April 4, 1974. • Chittenango, New York
Extreme sports athlete
Dave Mirra has won more medals in the X Games (a yearly competition held for extreme sports athletes) than any other athlete. What began as a way to pass time became the BMX biker's road to fame and wealth when Mirra turned pro at seventeen. In 1993 he was sidelined for six months after being hit by a drunk driver. The accident nearly killed him, but Mirra came back to win several X Games gold medals in the late 1990s. In 2005 Mirra won his record eighteenth X Games medal and won the ESPY Award for Best Male Action Sports Athlete of 2005.
BMX becomes a sport
David Michael Mirra was born on April 4, 1974, in the small New York town of Chittenango. His parents divorced when he was just five years old, and Dave and his brother, Tim, were raised by their dad. His mother, Linda, lived nearby in Syracuse and spent time with her sons on a regular basis.
As is typical of boys their age, Dave and Tim spent most of their free time riding their bikes around the neighborhood with their buddies. Small towns don't offer much else to do, and in the early 1980s, Mirra and his brother noticed a few of the other kids in town were riding BMX. (Although BMX stands for "bicycle motorcross," it also has meaning as a term used to describe a sport that includes racing on hilly or sandy tracks as well as on flat land using ramps and obstacles. Bikers use their 20-inch bikes to perform tricks and stunts throughout the race.) They used whatever they could find for jumps. Mirra and his friends were hooked. They began using wooden ramps, curbs, and dirt blocks as jumps. It was then that he began inventing his own gravity-defying stunts that eventually earned him the nickname "Miracle Boy."
"Anything you want to get better at is a commitment. Without commitment, there would be no success."
Within a couple years, freestyle BMX had gained in popularity. It was no longer a spectacle to see kids performing stunts and tricks on their bikes. Around the age of thirteen, Mirra got noticed for his flatland racing ability (no jumps). It was around this time he realized he might actually be able to turn his hobby into something more. He and his friends already spent nearly every waking moment of the summer— and most of their free time during the school year—on their bikes, challenging and encouraging one another. Mirra's level of dedication to the sport had always been more intense than that of his pals, a key factor in determining how far he would one day take his abilities.
One thing leads to another
Mirra attended a General Bikes show in Syracuse in 1987. While waiting for the show to begin, Mirra was riding flatland in the store's parking lot. Fred Blood, one of the company's pros, noticed Mirra, who was performing a difficult trick, called double decade, with the greatest of ease. The trick involved making two complete turns in midair while holding on to the handlebars. Mirra described the situation on 23mag.com : "Not too many riders in the country were pulling that trick off at the time, so Fred was pretty surprised to see me, a five-foot-tall kid from Chittenango, pull one." The chance meeting brought Mirra his first sponsorship, which included a discount on a General bike and discounts on parts in exchange for riding in shows. It was a dream deal for any beginning BMXer.
Later that same year, Mirra accepted a better sponsorship by Haro. He got a couple bikes, some parts, and paid food and lodging at contests. Not a bad deal for a thirteen-year-old, small-town kid. Mirra's first competition, the AFA Masters, took place in October 1987. His nerves took over, and he finished in eleventh place, next to last. Mirra was dropped by Haro in 1988 due to financial cutbacks in the freestyle industry as a whole. Bike sales were down, and riders were being cut from nearly every team. Though disappointed, Mirra wasn't worried. His interests were changing, and his "career" soon took a new direction.
He explained to Scott Willoughby of the Denver Post, "I moved into ramp riding in the late '80s because I've always been more into jumping and taking risks. I think it was just something different than what everybody else was doing at my age. But I never really thought about it. That's just what I did." This is also around the time he met fellow BMXer Kevin Jones (1967–). Jones was part of a group called the Plywood Hoods. Mark Eaton (1969–) was another member of the Hoods. Mirra met Eaton at a contest in Pennsylvania when he was fourteen. Eaton invited Mirra to ride with the Hoods, a true honor for a kid who wanted nothing more than to ride BMX. The Plywood Hoods produced the first underground BMX video, Dorkin' in York. Mirra's friendship with Jones and Eaton landed him a spot in Dorkin' in York 2. That invitation marked his debut into videos. It was merely a sign of things to come.
