Words: Miljan Milekić
Senad Grošić is much more than just another BMX rider. His influence goes way beyond that. He may not be the biggest name in the game, but the European BMX scene would look much different if it wasn’t for him. One of the pioneers of the sport in Austria and the Balkan region, as well as the real ambassador of the sport worldwide, he did it all. From riding contests to bringing the BMX in places such as Saidi Arabia, from making funny projects to promote the culture, to creating literal art. We used the sad circumstances of everyone being quarantined because of the COVID-19 to jump into his otherwise insanely busy schedule, and caught up with him for an interview.
Hi Senad! Thank you for doing this, and thank you for your time. So, what have you been up to these days?
Senad: Lots of riding my road bike and training home alone. The virus is taking all the fun stuff out, but I’m doing good, and I hope all is gonna be good soon.
In recent years, we don’t see you riding contests that often, but you still have a lot going on, including some amazing projects. What’s your focus at the moment?
Senad: I love competing, and I always did, but after 26 years of riding, priorities change. I still go to some contests, but not that often. I love riding shows and having BMX schools for kids. Lately, I had some cool photo projects with Lorenz [Holder], and we won some really cool prizes with them, super proud of that.
Last year, you were involved in two amazing projects, profiling yourself even more as the BMX ambassador. Can you tell me more about Thunder Days and School2Rock? I grew up in a country with a non-existent BMX scene, and I can only imagine how important events like those are for getting BMX to the wider audience.
Senad: School2Rock is one of these projects with kids, and there is nothing better than to see their progress and how much fun they have on their bikes. The energy when they ride in front of 20 000 people and pull their dream trick for the first time is priceless.
Thunder Days is the first-ever Austrian competition, We did a C1 event and the Austrian Championship. Now that BMX is an Olympic sport, we got the opportunity and help to do something, so we started an Austrian contest series. It’s very tough to do something for the first time, but I had great help from Christian Kohl, and Alex, and some other friends. It would be impossible without them. We try to grow it a bit every year, and next time, we’re gonna have a bigger and better park I was super stoked that so many good riders (boys and girls) from all over the world visited Austria and rode the competition.
So, as I said, you are a huge ambassador of the sport, and I would love to give you a chance to tell us more about what’s going on in the Austrian BMX scene at the moment. Who should we pay attention to?
Senad: The scene is still small compared to other countries, but we are a small country too. (laughs) There are definitely kids out there killing it. We have one of the original flatland riders – Sebastian ‘Wastl’ Grubinger, there is a decent street scene, but the most motivated park kid at the moment is Kevin Böck. Watch out for him, he is a machine.
OK, ‘Nailed It.’ How the hell did you guys get the idea to do it, and how challenging was it to actually throw tricks in such a narrow space?
Senad: This was fun, man! (laughs) I always wanted to do something in a, kinda Home Depot market, ’cause you have all the tools, wood, and lots of crazy shit there. So one day, I present the idea to Red Bull and they liked it. I talked to Corey [Bohan] and he said – yes let’s do this. The challenging part was to film this in two and a half days, they close the shop at 12 o’clock on Friday, and open it at 7 o’clock on Monday! So, we did not have a lot of time, but we managed to have lots of fun and almost no sleep. But it was worth it, the whole team was on fire, and in the end, we had a cool video.
Did you ever have any negative feedback on any of your projects? I know that some BMX purists or younger guys can be very loud with pointing their fingers and shouting “sell out,” especially at stuff like ‘Nailed It’ or your Audi commercial.
Senad: 1000 is gonna love you, and 2000 is gonna hate you! Of course, people are pointing fingers and saying stuff, but none of these guys had the balls to point the finger and tell it to me in person. Anyway, I don’t really follow trends or judge people. As long I’m riding and having a good time, and motivating myself to create something, everything is good. If just one person says: “Hey, I really love the things you do,” it has a bigger impact on me than 1000 haters.
There’s one project I’m especially interested in – ‘Riding Thrones.’ I was never a huge fan of the show, and yet, I was amazed by everything – photos, video, nature, architecture, everything. Can you tell me more about it? How was it to ride in a place like that?
Senad: I was never a huge fan, either. (laughs) The funny thing is that Lorenz and his girl were huge fans, and before the trip, Lorenz called us and told us just to watch the first season. He sent a link, and I gave it a go. After ten minutes of the first episode, I turned off the TV and went riding. (laughs) So basically, I was the only person on the whole team who never saw anything of it. It was funny to stand on the original locations, and the whole team would freak out how cool this place is and what happened in the series, and I’ll be the only guy not having a clue. (laughs)
North Ireland is a beauty. It’s a magic place, and it’s the pearl of nature. You can have all four seasons a few times on the same day – cold, rain, sun, fog, wind, and everything else, which made the shooting quite difficult. And the other thing is that Lorenz is a fucking perfection machine, and his meaning of perfect light is completely different the mine as a BMX rider. So basically, the shooting times were from four to eight in the morning, then chill for the rest of the day, and then from around six to forever. (laughs) But in the end, it was worth it.
I love the fact that for you, BMX is much more than just a sport, it’s also like a form of art. You are ready to invest so much time and hard work, to travel around the world for that one perfect shot or a video. What was the most challenging thing you did so far?
