|early years||Joe Johnson: I started out like most riders. I started racing then slowly moved into freestyle. I started freestyling circa 1981. The first quarterpipe I rode was like a giant kickturn ramp. A couple days after that, my friend and I built a quarter-pipe. We had no plans, but we had a pretty good idea of what one looked like. We built it against two trees and somehow it came out pretty good. A year or two later, I met T.J. Fallon. He had a bunch of ramps in his yard and it was great. Through the years, we've gone through dozens of ramps.
Joe Johnson, www.lat34.com, august 2006: I started out racing a little bit. There was a track by my house in Mansfield, Mass. There were one or two guys there doing rock-walks in 81 or 82. That was when freestyle first started. And it was pretty funny seeing that. We were like, What the hell is that all about? So, we started trying some tricks. We had a quarter pipe against a tree and a track in woods. That was 82 or 83. And then I convinced my mom to let me fill the backyard with plywood. I was just talking to someone yesterday about how big we thought that ramp was back then. But, then I thought about it and was like no, it was only 8 feet high. I mean, I look around now at these ramps. Theyre huge now. But, our ramp just seemed so big at the time.
|1986||5th place 16 and over expert class @ AFA Masters finals, Velodrome, CA.|
Joe Johnson-the man with nothing under his name in the Haro ad had something to prove. He was riding to the same song everyone else rode to today -Run DMC's King of Rock. For his first air he blasts a one-footed invert about seven feet out. A lookback about five feet out. Going up for his third air, he chucked his bike and bailed. . He then pulled Vertical lookdown, no-hander, fakie air, massive one footed invert, and pulled off a 540 by the hair on his chinny chin chin.
|1987||Haro freestyle tour.|
Joe: It was great. I learned a lot of flatland, while riding with Dennis McCoy and Rick Moliterno, although it's hard to get any practice on tour.
2nd place expert ramp @ 1989 2-Hip KOV round 4, Washington, DC., october 1987.
Interview in BMX Action december 1987.
|1988||2nd place pro ramp @ 2-Hip KOV round 1, CA, march 1988.
3rd place pro ramp @ 2-Hip KOV round 2, Megafree 1, Paris, France, march 1988.
Joe Johnson Turndowns one hand, No footer candy bar, et surtout un no hander alley oop au-dessus du canyon.
Pro ramp world champion @ 1988 worlds, Manchester, UK, july 1988.
Interview in FAT zine issue 8.
Joe Johnson, www.lat34.com, august 2006: Well, I didnt make it up myself. Mike Dominguez did kind of a fly-out tailwhip thing in 84. And then people were always talking about doing an aerial tailwhip. So, I just started working on it over the course of 6 months or so gave up on it for a while and then started trying it again. And then I got it. So when I started doing single tailwhips, double tailwhips came pretty quick after that. I think it was 89 when I tried the triple tailwhip. Never got it. Looking back, I wish I had tried a couple more times. Bikes were so light back then that I think it probably made it a little easier.
Joe Johnson busts a heavy turndown on the cover of Freestyle BMX UK october 1988. Warped photo by John Nightingale.
No foot cancan, CA., march 1988.
Candy bar, Paris, march 1988.
Tailwhip, AFA Masters round 6, september 1988.
|1989||Interview in Freestylin issue 46, march 1989.
Joe Johnson has been picked up to ride for GT.
1st place pro ramp @ 2-Hip KOV round 1, Megafree 2, Paris, France, february 1989.
Joe Johnson s'impose magistralement grâce à des runs cleans, hauts et variés. Tentative de double tailwhip air sur son dernier run.
2nd place pro ramp @ 1989 2-Hip KOV round 5, Washington, DC., october 1989.
Joe Johnson pulled a double (2) tailwhip air. No kidding. He's also the sole member of Micki Conte's "team" and riding/ripping harder than ever. If someone's going to beat Blyther at. a 2-Hip, it will most likely be Joe.
