It’s been noted that children are often a product of their environment. This makes sense, but at the same time the exact same surroundings can appear completely different depending on the perspective of the people doing the peeping.
Take a pile of common bricks left in a heap in a backyard, for instance. Most observers would simply see an unfinished do-it-yourself project and a craggy hazard to be avoided. But Ben Holman isn’t your typical 10 year old, and competitive BMX bike riders in particular are something of a different breed entirely.
Holman, who attends Grand Mound Elementary School, has been riding with a purpose at parks and courses in the Pacific Northwest for five years and he’s been riding without his training wheels since he was three. These days he’s touring the west coast to test his mettle against the best riders around.
“There were some bricks in the yard and I just started jumping off of them. And then everything else,” said Holman of his genesis story in between runs at the Rotary Skate Park at Riverside Park in Centralia last week. “(My parents) didn’t want me to get hurt so they started bringing me here. That’s how this wound up being my home park.”
Holman has evolved along with his terrain over the years and now he’s ranked fourth in the nation for BMX park riders in his age group. With the help of his accommodating parents, Melissa and Troy Holman, the young rider manages to put in a few hours at nearby courses nearly every day. His boundless enthusiasm for stunting on his bike has earned Holman the nickname Energizer Benny. The moniker doubles as his all-important social media handle.
The hype surrounding Holman is well deserved. Back in April he nearly brought home top honors at the Hot Wheels Junior Open Series at Huntington Beach, California. The competition was held at the Vans Off the Wall Skatepark and Holman placed second in the 10-and-Under class.
The competitions consist of three 30-second runs for each rider where they are simply tasked with impressing the panel of judges. There are varying philosophies on how best to earn high marks but catching big air and pulling of death defying tricks rank right near the top of the list.
The Hot Wheels competition in California was just Holman’s second big time event but he showed a veteran’s poise. Staying true to his nickname, Holman buffered that runner-up finish in the BMX competition by taking second place in a downhill mountain bike race in Spokane.
While Holman has honed many of his skills at Riverside Park his parents regularly shuttle him to a menagerie of different parks around the region. Some of his favorite haunts include Rainier Vista in Lacey, Yauger in Olympia, a pair of courses in Yelm and Lakewood and the outdoor DART track in Tumwater. Holman says he doesn’t have much of a preference between concrete or dirt courses but noted that he loves the sun and hates the rain. Still, even when things get too damp for his liking Holman finds refuge at The Lumberyard, an indoor track in Portland.
“Everything kind of stops when Benny gets to the park,” said Benny’s grandpa, Jeff Holman. “All the older kids stop what they’re doing and clear out to see what he can do.”
For those who know the difference, Holman’s standard basket of tricks includes one-footers, no-footers, can-cans, and big air outs off of wood spine and concrete bowl configurations.
Benny’s mom has been learning her way around the skate park on the fly over the years and helps to navigate that unique culture for her son. She also expertly collects and uploads the photos and video footage that make up the bulk of Energizer Benny’s social media presence. On one big launch over the box at Rotary Park last week Melissa Holman could be heard calling out her son’s use of the “ET” technique as he cleared a stack of skateboards, a photographer, and other obstacles.
“That’s when they keep pedaling while they ride through the air,” beamed Mrs. Holman, who teaches at Rochester High School. “The high school kids have been a huge help teaching me the lingo.”
While Holman has busted his helmet in half and knock out his teeth while working to perfect his array of tricks, he has managed, thus far, not to break any bones. He admits that he does experience some fear when it comes time to try something new on the course but the thrill of getting better keeps him pushing forward.
On a recent trip to California, Holman bumped into professional BMX rider Mike “Hucker” Clark while working on his craft at the renowned Woodward West Camp. “Hucker” spent time with Holman in the foam pit so that the youngster could dial in his backflip technique in a safe environment. Holman says he’s landed about 40 backflips successfully in foam pits so far and he’s looking forward to unveiling it soon on a real course. He just doesn’t know when.
If his brave heart so desires he won’t have to wait long since his next competition is slated for Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona. That event is another stop on the Hot Wheel Jr. Open series.
Melissa Holman said that her son has been working on a super-secret new move in private that he could very well bust out during his rides this weekend. However, she noted that during the warm up period at Huntington Beach, other riders were copying Benny’s tricks so this time around he’s keeping his repertoire close to the vest.
“Around here they say ‘Go big or go home,” noted Mrs. Holman.
That’s not the only lesson Holman learned in the heat of competition. The bowl he rode at the Vans Off the Wall skate park was the largest he’d ever ridden and the field of competitors was larger and more talented than he’d ever seen.
“There were definitely lots of people. It was really competitive,” said Holman, who in typical skate park fashion, sounded entirely unphased.
Holman said his favorite move to pull off so far has been the classic 360 and he says new riders should try to master the one-footer jump before anything else. That tact has landed Holman a cache of sponsors so far including Go-Pro, Joy Ride Bikes, Skullcandy headphones, ODI grips, SixSixOne Protection, Ogio Powersports, and, most importantly, Jeff Holman Insurance.
Holman had a few more words of advice to offer anyone who may be thinking about heading down to their local park to see what they can do. The message could serve as his, or anyone else’s, mantra.
“Just try tricks. It doesn’t matter if you fail or mess up. Just try again,” Holman said.
You can track Ben Holman’s bicycle adventures on Instagram by following @energizer_benny.