Senad: Huuh dude, the most challenging thing was definitely shooting the bridge for Illume. I met Lorenz at the King Of Greens, a golf tournament for extreme sports athletes, which was the coolest event ever. We met and played in the same flight. We had fun and the same kind of humor, he told me that he wanna shoot this one picture with a BMX rider, and I said – “Yes let’s do it!” Few months, or a year later, he rings me up and says – “OK, in October we have to be there.” When we got there, the lake was covered with leaves, and it was impossible to shoot the picture, so we tried to clean the lake with a net and with leave blowers for three days. In the end, we put some styrofoam on a 26m fence and cleaned the lake. By the way, Lorenz strained his ankle the very first day, so he had to manage all this with lots of pain. But again, in the end, it was all worth it. I’m always smiling when I see the photo.
Through most of your career, you had support from Red Bull. How important was their support for you? How did you get involved with them in the first place?
Senad: This is def a crazy story, ’cause it’s 20 years now that I ride for Red Bull, which is crazy. In the beginning, it was a small company. I always loved to drink Red Bull, but I never really had them on my radar for sponsoring. One day, a guy calls me and said he wants to meet and talk about sponsorship. At that time, I was working in a bike shop and rode every single weekend to competitions in Europe, so we talked about sponsoring and how I feel about the brand. A week later, I got a handshake contract, which was the only contract all Red Bull athletes had at that time.
I had sponsors before, but Red Bull was definitely the game changer, they took care of you like a family member. They also got me insurance, which was crazy at that time. Every invite I got started with “Dear Family!” How cool was that? They were inviting us to Formula 1 races and all kinda cool stuff I could not believe, and I never know what to wear at events like this. (laughs) So, the journey started, and I rode contests and shows around the world, had the opportunity to make my own projects, and live from riding a BMX bike. The support they gave me is just unbelievable. Without Red Bull, I would never be where I’m now. THANK YOU RED BULL!
In your opinion, how important is it, for an extreme sports scene in your country, to have a company that’s so involved and so supportive?
Senad: It’s very important for any country to have the right partner who supports the scene and make it bigger.
I know you’re a huge fan of music. Actually, I remember you waiting for your song to start before you drop in at a contest, and kicking it off as soon as ‘Pretender’ starts blasting from the speakers. What are you into these days, and what’s your jam when riding?
Senad: Yes! (laughs) I was always waiting for my song, music is very important and creates this “Go for it feeling.” These days I listen to Def Leppard, Greta Van Fleet, 1000mods, Swollen Members, and many, many more. It depends on how I feel, but when riding bikes, always something loud and fast.
We first met a couple of years ago at Pannonian Challenge in Osijek, which is an event that I know we both hold close to our hearts. How did your story with the Pannonian start, and how do you look at the progress it has made over the years?
Senad: I love Pannonian, and as a Croatian, I love how big it became. The story was that one day, there was a dirt competition in Budapest, and after the award ceremony, Lile and Anita came over and asked if I speak Croatian and where I’m from? We became friends straight away, and he invited me to the second or third Pannonian. The park was a funbox/quarter and a rail, and that’s it, but the city and the people there are the best in the world, lots of super nice girls and cheap drinks and food. This is what the contest dreams are made of. (laughs) I was spreading the word and took a few other pros to the contest the next year. A few years later, Daniel Dhers came, and he never left. I guess he is a Croatian now. (laughs) The Pannonian crew did an amazing job with the park and the concerts and made the biggest festival in Eastern Europe. I’m really proud to be the Pannonian ambassador, I joined the comp now for, I guess 20 years. It’s soooo crazy. I could write a book about this contest, so many good memories. (laughs)
Starting this year, BMX will be part of the Olympics. How do you look at it? Was it something you could even imagine to see when you first started?
Senad: When I first started, I could not imagine something like that could ever happen. I hoped for it, I prayed for it, but never really thought it’s gonna be real. I think it’s the best thing that could happen to the BMX industry. I can’t wait to be there and watch the top guys killing it, and I think after this, the word is gonna see BMX with different eyes.
So, in your opinion, who’s going to be there, and who has the biggest chance of winning it? Also, who are your favorite riders to watch nowadays, and no, you can’t say Marin!
Senad: I hope Marin [Ranteš], ’cause he’s my foster son or adoptive child! (laughs) I love watching Declan Brooks and James Jones, also Logan [Martin], and Daniel Dhers. There are too many really good guys out there. And, of course, the GOAT – [Ryan] Nyquist.
I would now go way back – in 2013 you did a BMX trip to Saudi Arabia, which was one of the first, if not the first-ever BMX trip to the country. However, in the last two years, we even have a FISE event in the country. How was your first trip there, and how much do you think your trip opened the door for BMX in the country?
Senad: I think I was there in 2006 or 05 for the very first time, and it was very, very special in a really good way. I was riding shows for Red Bull for three weeks in a row, and three shows a day sometimes. I remember I had a show at the University of Mecca in front of tons of people, and people appreciated it so much that they started dancing, and it ended up being a huge party! I got invited to the University and became an honorary doctor or honorary member. At that time there was a very strict separation between men and women, but these days it’s a lot more open-minded. We also did an ‘Under My Wings’ project in Saudi Arabia and built a skate park in Medina, I think. So, the scene started to grow, and I’m still in touch with some riders. It makes me happy to see things grow.
So, the last one – what’s next for you?
Senad: I have a project with Canon which I’m really looking forward to, and some other things that we will, hopefully, be able to manage. Thank you for the interview, stay safe, and I hope we’re gonna have a drink at Pannonian!