When Eddie Fiola rides a BMX the world stops. He makes kids believe in magic, and grown men believe they’re teenagers again. He is respected and loved by all. For he is The King, and none will ever take his throne.
The son of a welder, Edward Lynn Fiola surprisingly started riding a BMX bike at what some would say was a very late age. Earlier on in his life Eddie flirted with skateboarding but only took to his destiny of riding a BMX after the un-timely passing of his father at the age of 14.
At the time, Eddie’s mother thought that he had a death wish, but nothing could be further from the truth, as he was just expressing himself in the only way that a pioneer of a sport could, by pushing every boundary know to that sport, and also to himself. Unfortunately this often ended in him breaking bones and coming home bloody, hence his mothers worry. But with every bloody shin and every broken bone, a sport was changing, and a legend was building.
“With every bloody shin and every broken bone, a sport was changing, and a legend was building.”
Unlike most kids on a BMX, Eddie started riding in skateparks and drainage ditches, not just cruising the streets. He learned to 360 out of the ditches early on, and spent countless hours in the parks mimicking skateboarding moves and mastering what many years later would eventually immortalize him. But we’re talking way back here, so far back that the bikes Eddie and his friends were on would break because what they were doing hadn’t been invented, so there was nothing stronger needed than a stingray bike…yet
After punishing the stingray’s for a couple of more years in the skate parks, Eddie landed his first, but certainly not his last sponsor, Bottema forks. He was still riding a Webco frame (hard to describe, but not very technologically advanced to say the least) but then finally landed a sponsorship with Kuwahara. This of course lead me to the question of Eddie promoting the brand new movie of the time ET, as Kuwahara was the ‘official’ BMX of cute brown aliens in baskets. He toured Japan for a month and a half (there’s a surprise) and still can’t master the fly off into the sky thing.
It was really the next part where history was about to be made, as a couple of months after Eddie came home from Japan he got together with a certain gentleman by the name of Bob Morales and they then in turn got sponsored by GT, and this is where the legend began to really grow.
However I really don’t want to just throw the word legend out there without qualifying it somewhat. I asked Eddie about some rumors that I just HAD to have confirmed. Basically this is the man who first did a 540 on a BMX in a pipe. (1.5 revolutions in the air for all you non-riders and skaters) This is the man that invented (well, Steve Potts did technically, but Eddie told him to do it in the first place!) the aptly named Potts Mod (front brake cable through bolt still used to this very day). This is the man who won four NORA cups. This is also the man that used to turn up un-announced and un-identified to local BMX races and was so fast on his bike, that when he was way out in front of the pack he would pull a 360 over a double jump to woo the crowd and freak everyone out. This is the man that invented the most famous BMX frame in history, the GT Pro Performer, with the famous bend in the top of the frame to allow the brakes to go underneath when doing tricks.
“This is the man that invented the most famous BMX frame in history, the GT Pro Performer”
The fact that Eddie Fiola will always be known as the King of Skateparks, and left as The King of Skateparks, is probably the sealing factor to his fame, as winning at least five of them at the infamous Pipeline (now destroyed) of which four were back to back, and one was with a broken wrist all helps your name become etched in stone.
It’s hard to try to describe the feeling of BMX freestyle at its peak in the 80s. It was so cool and Rad, (and yes, I can not think of any better descriptors) and fluro and energetic and believe it or not, clean, that even being a kid on the fringes of it instantly made you feel different to all your peers. When you rode you felt like you were associated with all of those descriptors that I can never repeat again in the same sentence. You were totally free and there was nothing but you and your bike and the challenge of learning a new trick. It was very similar to the feeling of the time that the original Bones Brigade (Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain and Tommy Guerrero) gave to skaters. Especially around the release of the famous movie Powel Peralta made titled The Search for Animal Chin (1987).
“You felt like you were witnessing the birth of something so great you just had to be a part of it”
You felt like you were witnessing the birth of something so great you just had to be a part of it, and it all really peaked in 1986 with the release of the cult BMX (and not just for BMX fans) movie directed by Hal Needham, RAD. With a power 80s soundtrack by our own Johnny Farnham (I dare you to YouTube Rad the movie intro/endtro to see Eddie and the guys in all their 80s glory. Eddie is basically the entire endtro section) it was just geared for success. It just so happened that this was the movie that ended up helping Eddie get a lot of fame from a even wider audience as he was the stunt double of Cru Jones, the lead role, and also appeared as himself with the famed Mohawk helmet. When I asked what was the most memorable thing about the movie, Eddie paused, then laughed and said, “I was getting paid to ride my bike, on a tack that someone made for us, how much better can that be!?” I was secretly hoping that he was going to say that he had an off-screen romance with Lori Loughlin after the BMX boogie scene, but for now we will leave my sick fantasies alone. For now…
Considering that if 1986/87 was the peak for ‘that’ quintessential 80s BMX vibe that we talk about today, the next question was what his feelings were on whether the shift from a clean, sponsored team look at that time to a more grunge, anarchist individual style was partly responsible for the huge decline in the popularity of BMX, Eddie had this to say. “I like watching motocross. You go out to a motocross race and every one of those guys are wearing full leathers, with full sponsors. Every time I go out and ride (a motocross bike) I put on full leathers and boots and jerseys and I look like I’m sponsored, but I’m not, but that’s who I want to look like. And when we rode our BMX bikes that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to promote and to be the sponsored look. Today, you don’t even know who the guy is sponsored by. He’s sponsored by a black t-shirt and black shorts. It’s hard to say if it made it better, times have changed, people have changed and it’s just the way that people are doing it now. I kind of like the old sponsored look, you go to a BMX race and everyone is still wearing leathers, you don’t see anyone out there wearing jeans, except for in practice.”
For a man who won four NORA cups and five King of Skateparks, Eddie has an extremely humble manner. Almost like an anthropologist reflecting on his life’s work, Eddie speaks about his fame and riding like he was just very lucky. “I was the kid who got to ride, and have fun doing it, and I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. People would say to me, ‘Oh I had you up on my wall, and I had pictures of you!!!’ I would say that’s cool, I guess, but I am just a guy who rides, with you, I’m riding with you, why am I so special?” At that point I didn’t want to mention the vast list of reasons that seemed blaringly obvious to me why he is so much more than a guy that rides, but I will just leave it at that.
I finally asked Eddie what his fondest memory was from all those days of riding. “There are a lot of memories that I wish I could remember, but I know that there are no bad memories, everything was good, all of the time.”
Thanks for all the memories Eddie, they are all good.
UPDATE: NICE LITTLE YOUTUBE VIDEO TRIBUTE TO EDDIE WHERE THEY MENTION LIFELOUNGE MAG ;)