our bikes, which is really unfair. I mean, my mom and dad supported us from day one. We built jumps in the backyard, one of our friends that race BMX helped us get a foam pit. Just a little bit from everyone. One of my dad’s friends owned the restaurant, and he was one of our sponsors. He would help us with food, hotels, and travel. Then, we got hooked up by bike shops. Some of my best friends worked at the bike shops, and they would give us parts when we couldn’t afford them. There was always a struggle, always. But now we’re here. Everyone starts from somewhere and if you believe in yourself, you can get somewhere. It’s pretty, pretty incredible.
Back in 2013, you took the shocking win at Simple Session, practically coming from nowhere. However, in the next few years, you showed it was anything but a coincidence. Do you remember that event, and how much did that win help you to kickstart your competitive career?
Kevin: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Simple Session is always so hard to get invited, you know. And being a younger rider with not so many sponsors or not so much exposure – no one really knows you, and it’s harder to get the invite. I had friends to try to get me in and then I ended up getting it, it was my second year, the third year ridding Simple Session. And it’s a good time. We get to the party, we get to have a good time. All my friends are there, it’s the BMX park and street, so you have the best street riders and the best park riders, and the dirt riders. Everyone who loves the BMX industry is there – filmers, photographers, etc. It’s just a good time in general. I remember it clearly, just competing against guys like Kyle Baldock, Harry Main, and some of my heroes, Gary Young was there, and Josh Harrington. It’s pretty insane. And I’m a kid and I’m there to have a good time.
When I was younger, it’s not that I didn’t believe in myself, I just didn’t know I was that good. I was just riding, I wasn’t really like trying to win. The night before qualifiers, I ended up qualifying in the final in the top five. Then I said – “I had a good time, so might as well go out again and have a good time with my friends, laugh live, enjoy this life.” The next day, I rode, I was happy, my friends were there, and I just felt really good on my bike. I put two good runs together and ended up having one of the highest scores of the day and then ended up doing the trick that I’d never done before, which was a 540 opposite double downside tailwhip. I have no idea how I did it, but it worked. That ended up being one of the biggest prizes, and a big start to my career. I won one of the biggest contests in Europe, in the world, to start the year. I remember I cried. I think it was Harry Main on the podium and Michael Beran. It was the gnarliest contest. You can imagine how many riders were there. I was so lucky to walk away healthy, and with the first place, it’s just the blessing on the top. It’s so cool. And then that year I got invited to X Games Brazil as an alternate and started doing other contests.
You won the Dirt contest in 2016, but last year you finally took the BMX Park win at the X Games. How did it feel to finally take that one home, and how motivated you are to repeat the success?
Kevin: It’s so crazy because I when was a kid I used to watch X Games on the TV, in videos, and when I would read magazines. I was a kid, you know, I started from nothing and I had all these heroes, I had my David Beckham in BMX, so it’s super rad to be at X Games, just to watch. And then, being an invited athlete, it felt like I was already winning just to be there. Winning a gold medal at X Games in the dirt was so crazy. The year after, in 2017, I ended up winning X Games park and getting a gold medal in that as well. I couldn’t believe it, and it’s a huge motivation because as a kid, I used to just dream about going to watch it and being able to win one gold medal, it gives me so much faith in myself to do it again. If I can do it once, I can do it again.
Hopefully, that motivates kids, because I really started from nothing man, with the support of my mom and dad, and my older brother and loving what we did, and really just enjoying what we do and forgetting about sponsors and being famous and everything. At the end of the day I ride my bike regardless, so walking away with a gold medal is really, really incredible. I still can’t believe it to be honest. It’s such a blessing in my life. I have two little brothers that are following in our footsteps, so hopefully I can motivate them and the rest of the kids that look up to me or that want to ride BMX or skate or scooter or whatever. It’s a free world. Do what you want and enjoy it! I think that’s the key in life, is to enjoy what you do.
I also know you are a big fan of the Vans Pro Cup and some other contests. What are your favorite events and why?
