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BMX In New Zealand - The Early Years
By Dave Kidd
Rex Harris and Tony Mason from Paraparaumu had seen the sport in America, and decided to try and introduce this sport into New Zealand. They managed to use a local farmer’s block of land, known as Whiteman’s farm, to create a track. They built a wooden ramp, and used it as a start gate, and dug a track out of the hill. It was mostly downhill, and had one berm and a wooden table top jump.
Dunedin also had a track in the late 70s, known as the “Dunedin Peddle Cross club“. Little information is available of this club; however, it is a popular dispute as to which club started first.
As word spread across New Zealand about this new craze called BMX, kids started converting their old bikes into off road scramblers. The “Chopper” and the “Grifter” were popular bikes used until BMXs became available.
By 1981, parents had got together and formed an official BMX committee, now known as BMXNZ.
Later that year, a group of touring professionals from America visited and raced in Auckland at the Barry’s Point Road track. These riders were well known to most kids, and became idols to many others. Since this first visit, American pros have come out to New Zealand several times to race and hold coaching clinics.
In 1982 there were over 70 tracks built, with even more clubs becoming affiliated.
A group of riders travelled to Japan later that year, to attend the 3rd BMX World championships. Gaye McManus of Taupo became the first New Zealand BMXer to win a world championship title, competing in the girls 6/7 age group.
There are many different types of people that ride BMX – old school and new school. I can barely remember any of the names of kids I played rugby with for five years, but I can remember hundreds of kids that rode BMX back in the day! BMX changed my life.
To see more old school BMX bikes online, visit: www.bmx museum.com, or a local New Zealand site www.backinthedaybmx.wet paint.com.
Image - Glenn Rowell at the North Shore track 1984.
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