|Photo George Medina (@soulcaptor)|
|Photo Tracie Garacochea (@traciegara)|
I just happened to be on a shoot at Venice Skatepark one day last year, and we had a few moments in between shots. I looked over and saw these two rad girls ripping through the park, "free falling" into the snake, and launching off the stairs. Smiling, laughing and encouraging one another, they were having the best time. There was no hesitation on my part, I totally interrupted their session to tell them how frigging badass they were. Jamey was one half of that dynamic duo, and we have been friends ever since. I'm super excited to share more about Jamey here, and let you know all about her rise in the hardcore sport of WCMX, and how she become the current Women's World Champion. Yep. She is pretty badass. xx
Who's Rad? Jamey Perry
Home is? Depends what you mean by “home.” If you mean, where did I grow up, I…
• Was born in Seattle, WA.
• Spent the first five years of my life in San Antonio, TX.
• Split the rest of my childhood traveling between divorced parents in Denver, CO and Baltimore, MD.
• Returned to Seattle for high school and college (at the University of Washington—go, Dawgs!)
• Left the soggy Pacific Northwest for sunny California after graduating college, where I’ve lived in Chico (NorCal), Walnut Creek (Bay Area), and Los Angeles (where I live now).
• Oh, and in the midst of all that, I’ve also lived for a time (less than a year) in each of the following: Grand Rapids, MI; Madison, WI; Houston, TX; and Easton, PA.
BUT! If what you’re really asking is, what feels like Home-Capital-H? The answer is and always will be Los Angeles. My feelings for this city veer into anthropomorphia; I tell people LA is my boyfriend (much to my supremely good-natured husband’s amusement).
|Photo Cesar Soares|
How long have you been doing WCMX?
I started in June of 2015, so about a year and a half now.
What got you into doing WCMX?
It’s not a “what” but a “who.”
One day about two years ago, I was dicking around on Twitter, and a TV showrunner I follow posted a video called, “Rail Bails.” I had nothing better to do right then, so I clicked. And that video blew my ever-loving mind and changed the course of my life forever.
It was a girl was attacking a rail grind at a skatepark. Over and over she sped toward the rail, hopped on it, and skidded a few feet before toppling sideways, backwards, or forwards. Every time she hit concrete, I flinched. But she kept getting back up and saying, “Again!”
I honestly don’t even remember if she eventually landed the trick in that video; it didn’t matter. I was mesmerized by her tenacity, her skill, and her seriously tricked-out, turquoise-and-pink wheelchair.
Oh, right. Did I mention she was grinding a rail at a skatepark in her wheelchair?
|Photo Josh Richardson (@brapp_1410)|
Can you explain to our readers what WCMX stands for and what it is about?
WCMX is a mash-up sport, taking elements from skateboarding, BMX, motocross, aggressive quad-skating, etc—and re-purposing it for wheelchairs. The most famous WCMX rider is Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham, who tours with Nitro Circus, and practically invented the sport. You may also have recently seen him in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Paralympics, where he launched off a flaming mega-ramp and front-flipped through a ring of fireworks. Again, in a wheelchair.
But if you catch me after two beers, I’ll tell you WCMX is actually a love letter to the wheelchair. For every other adaptive sport, the wheelchair is a stand-in for a pair of legs. Each of those sports were designed first for able-bodied people, and adapted later. You can race, ski, shoot hoops, hike, and play hockey & tennis & rugby without a wheelchair. And most people do.
Not so with WCMX. There is no able-bodied version of WCMX, because WCMX is about the chair itself. It doesn’t exist without the chair, and you don’t need to have a special chair to get started in it (I didn’t). It’s about adapting to your chair, then mastering it, then effing celebrating it.
|Photo Steve Christensen (@stevechristensenphoto)|
What is your favorite thing to hit at the skatepark?
There’s nothing quite like a nice big roll-in to blow your hair back and send you flying through a snake run. However, nothing scares spectators and impresses other skaters like dropping into a giant bowl over the coping. I usually start my skatepark sessions with that, just to make sure everyone knows right away that the “poor little wheelchair girl” can hold her own.
Tell us about the chair you use for your sport – how is it different than a regular wheelchair?
I said above that Aaron Fotheringham practically invented the sport. But if he’s James Bond, then Mike Box is his Q.
Mike has been building wheelchairs for twenty-five years, since his brother became a paraplegic in a motorcycle accident. When his brother couldn’t find a tennis chair that worked for him, Mike figured he’d try and build one. And that’s what he’s been doing ever since, always innovating and tinkering and being unbelievably generous with his time and talent.
