Chad’s approach to riding isn’t what the casual sports fan normally sees in the 15-second highlights on SportsCenter’s Top 10. You won’t see him practicing one trick, sailing into a rainbow-colored foam pit, or doing a double flair on a big air jump. He doesn’t ride for flare, and doesn’t need a 30-foot quarterpipe to elevate his skill level. His runs are much more technically difficult, more skateboard-inspired than anything else.
“I’m trying to show people how cool BMX is,” Chad says. “It’s not a funny jock sport or some joke. People don’t see what it really is. They see stuntmen on TV. I’ll be riding down the street, and some kid goes, ‘Do a backflip!’ That’s all they know, but that’s not what BMX is.”
His mechanical street methods, which he attributes to his favorite rider Garrett Reynolds, take a more broad look at his landscape. Instead of pinpointing one spot and one trick, he views his plans as bar spin to nose manual, grind, manual to tailwhip. Imagine those 38-trick lines you used to blow through in “Tony Hawk’s Underground 2” on a smaller scale, and with a BMX bike. That’s Chad Kerley: video-game style, and Premium wasn’t the only one to notice him racking up the points.
Once again, at the Clairemont skatepark, 17-year-old Chad was faced with the biggest decision of his life. Only three people were at the park, chilling on the deck: one of his best friends and Nike 6.0 rider Dennis Enarson, Chad, and Vans rider Gary Young. Without a hint of the life-altering question ahead, Dennis nonchalantly looked at Chad and asked, “Yo, you want to ride for Nike?” Before Chad could respond, Gary offered a spot with Vans. Sandwiched between two offers, Chad let out a grunt of temporary indecisiveness. He said, “I want Nike.”
I’ll be riding down the street, and some kid goes, ‘Do a backflip!’ That’s all they know, but that’s not what BMX is.
“That’s all I wore was Nike stuff, and I grew up always watching Dennis,” he said. “I looked up to Nigel [Sylvester] and Garrett, who were on the team already … The first thing Nike told me was that I was strictly on the flow team, and had no chance of ever breaking onto the four-person BMX team.”
Had Mike Spinner not quit, that might’ve stayed true, but when the 6.0 crew dropped to three in June of last year, Nike needed somebody to step up.
“They called me on the phone, and my mom was on the line listening when they made the offer to go pro,” he said. “She was like, ‘[whispering] Yes, yes, say yes, do it.’ After I accepted, I hung up, fell back on my bed and was just like, ‘YESSS.’ It was a dream come true.”
With Nike behind him, and, most recently, Vitamin Water, the path has never been clearer for the youngin. Still, one thing stands in his way: High Tech International Charter School, where he’s sitting on three A’s and a B. He is only 18 years old, remember, and even though he might be an adult by law, he’s still just a kid in high school going through the same awkward phases as any other guy. As one of the stars of his sport in a school with only 350 people, word gets out and the ladies come calling.
“I’ve talked with a few high school girls,” he said. “They’ll see what I’m doing on Facebook, recognize me from the show, or be like, ‘I know you. You have all those likes on Tumblr.’ But now that I’m traveling all the time, I’m always around older girls, so I figure I’ll go for them. I’ve been talking to a 21-year-old.”
This older woman was a manager at a local eatery called Da Kines that Chad ate at frequently during his open high school lunches. He and his friends discussed about how hot “Da Kines Girl” was, but never talked to her once. Lucky for him, Twitter saved the day.
“I was scrolling through my phone one day, saw that she was following me, and was like, ‘Oh shit, that’s her!’ I hit her up and we’ve been talking ever since.”