Kevin: Ooh, I love all the BMX events. I like to ride a little bit of everything. I grew up racing and then riding trails, and since we didn’t have skate parks, I rode street, so I always liked riding the street as well. But then when I started riding cement skate parks, I fell in love with ramp riding. I’ve always been a huge fan of cement parks, and the US Open event was always so rad. And now that the Vans Pro Cup is doing a world series it’s so cool as well. I think my favorite event has always been FISE Montpelier, the party, the contest, the course, everything. There’s been a Pro Cup event, it’s Ruben Alcantara’s park in Malaga, and that skatepark is amazing, it’s like a dream come true to ride there. It’s like being at Disneyland. You’re there with the best riders in the world riding one of the best cement skate parks in the world, and not to mention it’s Ruben‘s park. He designed it for BMX riders. It’s perfect.
But as far as events man, as long as I’m healthy, and I’m invited, and I can go, and have the travel budget, and my friends are going, I’m going to try and go. I’m going to try and have a good time all the time. Life is too short to be miserable, you know. And like I said, if I’m healthy, I’m going to keep going. Even when we do have injuries, we still try to be positive, we try to come back stronger, and we try to learn from our mistakes and grow and really just enjoy it. FISE Montpellier is probably one of my favorite events, Simple Session as well, all the Pro Cup events. I think the US Open is so cool, it’s at the beach, my whole family gets to go, it’s really close.
Obviously, X Games it’s a dream come true, man. There are so many events that I wish I could go to and try to make it to, but my schedule is all over the place. But little by little, I’ve been riding more street, so hopefully, I can get an X Games street invite one year. I recently filmed an ‘X Games Real BMX’ video with Juan Zurita. He’s Coco Zurita’s younger brother, he is a vert rider, and we worked super hard on this video part for X Games. I’m really excited for everyone to see it. Hopefully, next year or the year after I could get an X Games street invitation and try to do good as well, and just try to have a good time. I will try to finish the weekend as best as I can, and walk away healthy, and do it all over again the next weekend.
Obviously, you are successful at contests, but also your video parts are some of the best in the scene. ‘Arizona Fire,’ your ‘Illustrated’ part, or the stuff you did with Pat Casey are easily some of my favorites. How do you maintain to be on the top of your game in both things?
Kevin: Like I said, I love riding my bike, regardless if I’m on a video trip or if I’m gonna do a contest or I’m going to be hanging out with my friends. If I go for six days in Europe for a contest and then I’m home for six days, I’ll be riding the next six days anyway. So I try to always get videos done, I film with my little brother now, I have other filmers that we go to. Sometimes I get bored being home, so I drive to California and hang out with Pat Casey. We just motIvate each other and film with each other and learn together, and that’s how we grow. Try to ride with the best and learn from the best. He’s one of my favorite riders, so it’s cool that I get to call him a brother in BMX and get to film projects with him.
Obviously, I want to balance more, have more videos, I want to give more videos to the people. It’s what I have fun doing, so hopefully, I can give myself more time and get more ideas out there for everyone because it really is cool. You show the personality, you show the lifestyle which is more important than the sport itself. Everyone goes through mental stress or troubles, or injuries, and sponsorship struggles, so it’s cool to have people blogging and see people going out of their way to make video projects. It’s so rare nowadays, so many different videos, and so when you get a good video, it’s so cool to have, it’s so cool to watch.
Contests show your skills in the park, but in your videos, you showed us the other side of you – your insane street riding. Today, when riders usually choose one, how do you keep doing the impossible, and be so good in both worlds?
Kevin: I grew up riding BMX, and to me BMX is freestyle. You can ride flatland and do bunny hop tricks all day long, or you can do a wheelie, you know, a manual from one street to another all day long, or you can go to one of the best skateparks in the world. If you’re with your friends, and you’re with good people that you want to ride with, you’re going to have fun regardless. So I think, riding street with my friends and riding dirt, and riding park and, and skateparks and bowls, and even vert sometimes; It’s BMX, it makes me better, and it gives me something else to look forward to, I’m learning as well. I’m also a big fan of flatland, and I love it. I wish I could do flatland.
You’re sponsored by companies like Monster Energy and Vans, both of whom are really active in the scene, and seem to care for much more than just advertisement and selling their product. How is it to be part of their teams?