First came the Cardboard Lords, a group of friends who rode BMX in the early 1980s, before freestyle became popular. The Cardboard Lords discovered breakdancing and spent the next year and a half perfecting their style. Kevin Jones was the leader of the pack; there were six other members.
By 1985, the Cardboard Lords had won all the local competitions, but breakdancing's popularity was dying out. Jones and another member, Mark Eaton, ran into an old friend one night. Mike Daily had a BMX freestyle team called the Plywood Hoods. The two Cardboard Lords were intrigued by what their friend was telling them about the Hoods, and two months later the Cardboard Lords disbanded. Jones, Eaton, and another member, Mark Dale, renewed their interest in BMX and began freestyling. They joined the Plywood Hoods.
Though the group specialized in flatland, the Hoods also continued to enjoy freestyle. Soon they were featured in a magazine article that publicized their attitude: We do what we want and don't care who or what might get in our way. The Hoods became instant heroes of the underground freestyle scene. Here was a group of average kids, with bikes that had been put together with spare parts. They were much more accessible to the underground scene than were the BMX "stars" of the day.
Dissatisfied with the instructional videos available on the market, the Plywood Hoods decided to make a video for freestylers. The Hoods took their own cameras around their hometown of York, Pennsylvania, and shot the movie themselves. Ever the humble teens, they called their film kin' in York. The flick contained interviews with a number of riders with various styles. Music was incorporated, and before they knew it, the Plywood Hoods found themselves with a million-dollar-a-year industry. In 1990, the Hoods held the first York Jam, a noncompetitive riding session.
Throughout the 1990s riders from across the globe would move to York just to be part of the riding scene. All in all, there is a total of ten Dorkin' in York videos. They are available as a box set.
By 1989, Mirra was getting a reputation as a kid who had a serious future in BMX. He entered a Pennsylvania competition that summer, one in which there were no age divisions for amateurs in King of Vert(ical) events. So Mirra found himself competing against bikers in their twenties. He was just fifteen when he placed an impressive eighth out of twenty-five competitors. September found him in yet another King of Vert contest, this time in New York. He not only performed well, but landed a spot on the Dyno team when pro Dino DeLuca told his manager to sign Mirra. The deal meant more free bikes and all-expenses-paid travel.
The Dyno move proved to be a good one. Mirra finished seventh in the Expert class of the 1989 King of Vert finals. Soon he was touring the United States. In 1992, at the age of seventeen, Mirra turned pro. That summer he was featured on the June cover of Invert magazine and interviewed in the July BMX Plus! His sponsors included Hoffman Bikes, Airwalk, Homeless, and Standard Bikes. That was also the year Mirra invented some of his more famous tricks, including the backside weasel and frame-stand peg-pick.
One of Mirra's greatest moments came a year later when he beat freestyle champion Mat Hoffman in a half-pipe contest. It was Hoffman's first loss in three years. The freestyle industry hit a dry spell right after that feat. Supporters were pulling out and riders were on their own. Though the future looked bleak, Mirra continued to ride hard and dedicate his heart to the sport.
Life changed drastically in December 1993, when Mirra was hit by a drunk driver while crossing the street. The accident left the athlete with a fractured skull and torn shoulder. A blod clot formed in his brain, and no one was sure if Mirra would live. Recovery was maddeningly slow; it took six months of medication and time off from riding for Mirra to even begin to get his groove back. He told Willoughby, "It was a setback, but something I overcame. It doesn't even mess with me at all. In life there are obstacles you have to go through. Whatever it is, youover-come it eventually." But even then, there was so little happening in BMX around the country that he found it difficult to get motivated. Mirra moved to California in hopes of a new scene but moved back to New York within two weeks. But being home didn't feel right either. Looking back, Mirra considers 1994 a year of professional crisis. "It took me that long to figure out not to give up," he wrote on 23mag.com.
The one highlight of Mirra's career at that time was doing well at the Chicago Bicycle Stunt Series competition in 1994. He placed first in street and third in vert, worthwhile performances especially in light of the accident.
Moves to North Carolina
In the meantime, Mirra's big brother, Tim, had moved to Greenville, North Carolina, to attend college—and he lived right across the street from a BMX park. Mirra visited his brother a few times before deciding to join him. Tim's support and encouragement helped Mirra get back to the determined mindset that put him at the top of his game before the accident. And it was the first time he'd ridden seriously in fifteen months.