My chair, specifically, has the following modifications that a “regular” wheelchair doesn’t: Fox mountain bike shocks, a four-point suspension, Box’s proprietary “Recoil” forks on the front, Bones Clears for casters, a grind bar, a seat belt, and a ratchet strap across my legs to keep them cinched down when I’m riding.
Can you trick it out to your own specifications?
Yup. Every Box Wheelchair is entirely custom, down to the color of the powder-coat.
|Photo Rich Millard|
Can you tell us the humorous message that is written on the bottom of your chair that people can read when you are upside down?
Ha! Yes. It says, “If you can read this, flip me over.” ;) But I fear I’m taking too much credit—I saw this joke for the first time, many moons ago, printed (upside down) on the license plate holder of a Suzuki Sidekick. A bit of dark humor on a car that was known to be a tipping risk on sharp turns.
Can this same chair be used for everyday use as well, or is it sport specific?
Before I got my Box WCMX chair, I was using an ultra-light-weight Ti-Lite, which—if it were a car—would be a Lexus Hybrid. But once I got my butt in a Box—if a Ti-Lite is a Lexus, then a Box WCMX chair is a Baja truck—I couldn’t bear the thought of ever putting it in anything else. Until I got a Box everyday chair about six months later, I used that WCMX chair every day, all day.
The downside is that it’s more than double the weight of an everyday chair, and being that I was working as a Production Assistant in Hollywood that summer, hauling the chair in and out of my car upwards of twenty times a day on errands, I was always sweaty.
The upside is that when I was riding my WCMX chair as my everyday, whenever I came across a skatepark, I was always ready.
|Photo Josh Perry (@yeehawwoodworks)|
Things are changing rapidly for girls in every sport – what about WCMX – any developments you have seen that are positive for the girls?
I call my friend Katherine Beattie the “First Lady of WCMX” because, when she started riding three-and-a-half years ago, she was virtually the only woman in the sport. Again, like Aaron Fotheringham, it wasn’t that she was the first girl ever to hit a skatepark in a wheelchair. But women’s WCMX looks like it does today almost entirely because of her. The tricks we do (or dream of attempting) and the culture (where enthusiastic mutual encouragement coexists with fierce competitiveness) are all Katherine.
With Katherine as our trailblazer, there’s been an explosion of female participation in the sport, to the point where last year’s WCMX World Championship hosted a Women’s Division for the first time ever.
Additionally, there are a ton of little wheelie girls coming up the ranks who are going to be absolutely unstoppable once they get to be teenagers, having trained in WCMX since they got their first (tiny, adorable, pink, badass) Box wheelchairs.
What advice can you give to girls who may be starting out or want to try WCMX ?
My advice would be to check out my and Katherine’s Instagrams (links below). Also, search the hashtags #wcmx and #wcmxgirl on Instagram and Twitter. There are a growing number of us, and you may find our videos helpful.
I’ve also been toying with the idea of putting up some instructional videos on YouTube, to walk beginners through some starting-out skills, but it’s been a busy season for me, and I just don’t have the video-making skills to do it on my own. (If anyone reading this wants to film and edit, though, I’ll show up and do the tricks and instructional!)
Beyond that, try to locate a WCMX hub near you. The sport is small, but it’s growing, and it’s filled with people excited to help other get involved.
I can’t emphasize enough, however, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with slapping on some knee- and elbow-pads, and a helmet, and just hitting a skatepark. Maybe take a few AB (able-bodied) friends, fellow skaters if ya got ‘em. And just try some stuff. In the end, WCMX isn’t about getting just the right chair and then signing up for a class with a professional. It’s about the stoke. All the “right” equipment and training in the world can’t replace it. And, if you’ve got the stoke, the other stuff will fall into place. Trust.
|Photo Katherine Beattie (@ktbeattie)|
Some athletes compete or just film, and some do both – what are your preferences?
Scenario A: Early morning and I’m at a nearly-empty Venice Skatepark with my bestie. We shoot the breeze, warm up, try some new stuff, shoot the breeze, say hi to our skate friends, hop into the snake run, get pushed out by some hot Australians, shoot the breeze again (this is a pattern). Then maybe film a few of the gnarliest stuff we’re trying. On a good day, we get some killer crash footage. On a better day, we land the trick and put it up on Instagram to encourage other girl riders/ show our far-flung WCMX network what we’re up to/ bask in a narcissistic haze of “likes.” ;)
Scenario B: I’m so nervous I can’t sleep or eat. I couldn’t even have a drink the night before because I was so worried I’d be hung-over this morning. I’m back and forth to the bathroom, feeling sick to my stomach. I watch the people competing ahead of me, and try not to hyperventilate as I silently judge my upcoming performance against theirs: Oh, shit, she did the rail. Can I do the rail? Do I wanna chance getting hurt on my first run? Is there anything else I can do that’s equally impressive? Then I win, or I don’t. And go home.