Kevin: It’s crazy riding for Vans when guys like Gary Young are on my team. It’s so crazy to be on a team trip with guys like Gary Young, Scotty Cranmer, and Dakota Roche. They are some of the best riders in the world, and I think it’s super cool. I feel the love, I feel the respect, and I feel welcomed. They are the guys that I used to see in the magazines, it’s so crazy. Obviously, riding for Monster, you are with the best riders in the world you’re with a big company that has nothing to do with BMX. So it’s cool to have Monster supporting BMX riders. It’s cool to see events, pushing and bring in new contests to the world and giving everyone something to look forward to. Guys like Sergio Layos that don’t really ride FISE, but they can ride the Vans Pro Cup. It’s so cool to see all the different styles of riding, and to be a part of one of the best shoe companies in the world, and to have the best riders in the world. It’s pretty incredible.
One of your sponsors is Mongoose, who you did your signature bike with. Can you describe the experience of working on a signature bike, and what were the most important things for you while designing it?
Kevin: Being on Mongoose is pretty cool as well, pretty incredible. My dad used to ride a Mongoose when he was a kid, and he used to dream about riding for the company. For me to get a signature frame, on one of the most iconic cycling brands in the world, it’s incredible, man. It’s pretty insane. I got to design my own frame, create my own logo. It’s called La Familia, which means the family, you know, in my life family is everything. Without family, you’re nowhere, so I thought it’d be perfect to do that. I also got to design the frame how I wanted. They were all American made, more like a collection item and hopefully, we can get more out to get sent out to the world, for kids to have.
I think it’s super cool that a company like Mongoose is doing another pro frame again since the late eighties. I think that’s the last time they did a pro frame. I’ve been to the office, it’s so much history. They have some of the first BMX bikes and first actual bikes where kids used to pretend to be the motocross. That’s just history, and what I love to do, and it’s just crazy to be a part of that. To add on, and to continue the history with the brand, and with my dad the legacy of the brand, with my family and my brothers and everyone. I got all my brothers on a Mongoose frame right now. All of them. They don’t ride for the company, but they’re all supporting me and each other, and that’s family. I think that’s so cool.
Drawing is one of your hobbies. Did you ever think about doing a custom paint job on your bike?
Kevin: Sometimes I get bored. I used to paint Zebra on my bike because of Garrett Reynolds. I used to have crazy colors because of Aaron Ross. I used to put like paint splatter, blood splatter with paint, just make it look super different so people can see the difference. I always want my bikes to look different and pretty, then I got white tires, and I’m obsessed. I think they are so sick. Like, unique colors where you can also combine it with your clothing, and make it look like art, and instead of being uniformed. It’s just style, at the end of the day. If you can make BMX look cool with how you dress and how you ride, it’s one big show, and you are one big image with it. The way you enjoy it and do yourself and show your personality has a lot to do with how your bike looks and how it feels. Like, my bikes – four pegs, free coaster, and no breaks. I’m riding park contests, and trails, and I love street, it’s what I love to do, and that’s how I want my bike. It really is. It’s freedom at the end of the day, and no one should ever tell you what your bike should look like or not. Do your thing, always.
I know you’re a huge fan of music, and used to play drums. Do you still play, and did you think about making a music project as another way of expressing your creativity?
Kevin: Oh, I wish. I did a jazz band and band in the orchestra when I was in elementary and middle school. And then in high school, I did one semester of a drum line, but then it was too expensive to buy drums, and I just wanted to ride my bike anyways. But there are times where I want to play drums again. Pat Casey is a drummer, so I always watch him play drums, and I want to play again. I’m really into music. I listen to every kind of music, I’m not picky. I love rap music as well.
Recently, because of filming video projects, and getting the rights to songs, to the music is so hard, I want to learn how to make my own beats and learn how to play other instruments. I feel like it would give me like a different hobby as well, and clear my mind from stressful contests, and long trips. Or when I’m relaxing, or I’m injured, I can play music. I think it’s super cool, and with music you motivate yourself. If I can create my own beat that I like and listen to it and ride to the rhythm of the music, you can almost make it into art. You can create a video with the music that you made, with your style of writing, and just create this project, that no one’s ever done before. I think that’d be cool, get a keyboard and make beats and trap music, whatever. Drum again, if I have to, I think it’d be cool. I’m definitely into the music aspect. I just have to give myself the time, for sure.