VICE Meets: BMX Rider Mat Hoffman

Uploaded by vice on Oct 26, 2011

We're going to see my friend Mat Hoffman right now.
And if you don't know who he is, Mat is--
he's like the Evel Knievel of our time-- not "like," "is."
And me, Jeff, and Spike just did a documentary on him.
Tremaine was actually the director, me
and Spike, mere producers.
Anyway, the documentary is called The Birth of Big Air.
And we made the movie because Mat is awesome.
TONY HAWK: If you know anything about BMX, you know
who Mat Hoffman is.
And maybe that's all you know.
SPIKE JONZE: There is this point where it feels like
everything's been done.
And then somebody does something else, and it opens
up a whole new realm of possibilities.
And Mat's probably done that a dozen times.
MAT HOFFMAN: Is that really possible, or am I just
completely an idiot?
MALE SPEAKER 1: Mat's holding on one-handed down this
rickety-ass plywood runway.
MALE SPEAKER 2: You could crash and kill yourself just
on the run-up to the ramp.
SPIKE JONZE: He's like that big, and there's that
much air under him.
The ramp's that big.
MAT HOFFMAN: And whether I hold it, or skip to the
ground, that moment was everything.
MALE SPEAKER 3: Three years after Mat tore down his last
big ramp, X Games added MegaRamp and made it the
centerpiece of the event.
MALE SPEAKER 4: You watch the X Games today, and you've got
guys risking their lives on these huge ramps.
And Mat was definitely the guy who started ratcheting it up
to where it got to today.

TONY HAWK: He was the first guy to do any
sort of big ramp stuff.
And now we've got the whole Big Air event in the X Games.
And that's largely because of Mat ever trying it, or ever
dreaming it.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: Today's a little nerve-wracking because
a couple years ago, Mat almost lost his right arm.
He was in a big wreck.
A semi hit him.
So he hasn't ridden anything big for two years, and the
doctors told him he would never ride again.
And today he's riding a very gnarly bowl.
People say, oh, I love that so much I'd give my
right arm for it.
Mat could do that today.
I don't know, I'm just a little nervous.
MAT HOFFMAN: I have no idea what I'm--
this is like a new beginning, this is like a first
challenge, of like--
I've never ridden a ramp like this.
I have whole new equipment.
My arm has got totally new limits.
It's been a long kind of ride that I've
been doing with this--

Thanks, PJ, man.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: Man, he's a foul-mouthed little prick.
He cussed me the whole way up here for
leaving him in the car.
I said, Yoda, I am a Baptist, and my ears
aren't garbage cans.
So I'll put him over here.
MAT HOFFMAN: I really believed that my arm wasn't going to
work, and that I had totally new limits, but they were
limits that--
pain tolerance-- couldn't really ignore, because it just
didn't work anymore.
The power of a semi truck hitting you at 50 miles an
hour is just ridiculous.
And so I've just lost these muscles that control this arm.
If you can kind of see my collarbone, how that just
moves around, it's not even attached to anything.
I've gone through here.
I've gone through this one twice.
And I've gone through this one.
And I've been looking at my bike-- how am I going to
figure this out again, how am I going to play?
I started looking at my body like, more as--
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: A bicycle part, like Spike said.
MAT HOFFMAN: And doctors are like carpenters.
After you get hurt enough, you just start seeing your--
you're just a piece of--
your body's a part of your bike.
It's all one piece of equipment.
We're trying to keep going.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: I don't think most people
look at it that way.
MAT HOFFMAN: And really, what people don't understand is I'm
happy either way.
I'm happy waking up on the flat bar, as happy as I am
airing out.
Because it's just like--
I'm just going for it.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: You had a bunch of surgeries on you
before the wreck, right?
MAT HOFFMAN: Yeah, I've had 25 something surgeries.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: He's held together by pins,
rods, and duct tape.
MAT HOFFMAN: I owe my life to medical science, really.

JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: He's a very nerve-wracking friend to have.
SIMON TABRON: That's pure, encapsulated
passion right there.
In England, we call it reckless abandon.
It's a beautiful thing.
Oh my god.
Sorry, he just did something scary.
That's all he does.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: He can't even shake someone's hand
without holding his right forearm, so you don't pull his
right shoulder out of socket, and he's out here doing that.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: Mat's got one arm, no brakes, defying
all odds by riding again.
What am I doing?
Just lugging beer up the hill.
He loves riding.
The doctor told him, you cannot do that,
you won't ride again.

I'm Mat's personal assistant today.
I'm his driver.
Actually, I'm not driving I'm moral support.
MAT HOFFMAN: This is a story that I never thought I was
going to tell.
So whenever I got this opportunity to do this with
Spike and Jeff and PJ and those people that kind of grew
up with this spirit and this fire, like, being able to tell
the story through them, it's really all of our story.
What it's all about is just going for it, you know.
The way I like to play, and the same with you--
not many people like to live that way.
They just like to be like, OK wait, are your sure this--
let me see some track record.
It's like, where are you going in life?
You're just following what's already been done.
When it comes down to it, to go for it, that untalented--
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: To be that untal--
I take untalented to a whole new level.
Thank you, Mat.
Jeez, I thought he was going to give me some props on this.
MAT HOFFMAN: To be that untalented, but then still go
for it, that's that spirit that anybody should have.
I wish I had that because--
He knows he can't do this, because after watching him go
for this multiple times, I now know he can't do this.
It's not acting.
But he's still going to go for it because he can't help it.
He just goes for it.
He likes to go for it.
There's a great saying in Bolt.
I think it was like, in order to make the impossible become
possible, you must be awesome.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: Why didn't I think of that?
I've just been being a douche.
I could be awesome, and things would totally change.
MAT HOFFMAN: My favorite thing is being as high as I can be,
and getting the best view.
And seeing all this spectacular landscape.
I want to be up in there and looking down on it.
MAT HOFFMAN: I'm sorry.

JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: He said, one more, I'm not going to try
nothing hard or anything.
I'm like, OK.
Knowing he was going to--
that was awesome.

SIMON TABRON: I'm sorry I made your friend do craziness.
In the skateboard pool.
JOHNNY KNOXVILLE: You can't high five that arm.
The other one you can high five.