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Tom Haugen

If you've kept up with this website any, you will know that Tom Haugen is my favorite rider. I am thankful to Tom for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for this interview. Just for a moment let me, as a fan, brag on my favorite rider. To me, Tom Haugen is THE MAN when it comes to park/mini ramp riding. In competition, Tom has the best combination of tech lip tricks, box jump tricks, vert tricks & grinds. Some of you may not know, but Tom started out as a flatlander & applies this to mini ramp riding. Throughout 2002, Tom has scored consistently in the top 5 in the CFB Series (finished 2nd in the series I think); won 1st place in a comp (Baltimore, Maryland I think); won the Ramp Up the Jawn "Rider of the Year" award;  & won a Bronze Medal at the Gravity Games. Tom also, in my opinion, has the best video part in the "Direction" video produced by Kip Williamson (I got my copy from Kip, himself).  And now on to the interview...
1. How old were you when you first got into freestyle? What got you started in freestyle?
I was 10 years old when I started riding a bike. I got into it because all the kids in the neighborhood had bikes with pegs and I wanted to get one as well. Also, the movie RAD had come out about then and I saw it and was amazed and fascinated. As ridiculous as it sounds, when I saw that movie I knew that that was what I wanted to do with my life
2. What was the first freestyle bike you owned? What was the first "good" freestyle trick you learned?
The first bike I ever owned was a Diamond Back Hot Streak. I mowed lawns all summer and saved up. Diamond Back was my favorite company back then and they sponsored my favorite rider- Woody Itson, who, ironically enough, happens to be my boss and friend at Giant (he was also my boss at GT). My first hard trick was a decade
3. I understand you started as a flatlander; did you ever compete as a flatlander, whether amateur or pro? Do you still ride flatland today, for example during shows?
I did start out as a flatlander. From ages 10-16 that was all I did. We didn't have skate parks back then and I didn't have a drivers license to go find things to ride street on. I just rode flatland out in front of my house everyday after school. I still ride flatland, about an hour a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I don't ever do flatland at shows though; if it was necessary I would and could, but it hasn't come up yet.
4. How did you become a "park/mini ramp" rider? Do you think your flatland roots help you as a ramp rider? If so how?
After I stopped being a full time flatlander I started riding dirt. We didn't really have trails, but we had lots of jumps. I did that from 16-19 and then our jumps got plowed. So we built a mini ramp and a box jump. I transferred my dirt jumping skills to a box jump and learned how to ride a mini ramp. Flatland skills do help with park/mini, especially on certain tricks like tail whip nose picks, 540 nose picks, 540 tire taps, etc. Having a flatland background definitely adds to your level of control on a bike.
5. How old were you when you got your first sponsorship? Who was it; and how did it happen? At what age did you begin competing
I started competing at age 12. We had local contests that were organized through the AFA (American Freestyle Association). There was one a month and I did that until I was 13. I got sponsored when I was 15 as a flatlander. This new bike company called Standard had just begun and I was friends with the owners. They gave me everything they made at that time and that was my first sponsor
6. At what age did you become pro? How did all of that transpire?
I turned pro when I was 21. I went to Virginia and rode in the X-trials. I entered pro there because I had won a big amateur contest the year before in Indiana and thought that it was time. It wasn't though; I got 35th or something like that in that contest. However, Kip Williamson was there and was working for GT at the time. He saw me ride and saw potential. He told GT to hire me and when I got home from that contest I was on GT
7. You seem to be a very busy rider between doing shows & competing in contests; which do you enjoy the most? Is there a lot of pressure at the major contest events (X Games & Gravity Games)?
I am very busy. For me, riding is more than a full time job. I am gone 6 months out of a year doing demos and shows and going to the contests. Shows are good because there is very little pressure and it's more relaxed. The contests are very stressful and there is a lot of pressure. However, the rewards of doing well at a contest more than make up for how stressful it can be. But I must say, all the pressure at the Gravity Games and X-games is self- induced. My sponsors aren't demanding that I medal at those events. I was even advised not to ride in the X-games this year from one of my sponsors due to an injury I was dealing with. All the pressure at those events I put on myself
