Rhys Hillier most definitely has his own style...
Thank decency For The Internet!Many Australian freestyle riders come from small country town's hours away from big cities. Usually they're one-of-a-kind Evil Knievel types who've tried their hand at racing motocross, but end up finding out jumping ramps is more fun and easier on the wallet.
Take Rhys 'Rasy' Hillier as a recent example — he's an emerging talent from a small place called Corryong located in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains seven hours south of Sydney. Rhys broke away from his tight-knit community of 1000 people with the aid of cyberspace.
Websites like freestylemtx.com and fmxaustralia.com have helped many young riders like Rasy gain exposure and showcase their talent to the world-wide freestyle community, and if it wasn't for the net, kids like Rasy would find it near impossible to reach out to industry and event promoters who can help make or break a young riders career.
I recently caught up with Rasy to get his take on what it was like growing up in a small town, and how he broke away from it to forge a career in freestyle motocross.
So you decided to be an FMX rider, how did you connect with the scene? Internet, word of mouth?
I connected with the small, but growing scene by Internet. I lived at least three hours from any FMX riders back when I was comfortably jumping ramps and had a handful of tricks up my sleeve. Just by posting up photos each weekend, people start to see that your definitely improving. I also picked up small. but helpful sponsorships from industry people who scanned the forums looking for talent. I also met a young grom named Jesse, who worked for Freerider MX and I'd always send him photos that he'd pass onto the Editor, and next issue I bought I had my first shot in a mag!
Once you get in a magazine at a young age people keep an eye on you. After hearing about an event for amateurs on the Gold Coast, which is18-hours north of here, I entered and my Dad drove me up and I ended up placing third in my first event. From that came more exposure through magazines and word of mouth, which slowly but surely led onto other events and gigs. My first big break was being approached to do a six-month show over in China for ARD (Australian Ramp Designs).
Who inspired you to want to ride FMX? Was it a pro rider, mates, movies?
The first moto vid I saw was the originalCrusty Demons of Dirt and that's when the itch began. Once the scene in Australia slowly started to evolve, Freerider MX magazine basically unearthed the underground movement of FMX in Australia, so each month I was down at the newsagent grabbin' a copy and reading it over and over. I remember noticing one guy who was young and seemed to be the next big thing — that was Luke Urek, and since then I've always been inspired by him. It was cool seeing Urek doing seatgrabs in the pages of Freerider MX and then going on to become Australia's first FMX champ, and then become a member of the Metal Mulisha in the States. I've always thought his style on a bike is unique!
What dreams for the future did you have when you started, if any?My dreams were just to be able to ride FMX for life, and once I realized it's possible, I set my goals really high, because I believe you gotta aim high to get high. With the drive of riding solo for most of my FMX days, I know what I want and I know I can get there. My dream was to ride for the Metal Mulisha growing up, it'll always be a dream, but with the way things have been shaping up for me over the last two years, who really knows where I'll end up!
Looking back, you were one of the many amateurs behind the likes of Urek, Kinnaird, Maddo, Schuie, etc, trying to crack the pro level. How hard has this been, and what has helped you open the door to finally being recognized as a rider good enough to compete at AFMX events, and demos with Gary Reid's Showtime Yamaha team?