Hometown: Kapiti Coast, New Zealand
Sponsors: Vans, Fist Handwear, POC Sports, Wide Open NZ, Specialized NZ
Socials: IG: @ellie_chew Facebook: Ellie Chew BMX
For those who don’t know, what was your BMX origin story? I got my first bicycle for my 5th birthday. My dad found it at the local rubbish dump, took it home, gave it a tidy up and a fresh spray can paint job. It was a little 12-inch red and white frame, with back pedal brakes, and ape hanger handlebars haha! I guess that’s where my love for bikes started, but I only properly got into riding BMX around the age of 15-16. I had a group of friends who used to go to the BMX track after school, so I spent most of my evenings down at the track trying to jump all the different features and race my friends. We began learning a few stunts over the jumps at the track, including 1 footers, 1 handers, Tbogs etc, and then we decided to move our after-school meeting place to the skatepark so we could continue learning new tricks. I loved it, it was the place I would spend all of my spare time, with my friends having fun.
When did you get into competing? My first competition was the 2017 Vans US Open in Huntington Beach. I still remember arriving at the beach in awe of the fact they had built an entire concrete skatepark and grandstand on the beach, just for the week at the US Open Surfing event, and I was getting to ride a course that no one had ever ridden, and no one would ever ride again after the event was over. Still amazes me today. The feeling of arriving at my first competition was a mixture of excitement and a whole lot of nerves, this wasn’t just my first competition overseas, it was my first comp ever! In NZ we really didn’t have any competitions or big events in BMX, so I had really chucked myself in the deep end – in a good way though.
For me it was just a big learning experience, meeting new people, and riding with other girls on the beach in Huntington Beach, California! It was such a good vibe!
Ellie, you throw down some big tricks, why the heck aren’t you going for the Olympics? I started on the Olympic Journey back in 2017-2018 when it was released that BMX Freestyle was going to be in the Olympics 2020 for Men and Women.
At the time, it was kind of a natural evolution in the BMX women’s scene, because the top 10-20 girls were all at a similar progression rate, and we all felt like we had a shot at making it!
I had so much fun getting to travel all over the world competing at the Olympic Qualifying events. While I was competing I was sitting within the top 10 overall, with a potential Olympic spot up my sleeve, but the expense of travelling to all of the events that were popping up in different parts of the world, that were important point-scoring events, started getting financially difficult.
Most of the other girls had obtained funding from their Country’s Cycling Federations to help get them from event to event. The New Zealand Federation did not offer financial support and I had used all of my savings towards travel and expenditure, plus a big help from mum and dad, and managed to get to as many events as I could. The pressure of being able to carry on, and realistically get to the Olympics, became out of reach unfortunately, so it was a sensible decision to withdraw from the journey.
Like many countries, BMX is super low on the totem pole when it comes to the cycling discipline that gets financially supported, was the lack of support from Cycling New Zealand a factor? Yes, the lack of support from Cycling New Zealand played a big factor in the Olympic Journey. Living in New Zealand and travelling to Europe and USA up to 8 times a year minimum, wasn’t an easy thing to self-fund. Many people suggested I should move to America and base myself there, but it’s still an expense to live away from home and I needed to be financially independent, so I really didn’t see it as being a solution to my situation, plus I love living in NZ !
In 2019, you joined Nitro Circus, and since then it looks like you’ve become a permanent member of the family. How did this opportunity come to be, and how has it changed your day-to-day life? They were on tour in New Zealand, and out of the blue I got a phone call from Jed Mildon, an NZ Nitro rider, asking if I wanted to ride with them in the Wellington Show, I said yes, even though I had no idea how I was going to jump a 40ft ramp haha!
I arrived at the stadium to ride the first practice with the Nitro Crew, and I found myself at the top of the roll-in absolutely shitting myself! I had to sit up there for a moment, took my time to calm my nerves and found myself in a two-way decision – I either walk back down the stairs, and I never get this opportunity again and live with the disappointment of failure – OR- I drop into the ramp and see what happens. I decided to take the ‘see what happens’ option, as it was a lot better than living with the guilt of giving up. With the encouragement and support of all the guys, I stuck my little white vans on my pedals and said ‘ok lets go’. I pulled for a backflip on my first jump because I decided it was better not to see 40ft fly beneath me haha!
I over-rotated slightly, but was ok, and felt the biggest rush of excitement ever! I knew at that point that I could do it, and ran back up the stairs, and landed my 3rd attempt.
Live Show time – It was a surreal moment. I went from extreme nervous excitement to an almost calm state, and felt more comfortable riding a 40ft ramp in front of 30,000 people than I did at any competition – so I suppose that is where my BMX path changed. I started putting my energy into big tricks rather than competition runs, and that’s truly where I feel my happiest 🙂
Since then, I have ridden a few tours with them, Australia, Spain, and Australia again. Nitro has been the riding highlight of my life. I love everything about being on tour with the Family!
They are a special bunch of humans, and there is a constant drive to bring out the best in each other.
In terms of day-to-day life – I feel like I have a pretty cool contrast. When on tour I get to live the wild lifestyle – ride bikes, travel to different countries, enjoy awesome hotels, after parties, Nitro family BBQ’s etc. It is the best fun with awesome people.
When I am back home, I work full-time as a Graphic Designer/Signwriter, which I love because I enjoy being creative and keeping busy. I ride my bikes after work, and like to get out and ride on the weekends too.
Can we expect to see you on tour in 2023 and we hear there was supposed to be some sort of Las Vegas residency, can you tell us anything about that? Details haven’t been released about the 2023 tours just yet but the 2022 NZ tour was postponed, so I’m assuming it will be back in 2023 so I’ll definitely be excited to tour NZ. Las Vegas details haven’t been released either.
What is your plan for 2023? Are you planning to split your time between MTB and BMX again or more of one over the other? I am happily going with the flow. No plans are locked in at this stage. Waiting to hear from Nitro about dates for 2023, then work my other riding around that. I have recently just got into MX as well, so going to have a 3-way split, BMX, MTB and MX for 2023 haha! I like being busy and keeping things fresh, and I feel riding all the different bikes helps improve skills, learning different techniques in the different sports somehow all cross over, so its pretty fun 🙂
Questions from our readers
@charlotte__true Your favourite spot to ride? Franklin Farm, Tokoroa, New Zealand
@johnny_tsunami_official Who were your influences growing up, and who they are now? My influences have always been my friends. I think I’ve always been inspired by people who are truly themselves, in whatever they do. From a riding perspective, when you can see their style, flow and creativity comes from within, and they have their own special vibe.
@alfielikesbikes Tailwhips or Barspins? Tailwhips
@mbrownbmx Favorite NZ slang? Yeah, Nah
@eamonthebikeman What was your favourite part of the course at District Ride Germany Favourite section was the Dirt district. Getting to ride dirt take off, to dirt landing jumps, in the middle of an old historic town with castles and cobblestones was pretty surreal. My absolute favourite jump was the final jump. Big lofty floater felt cool.