Mirra signed with Haro again in 1994. This time, he was paid $30,000 a year to ride in competitions, a definite step up from a free bike and travel expenses. Haro also helped Mirra build a vert ramp to practice on and get him back to competing form. Mirra eventually built a 15,000-square-foot training complex in an industrial park just outside Greenville. The "warehouse" is considered to be one of the best facilities of its kind.
Dominates the X Games
In late 1994, ESPN announced it would host the first-ever X Games the following year. Athletes would compete in twenty-seven events in nine categories, including biking. Mirra competed and took home the silver medal. The X Games helped bring the world of BMX to a much larger audience, and soon the bike world couldn't get enough of Mirra. He was featured on numerous magazine covers and in interviews, all the while continuing to compete and dominate. In 1996, Mirra earned the title of World Champion of the pro vert. He was the X Games street champion that year as well and placed second in the pro vert. Mirra signed with Reebok that year, a move that increased his visibility and popularity.
The rider continued to squash the competition in the X Games throughout the rest of the 1990s. Between 1997 and 2000, Mirra won eight gold medals at the X Games, setting a record that remains untouched. In 1999 Mirra appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. "Being on Letterman was just a whole other level. It was crazy, it felt as good as winning the X Games!" he told 23mag.com. But as good as 1999 was, it was just a foreshadowing of what 2000 would bring.
The year 2000 was a phenomenal year for the twenty-six-year-old athlete. Aside from the fact that he had his own line of bubble gum and cereal, Mirra enjoyed the success of his Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX video game. Released in September, the PlayStation® game sold more than 1.2 million units by April 2001. Mirra developed a strong identity with consumers, so much so that Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 for the PlayStation 2® was released later that year. The games have also been released for GameBoy, X Box, and Sega Dreamcast systems.
As if that weren't enough, Mirra was one of two alternative sports athletes to be recognized as a notable sports icon in mainstream media. His media exposure alone reached $2.5 million.
Twenty-first century rider
The awards kept coming for Mirra throughout the early twenty-first century. He won the NORA Cup Ramp Rider of the Year award in 2001, 2002, and 2003. The award is voted on by fans of the sport, so to win the cup three years in a row was a huge honor for Mirra. "Awards like this let me know my riding gets appreciated by a lot of people and that makes me feel really good," he's quoted as saying on 23mag.com.
By 2005, Mirra had won a total of eighteen medals in the X Games; thirteen of them are gold. He took home the gold in four BMX vert and park competitions as well, and became one of the most-recognized BMX faces in the media. Mirra has been the World Champion ten times over and has won virtually every other title known to the BMX world. His name commands the respect of his colleagues and the worship of Mirra-wanna-bes. In 2004 he was chosen by MTV to host the series Real World/Road Rules: The Inferno. With two seasons under his belt, he's proven to be a hit with the viewing audience.
Mirra won the ESPY Award for Best Male Action Sports Athlete in 2005. The star athlete was quoted in a press release as saying, "Of all the awards that I've won, this is the ultimate compliment because this came from the fans." In July 2005, Mirra had returned home from a nine-day road trip from Reno to Vancouver. He made the trip with a handful of friends who were working with him to film his first movie, Sentenced to Life. The purpose of the road trip was to stop at every skate park along the journey and film Mirra performing stunts and meeting local riders. Although as of 2005 there was no release date yet for the film, no one doubted that Mirra would publish it. He's done everything he's set his mind to. He explained the Mirra philosophy to Willoughby: "Anything you want to get better at is a commitment. Without commitment, there would be no success."
Mirra planned to marry his longtime girlfriend in November 2005. When he's not biking, he gets involved with several charities, including the Dream Factory, a foundation that grants wishes to critically ill children.
For More Information
Mahaney, Ian. Dave Mirra: Bicycle Stunt Riding Champion. New York, NY: PowerKids Press, 2005.
Mirra, Dave. Mirra Images. New York, NY: Regan Books, 2003.
Rosenberg, Aaron. Dave Mirra: BMX Superstar. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing Group, 2004.