Scenario A is filming. Scenario B is competition. Which do you suspect I prefer?
|Photo Samara Pepperell (@ladytrample)|
You are always filming and posting great videos from your park sessions – any tricks you’d like to share with our readers on setting up your iPhone to shoot when you don’t have someone else to help?
I’m lucky enough to have a husband who builds custom furniture (#shamelessplug: Check him out @yeehawwoodworks). It took him all of five minutes to notch a groove into small square of wood, which I lined with earthquake putty, to prop my phone up when I’m out filming alone. But you could fashion the same simple thing out of cardboard if you don’t have a carpenter handy.
Alternately, Katherine uses an inch of hollow aluminum pipe with a u-shaped piece cut out, which accomplishes the same purpose.
Or just buy one of the many phone cases that come with a little fold-out stand.
The point is, use what ya got!
You have also been to Woodward West a few times – what was that experience like?
I’ve only been there once, but it was pretty epic to roll in there after a year of watching other people’s videos of the place.
They have a rad outdoor concrete park, but since it’s the only place near me with a megaramp and a foam pit, I concentrated on my first backflip attempt. Unfortunately, I landed straight up and down, upside down, on attempts 3 and 4, and the last time I really messed up my neck.
I stuck around for another hour or so, trying to enjoy the outdoor park, but I was in too much pain. So my day at Woodward, where I was supposed to send a backflip to foam, got cut short.
You are always on the go – traveling, hitting up skateparks, working, raising your children, learning new tricks – how do you keep in shape & what is your healthy secret for food choices?
I’ve learned that the formula to staying at a healthy weight is 80% diet, 20% activity. As they say, you can’t outrun (or outwheel) your fork. This is especially important for wheelchair users, because our normal health issues can be exacerbated by excess weight.
Also, like the camera, the chair seems to add fifteen pounds—nobody, but nobody, looks as good sitting as they do standing. So I’m careful with what I eat, but it’s really not hard or a “trick.” It’s simple: Don’t eat so damn much. Of course I don’t mean eat less than you need. But Americans are pretty crappy at estimating what we need. We’re, like, waaaaay off.
So yeah, just pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth. And make sure at least some of it isn’t crème-filled. ;)
|Photo George Medina (@soulcaptor)|
You have been to quite a few skateparks - can you tell us some of your favorite places you’ve gotten to ride?
Well, Venice is and always will be my home park. I also sometimes hit The Cove in Santa Monica, Pedlow in Van Nuys, or Santa Clarita. Sheldon was my Number Two for a long time, but it’s been closed for months now due to vandalism.
But my favorite place I’ve ever ridden—even above Woodward West—is easily the Berrics. It’s a private indoor skatepark owned by pro skaters Steve Berra and Eric Kosten, and they’ve generously lent it out to the Girls Skate LA coalition a few times.
Skateparks are always good for skateboarders, and most skateparks are pretty rideable for wheelchairs. Others almost seem like they were built with wheelchairs in mind. And that’s the Berrics.
What are your plans for competing in the upcoming year – any contests, filming or photo shoots you are looking forward to?
Katherine and I are doing a spot for Lifetime Television’s “Welcome to the Fempire” promotion (thanks for the hookup, Cindy!).
The next competition on the list is the World Championship in Dallas next spring.
And Katherine and I are working with some people to (hopefully) set up another WCMX competition in Southern California next fall. Watch this space!
I don’t have any official sponsors—that’s rare in the tiny WCMX community. But I ride a Box Wheelchair with Spinergy Wheels, two companies I think are the greatest. I also want to mention my seat cushion, which is made by Supracor, and was my prize for winning the Women’s Division of the 2016 World Championship. It was generously donated by Supracor after they found out the event’s organizers hadn’t provided a single penny in prize money for the Women’s Division (Oh, you thought misogyny was just an able-bodied thing?)
The books I can read over and over and over again: Me Talk Pretty One Day by Dave Sedaris, Under the Banner of Heaven and Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I also highly recommend the mind-blowing book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
I’m an indie pop/indie folk kinda girl.
Three Things You Don't Know About Me:
1. In 2008, I made more money winning game shows (Merv Griffin’s Crosswords and Trivial Pursuit: America Plays) than I did working.
2. I’m developing a television pilot right now with Michelle Manning, who produced The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Forrest Gump, and many, many, many more.
3. I still have my baby blanket, which I took on my honeymoon, and sleep with every night, and carry around my house all day. I even—yes, really—bring it to work sometimes. In fact, it’s in my lap as I type this. Consider my freak flag flown.
Make sure you follow on Instagram…
Also, find our most recent video on YouTube (shot and edited by Rich Millard): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMNH2w04klA