A brief silence falls at the top of the starting hill at Walkerston BMX track just before the gate drops. It only lasts a couple of seconds, but that time is precious for the riders of all ages who wait with nervous energy, ready to fly down the hill and onto the bumps, lumps and curves of the track.
As all riders know, getting a good start is crucial to the race.
With the increased popularity of events like the X Games and the inclusion of BMX (an abbreviation of Bicycle Moto Cross) in the Summer Olympics, awareness of the sport has increased greatly and it has become a much more accessible option for those who want to try something other than the more traditional sports on offer.
Walkerston BMX Club was established in 1982 and members have watched it grow since then. It is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia and has the added benefit of being something the entire family can enjoy, with the emphasis on both fun and inclusivity.
Mums, dads and kids are all welcome. Walkerston has riders ranging from Mini Wheelers to, in the club’s own words, ‘mature age’. “It is very much a family affair,” explained club fundraising coordinator, Kirsty Skaines.
Seen by some as a more ‘extreme’ sport, there’s no question that the benefits of BMX outweigh anything else. “You get the fitness, the fun, the friendships, all that side of it. That definitely outweighs the few little scuffs here and there,” said Kirsty.
“I like how boys and girls are both equal in it (BMX),” added 11-year-old rider Sarah Tickle. “My favourite thing about riding BMX is doing it with my friends.”
The social aspect of BMX also appeals to 13-year-old Liam Skaines. “I’ve been riding BMX for about eight years now. My favourite thing about racing BMX is about meeting new people and seeing old friends I haven’t seen in a while,” he said.
Five-year-old Georgia enjoys the social side too, but not as much as the fun on the track itself. “The most fun part is the bumps,” she said.
Lincoln, also five years old, agrees. “My favourite part of BMX is the jumps. I like to go fast.”
It has not always been an easy ride for Walkerston BMX Club.
“In March 2017, our region was affected by Cyclone Debbie. We didn’t catch the cyclone so much, but we caught the aftermath of the floods. So our track and our registration area had flooded and our track washed away,” explains Kirsty.
“Lots and lots of fundraising dollars down the drain.”
“So we essentially had to start fundraising and get our track up and running so our kids could race again,” she said.
Despite the setbacks, club members pitched in and worked tirelessly to get their facility back up and running. Help also came from the wider community.
“It’s quite amazing how we got the track back up and running for the riders. Lots and lots of hard work. Volunteers from the community that aren’t involved in the sport came in, helped us with our track, helped fundraise, and we were up and running again,” she says.
They are rightfully proud of what they have achieved and the results have been outstanding, with Walkerston riders achieving Queensland, Australian and World ratings.
Support from the wider community has been fantastic, but one of the biggest assets for the club is the dedication of their regular volunteers. “We’re quite a tight-knit little club, so everyone pitches in and helps. Noone’s afraid to give a hand,” she says.
For riders and volunteers who have been involved with the club for a long time, it has been very interesting to watch the sport develop and evolve.
Michael Wallin has ridden BMX for nearly his whole life and has been involved with the Walkerston club for over 30 years.
“It’s very positive to see the next generation coming through. It keeps you keen to want to help out with the coaching and all that as well,” he says. Michael still races competitively and enjoys sharing his years of experience with younger riders.
“When they see me race on a weekend and do well and then come down on a Monday to coach them, they respect you and look up to you and listen to what you say because you actually do the sport,” he says
“You see the kids come from Mini Wheelers to Sprockets, then they work their way through the age groups and then eventually you see them doing Pro.”
“That’s the rewarding part of it – watching them get better and better.”