Willoughby, Scott. "Freestyle Rider Mirra Continuing to Push Limits." Denver Post. Reprinted online at Jackson Hole Star Tribune.http://www.jacksonholestartrib.com/articles/2005/07/08/sports/9d5e0163929cf74d87257038005966da.txt (accessed on August 8, 2005).
"Dave Mirra." Maxxis.com.http://www.maxxis.com/products/bicycle/riders_profile_details.asp?id=140 (accessed on August 8, 2005).
Dave Mirra Official Web Site.http://www.davemirra.com (accessed on August 8, 2005).
"Dave Mirra Receives Honor." Reflector.com (July 17, 2005). http://www.reflector.com/sports/content/sports/stories/2005/07/17/20050717GDRdave_mirra.html (accessed on August 8, 2005).
"Plywood Hoods History." Plywoodhoods.com.http://plywoodhoods.com/main.html?history.html (accessed August 8, 2005).
American BMX rider
American Dave Mirra is a dominant BMX freestyle rider who won a number of extreme sports competitions, winning at least thirteen medals at the X Games, the most of anybody in his sport to date. Nicknamed "Miracle Boy," Mirra has suffered a number of injuries but continues to ride.
Mirra was born April 4, 1974, in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Chittenango, New York, outside the city. His father was a VCR and television repairman, while his mother was a surgical technician. Mirra began riding a bike when he was four. After witnessing his first BMX freestyle demonstration when he was ten, he began using his own bike to do tricks, turns, and flips in the air, often off a ramp.
Mirra soon became obsessed with the sport, and did not pay attention in school. Many kids were doing BMX
at the time, making it a popular, if underground, phenomenon. Mirra told Kevin Gray of the Morning Call, "It became an addition. I didn't really choose stunt riding. It was just what I did." Mirra would show up at a local bike shop's ramp and do tricks other kids could not do. Lance Stonecipher, the co-owner of Bike Loft told Laura Lee of New York Times, "He came in here and could do all of these tricks that kids were seeing on video and magazines. Everybody was like, 'Who is this kid?"
In 1987, when Mirra was only thirteen years old, he began competing and had a sponsor, Haro Bikes. It was already a career for the teen. Haro gave him a bike and paid for him to go to competitions. As ESPN2 started airing BMX stunt competitions on the air, the sport exploded in popularity, and Mirra was one of its best known young riders.
Mirra was given the nickname of Miracle Boy in 1992 because he did tricks that observers thought could not be pulled off as well as the ability to make the tricks look easy. Mirra invented moves like the half-hairspin tailwhip, which has not been repeated. Describing what it feels like to ride in vert (tricks done on a half pipe), one of the BMX events Mirra competed in, Steven Daly wrote in Rolling Stone, "Take the most cursory of spins on a BMX bike and you'll discover just how sensitive the handlebars are; look directly down one of those eleven-foot half-pipes and your stomach will do a half-barspin tailwhip. To even think about hurling yourself off the edge with forty pounds of BMX between your legs brings home the spleen-shattering reality of Dave Mirra's chosen profession."
In 1993 (some sources say 1994), Mirra suffered a serious injury when he was struck by a drunk driver as he was crossing a street in Syracuse. He was sent to the hospital with a dislocated shoulder, fractured skull, and blood clot on the brain. Mirra returned to the bike within six months of the accident, after doctors said he would not ride again.
Mirra also suffered injuries in his sport. In 1995, he was injured while doing a performance on the vert ramp, and had to have his spleen removed. That same year, he moved to Greenville, North Carolina. By the mid-1990s, Mirra was considered the best and most dominant rider in his sport, and contributed to making the sport popular. Such attention was unexpected by Mirra.
Advent of the X Games
BMX stunt riding had another high profile venue with the advent of the Summer X Games in 1996. These games, aired on ESPN, featured a number of extreme sports. At the 1996 games, Mirra won gold in street (doing stunts on an urban-like street course) and silver in vert (on the ramp). In 1997, he won golds in both street and vert. In 1998, he won three gold medals in vert, street, and vert doubles. That year, Mirra was named X-Games Male Athlete of the Year.