[Webmaster note: according to BMX Plus! Magazine, Tom had dislocated his shoulder sometime before the X-Games. That is why you didn't see him in competition]
8. I've seen you in the "Direction" video combine a lot of flatland with ramp/park riding: For example nose wheelies, tail whip nose picks, & manuals to dump trucks; however, I've never seen you pull tricks such as these during a major contest event. Why? Are these too "high risk" of tricks; or are there other reasons?
When at a contest, I try to put a run together that I know I can hit flawlessly. I want to be able to stay on my bike and do everything with absolute precision. I wouldn't say that those tricks are high risk, I'm just not as consistent at them as I would need to be, to be confident enough to do them in a run
9. You recently won the Bronze Medal at the Gravity Games (your career highlight thus far). You won this with your super tech style, without any back flip type tricks. When you think of "Park Competition" what tricks come to mind? In other words do you think "Park" is tech lip tricks, big box jump tricks, or a combination of both?
[By the way; I think you have the best combination of box jump, lip tricks, & vert tricks in the park class. I personally think too much emphasis is placed on box jump tricks & not grinds or lip tricks).
I feel that in a park contest you need to use all the obstacles and ride with a blend of tech lip tricks, big jumps, grinds, manuals and transfers. I think that you need to be versatile enough to be able to do a big back flip variation, but then also hit an ice pick grind to fakie as well. The riders that are doing that are the guys placing consistently in the top 5 (e.g. Colin McKay, Mike Parenti, Ryan Nyquist, Chad Kagy, etc.) As far as myself being deserving of the bronze medal, I had a solid tech run, but I didn't do anything big... not that I'm complaining.
[Webmaster note: "didn't do anything big"? WHAT AN UNDERSTATEMENT!! I watched the Gravity Games Park Competition live on payperview & Tom did tricks like a superman seatgrab over the box jump; 360 tail whip over the 5ft spine; & 360 tail whip to 540 tail tap on the sub box. Tom had a FLAWLESS run; and was full of BIG tech tricks.]
10. What are your future goals in freestyle? Any advice you have for rider?
My future goals with riding are to just enjoy it and take it as far as I can. When I was a kid I never dreamed I would make it this far and I am so content with what I've done at this point. Most of the goals I have now aren't so much associated with riding- not that riding isn't one of the most important things in my life, just that there are other things that I want to do as well. Right now, I want to just keep enjoying my life and not take it for granted. To ride everyday and not ever forget that I am making a living doing what has always truly been a labor of love. And for everyone out there reading this, my advice is to enjoy riding, or for that matter whatever it is that you do (skateboarding, chess, soccer or even, god forbid, in line skating). And remember, there are things in life more important than riding a bike. Also, if you are interested in knowing anything about me, please check out www.tomhaugen.com.

If you have seen the latest issue of RIDE BMX, then you've probably read the "blurb" about Tom Haugen (my favorite rider) being off Team Giant. Well, here is the inside scoop from Tom Haugen,himself:

1. Without going into great detail, please explain your departure from Giant Bicycles.

After the X-games this year I was told I was doing a poor job representing the company and as a result I was let go.

2. Was your departure from Giant the reason why we didn't hear of you at the X Games?

No, the reason you didn't hear about me at the X-games this year was because, plain and simple, I rode poorly in the prelims.

3. Are you currently looking for another bike sponsor, or what are your  plans?

Yes, I am looking for a new bike sponsor, though it's been tough. Hopefully something will work out for 04. In the meantime I am still going to contests and riding everyday. Nothing's changed in that respect at all.

In my opinion, Tom Haugen is a bike sponsors dream. He has a clean-cut image, is a contest rider who usually scores high, and is a very technical rider. I kinda wonder how long Giant will have a bmx dept. They've lost Dave Voelker, Gabe Weed, Matt Weilheilm, and now Tom Haugen.