Brian Kachinsky: The Definition of Pro
DK/etnies pro Brian Kachinsky is one of the few riders on the BMX scene that doesn't fall into a "this" or "that" type of pro classification. He competes (in 2010, he won X Games Bronze in BMX Street), he films wild video parts (check the video below for some 2010 highlights) and he even does demos throughout the world (including the Bikes Over Baghdad trip last December.) Brian also puts in a serious amount of work off the bike, conducting interviews (including this one), interacting with fans via Facebook and Twitter, and doing his best to represent BMX and his sponsors both in and out of the media.
Clearly, Brian is what many would call the very definition of "pro," and he's not afraid to put in work to continue living up to that title. Recently, Brian was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about his journey up through the ranks from expert park rider to esteemed pro with signature products. This is Brian Kachinsky.
ESPN.com: Do you consider yourself a "pro"?
Kachinsky: I suppose so. Let's put it this way, when kids come up to me and ask "hey, are you pro?" I still feel awkward about it so I usually just reply "sometimes" followed by a laugh and some stickers. I'm pro but I don't want to be put on a pedestal or want anyone to think that I'm above them. We are all doing the same thing with the same goal of getting rad and having a good time.
To you, what defines a pro?
Of course there is a lot of grey area here but a pro is someone who gets paid to do what they do. I think in BMX, however, this is also partly determined by the companies who support you and to what level they support you. Thinks like a paycheck, signature products, etc. can be good indicators.
When did you first perceive yourself as a professional BMXer? Was there a singular incident that prompted it?
My road was different than most and very gradual. In 2001, I won the "Expert" CFB year-end title, the biggest amateur contest series in the world at the time. From then on, I had to enter the pro class at contests or it would be considered "sandbagging." In that respect I was "forced" to go pro. It wasn't really up to me or my discretion. Judges had determined I was fit for the pro level. I wasn't getting paid by anyone at the time and was only getting a small amount of money for entry fees and things like that. I had just started college and was a full-time student. That same year, I was put on the "pro" team for the bike company I rode for at the time, but still wasn't getting a paycheck until maybe a year later. At that time, I started feeling like a pro because I was actually getting a paycheck for riding. It was a very small amount of money (not enough to live on) but enough to pay for a bit of school and some fun on the weekends. Although it was a very small amount of money, I still felt like I had the obligation to promote my sponsors as best I could and help them out like they help me out. As time went on, I started getting more paying sponsors and graduated from college. I chose to pursue BMX full-time after that because the opportunity was there. I was barely scraping by financially, but fun/passion was more important. Since then, I feel like I have developed into more of a pro and am where I am today. I don't feel, however, that I've "made it" and I don't think I'll ever feel that way. It's important to keep learning, improving, progressing and growing all while helping out the people who help you out.
What, in an average month, are your duties as a pro BMXer?
These duties are endless and always changing. It's what makes it fun. I'd say that my duties are to have fun, represent well, and treat what I do like I would a job (even though it's the best "job" I could ever think of doing). School and work has taught me things like: be on time, report to your boss, answer e-mails, do interviews, do what's asked of you (and even beyond what's asked of you) and don't slack. You would have to do all of these things in any job so why is BMX any different? At the end of the day, you need to get things done and do what is in your power to make those things happen.
You ride contests on occasion. Do you think there is a difference between, for lack of a better word, "street" pros and "contest" pros?
I don't think there is a difference in the fact that you have to get things done. I think the manner in which those things get done is very different, but at the end of the day, things need to happen. I think no matter what, you have to know your strengths and weaknesses and work on both. We are all riding bikes and that's awesome. It's hard to hate on that.
Who would you say is the model BMX pro?
I'd say one that comes to mind is Chris Doyle. When I first got on DK, Chris was always someone I looked up to and respected. He's just straight up professional. In many ways Chris (whether he knows it or not) really showed me the way. Many others helped me as well. I grew up around people like Dave Freimuth and Chad Degroot. Those guys were already established pros and much of what they did rubbed off on me. I can't thank them enough. Because of people like that, I got to hang around dozens of other pros and I learned things (on and off the bike) that helped me learn how a pro BMX career works.
Do you think BMX companies need to take a more active role in nurturing their riders and "turning" them from am to pro?
Yes and no. I think companies should nurture their riders who have shown that they are committed and go above and beyond what's expected. That being said, I think it really lies in the hands of the rider. You have to do what it takes to make these things happen. Nothing in life is handed to you. You have to earn it, often the hard way. I think it's important for riders to realize that BMX doesn't owe them anything. Rather, they owe themselves something. Back to companies though, I feel like they should support their riders in good times and bad. BMX is dangerous and riders sometimes get hurt. They should support them through thick and thin as long as the rider is still pulling their weight and trying to help the company out. I don't blame companies who don't want to pay riders who are just sitting on the couch either. There has to be a happy medium. Injuries are part of the game and true pros will bounce back from them time and time again.
What would you tell an aspiring rider shooting for the elusive "pro" title?
Beyond the cliche of "have fun," have the right attitude, be loyal to those who help you out, don't call yourself "pro" too soon and most of all say "THANKS." A simple "thank you" can go a long way.
THE PRO QUESTION ON ESPN BMX