Mirra continued to do well in 1999. That year, he won gold in street at Summer X Games, first in vert at B3, gold in vert at Gravity Games, and the BS Series Year End title in vert. He was voted Freestyler of the Year by BMX Plus Magazine. That year, he also signed an endorsement deal with Acclaim Entertainment, to develop video games based on him. His Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX was a leading seller in 2000.
|1974||Born on April 4 in Syracuse, New York|
|1987||Begins competing professionally in BMX stunt riding|
|1992||Given nickname of Miracle Boy|
|1993||Suffers accident that could have ended career—hit by drunk driver while crossing street|
|1995||Has spleen removed; moves to Greenville, North Carolina|
|1999||Signs endorsement deal with Acclaim Entertainment; founds the Dave Mirra Woodward Scholarship Fund|
|2001||Signs endorsement deal with DC Shoes|
|2002||Signs sponsorship deal with Bell Sports|
Mirra would sign a number of endorsement deals in this time period. In 2001, he signed three-year endorsement deal with DC Shoes, and developed a signature line of shoes. In addition, he also had deals with Haro Bicycles, Fox Racing, Slim Jim, and Arnett Opticals. Mirra also appeared in television commercials for Burger King and AT&T. In 2000, Mirra appeared on an episode of The Jersey on the Disney Channel. By 2001, he was making $1 million a year. But Mirra did not forget his past. He sponsored scholarships to Woodward Camp where action sports are taught to kids.
In 2000, Mirra won gold in Japan X Games in vert, won gold in vert at the Gravity Games, and won gold in street and silver in vert at the X Games, but he sat out the Gravity Games in 2001 because of injuries. Mirra would do this as his situation warranted. He rebounded in 2002, placing first in park (stunts done on a skatepark or skatepark-like course) and second in vert at Gravity Games, and second in vert at the EXPN Invitational.
Mirra plans on riding as long as he can. He told Mokhshin Abidin of New Straits Times, "I don't call it training because it is something which I love doing, riding and gym work, I never really think about it. I just want to ride every day."
Awards and Accomplishments
|1996||At Summer X Games, won gold in street and silver in vert|
|1997||Won golds in street and vert at Summer X Games|
|1998||Won three gold medals at the X Games, in bicycle stunt vert, street, and vert doubles; named X-Games Male Athlete of the Year; won BS Series Year End Title in street and vert|
|1999||Won gold in street at Summer X Games; won first place in vert at B3; won gold in vert at Gravity Games; won BS Series Year End Title in Vert; voted Freestyler of the Year by BMX Plus Voted favorite rider by readers of Ride and Snap BMX vert at Gravity Games; won gold in street and silver in vert at X Games|
|2001||Named ESPN Action Sports and Music BMX rider of the year; placed second at Vans Triple Crown of BMX; at B3 Event in Anaheim placed first in vert and park; at B3 Event in Louisville, Kentucky, placed first in park and 13th in vert; at UGP Roots Jam placed first in park|
|2002||At Gravity Games, placed first in park and second in vert; at EXPN Invitational, placed second in vert and tenth in park|
Abidin, Mokhshin. "Legendary Mirra just loves doing it anyway." New Straits Times (February 2, 2002): 3.
"BMX Legend: Dave Mirra." News Journal (August 15, 2002): E9.
Business Wire (June 29, 1999).
Business Wire (October 2, 2000).
Business Wire (January 5, 2001).
Business Wire (February 13, 2001).
Business Wire (August 13, 2002).
Daly, Steven. "Dave Mirra Champion '99." Rolling Stone (June 11, 1999): 111.
"Gravity Games 2001—The Ones to Watch." Providence Journal-Bulletin (September 5, 2001): D9.
Gray, Kevin. "He and His Bike Fly, Spin, Twist, Sometimes Break." Morning Call (February 11, 1999): C10.
Hendrickson, Brian. "Recreation Focus: Cycling star and X-Games gold medalist Dave Mirra." Morning Star (May 3, 2001): 1C.
LaRue, William. "Mirra Is Pull for Gravity." Post-Standard (November 3, 2002): D2.
Lee, Laura. "Adventure Sports; Same Tricks, More Costly Bikes." New York Times (August 14, 2001): D4.
Smartschan. "BMX Star Mirra Shows His Sport at Shimerville." Morning Call (February 11, 2001): C4.
Thamel, Pete. "Real Life Action Figure." Herald American (August 12, 2001): C1.
"X Games close with Mirra tops." Press-Enterprise (June 29, 1998): C3.
Sketch by A. Petruso