By Mia L.

The Battle of Hastings has grown into something of a phenomenon since its initial launch four years ago. Every year hundreds of BMX aficionados from across the globe descend upon the Hastings Source Park to witness some of the sport’s finest  riders battling it out for a €24,000 cash prize. Rich Moore, co-founder of the world’s largest indoor skate park, tells us what to expect from the biggest battle since, well you know that minor one in 1066…

M: How did The Battle of Hastings come to fruition? 
R: When we first looked around the derelict interior of the White Rock Baths in 2013, we were already thinking about putting on an international BMX contest.  It was a big motivating factor. We’d put on smaller BMX events prior to this, but wanted to do something bigger! And once we’d established ourselves, and began thinking about a name for our main event, the Battle of Hastings was a no-brainer! 

M: The B.O.H is very highly regarded within the global scene, how has it evolved over the last four years since its inception?
R: We made a real effort to attract potential sponsors to The Source Park from day one, so they could understand our vision and buy into the concept of the park and its events. Getting the big sponsors in enabled us to do things properly from the start. It also helped us attract the best riders from around the world. Once the riders are there, the spectators, media and hype seems to follow… So the first B.O.H made a big impact on the scene, and we’ve continued to build on this, aiming to make it better each year.

M:  What can the audience expect to see? What numbers are you expecting? 
R: There’ll be 48 of the best riders from around the world, competing in 12 teams, in a combination of BMX park- and street-style riding. Our format encourages innovation. There’ll be plenty of technical tricks and creative riding on show. We also have the courtyard and shop, where people can hang out over the weekend, grab a beer, eat a Tommy’s pizza and watch the live stream. We can fit 600 people in the main room. Tickets usually sell out within hours of release. We have spectators fly in from around the world and an audience of 100,000+ watching live on YouTube; plus hundreds of thousands more watching videos post-event!

M: How are the winners selected, and who would you say are the riders to watch? 
R: It’s a team event – we select eleven captains and each chooses three other riders for their team: this is unique in BMX, but it means we get a combination of the best known riders and future stars. It’s always hard to say who’ll stand out ahead of the main event. But we’re stoked to have three local riders competing this year – Dan Lacey, Stu Chisholm and Greg Illingworth (who’s actually South African, but relocated to St Leonards) – so they’ll get the biggest cheers.  Some of the riders from previous years are now considered to be amongst the best in the world – they were virtually unknown before. We also have a team that qualifies through events in Florida, Japan and via our own pre-event qualifier here. The main event is overseen by professional BMX judges, including some ex-pro riders. 

M: BMX is an extreme sport, with a high risk of injury. How much training would you need to do to take part? 
R: Yeah you need to practise a lot, but it tends to be through riding, rather than training as such – there’s a lot of skill and creativity involved, as opposed to pure strength or simply being the fastest.  In terms of injury, it’s actually surprisingly low risk; people can get hurt, but less so than in some other sports. For your average non-competing rider, it’s actually very safe.

M: How much work goes on ‘behind the scenes’ to plan/set up the B.O.H event?
R: So much!  We have a de-brief meeting a few weeks after each B.O.H, where we start planning for the next year. Then it’s an ongoing project, getting increasingly manic in the weeks before it starts. We have an events organiser from Cologne, who takes care of a lot of things; we also have a number of people who work on it part-time throughout the year. We have a production team of nine, a live stream crew of 11, and over 50 people who manage and work in the building during the actual event. The key sponsors also have their own ‘activation teams’ who work alongside us, to make sure the riders and media are being taken care of. It doesn’t matter how much you plan things though, the event kind of takes on a mind of its own in the end.

M: What does the event bring to the local BMX scene and in turn, to the wider community? 
R: The event definitely brings money into Hastings, as visitors book hotel rooms, use restaurants and run up the inevitable bar tabs! I think it’s good for Hastings to have a truly international event, one which attracts people from around the world. The best thing for us is the sense of pride and inspiration it brings to the BMX community as a whole. We grew up riding BMX and getting inspired by pro-riders into a lifelong passion for the sport. The B.O.H is doing the same for local riders, as they get to hang out with their heroes for a week each year.

M: Please complete the following sentence-The Battle of Hastings is…
R: Rad!

The Battle of Hastings is running from 5 – 8th September 2019 at The Source Park in Hastings. The Source Park would also like to thank their sponsors -Monster, Vero and Vans. 

Find out more about The Battle of Hastings and future events via The Source Park website

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