4th place Great class @ 1989 2-Hip Meet The Street finals.
Tailwhip, Paris, february 1989.
|1990||Joe Johnson turndown at the 1989 Woodward KOV on the cover of the 1990 GT catalog.
2nd place pro ramp @ 1989 2-Hip KOV finals, Newport, january 1990.
Joe Johnson kept everyone on their feet with variations beyond belief, plenty of grinds and a footplant thrown in for texture. Joe pulled it all together and topped it with his double whiplash air.
|1991||Joe Johnson, www.lat34.com, august 2006: I got out of BMX in 91. A lot of guys got out of it then. But, a lot of people stuck through it. And its great that they did. But in 95 the magazines were real thin not a lot of sponsors out there. BMX just stopped progressing for a while. Except for Mat and Dave Mirra, that is.|
|1997||Ride BMX UK december 1997: Joe Johnson rode a few shows with Dennis McCoy on the Mongoose ramp at the Anaheim bike show in the States, and was apparently riding really good considering he hadn't ridden seriously in years. He practiced for a few hours on a brand new '98 DMC and was again pulling tailwhips and suchlike, with plenty of respectable air. Joe is now a cryogenic scientist [he freezes dead people for a living -strewth]...|
|2003||Joe is now married and working as an engineer in New England, where he is from. He still rides, but not as much since he blew out his knee riding Kevin Robinson's skatepark.|
Dennis McCoy, Transworld BMX june 2003: Joe Johnson will always be remembered for pulling the first tailwhip air in 1988 and the first double tailwhip less than a year later. But to anyone who's been in the scene for a while, he's known for a lot more. To me, the name Joe Johnson is synonymous with style. I have an image of him from an AFA comp in New York circa 86 permanently etched into my brain: a completely upside-down, fully stretched one-handed invert on a Haro with Skyway Tuffs. Everything Joe did usually looked better than when anyone else did it. Bear in mind, this was years before riders began to make conscious efforts to improve their style via fool placement or facial expressions. Joe didn't rehearse it -he just had it. Perfect no-handers fully stretched. No-foot can-cans held way too long. One night we were street riding in Florida, and I saw Joe contort his bike into an unfamiliar position. I asked, "What the hell was that?" and he explained how he liked to kick his Learys out the opposite way and drop the back end. These days it's known as a turndown.
When halfpipe contests became the norm, Joe's talent really stood out. He did the most difficult variations, yet always looked in control, and he had the rare ability to string everything together back-to-back at height. In the late '80s, Joe packed up his beloved Thunderbird Turbo Coupe and Left Massachusetts behind to live with a half-dozen other riders at Ron Wilkerson's old house. He rode the Enchanted Ramp regularly and learned the trick we now call the toothpick with a grip on his peg for traction (peg grinds weren't invented yet). Sunny days, roommates that rode, magazines and sponsors nearby what more could a pro rider ask for? For Joe, there was something missing. The sitcom "Cheers" ruled the primetime airwaves, and Joe tuned in religiously. Norm and Cliffy Clavin reminded him of what he missed back East. He moved back to Boston, ate lots of fresh clam chowder, and enrolled in mechanical engineering classes at nearby Dartmouth. Contests were becoming scarce, but Joe was still riding hard. Then he tore his ACL. Then GT's team manager gave him the option to move back to California or be released from the team. Months turned into years, and Joe became an engineer at CTI Cryogenics. He claims it involves the design and manufacturing of vacuum pumps for CD-ROM production. I say the government told him to keep quiet. Either way, things have worked out well for him, and you can find him at all the comps that I run (Gravity Games and Vans Triple Crowns) working as our head staff member. Johnson still talks about making a comeback, but I think his head's gotten too big. Not in an egotistical way -Joe's a humble guy. Physically, it has gotten huge. Quite possibly the world's largest melon. Someone needs to make him a custom helmet, because at 33, he still has plenty to contribute.
|2006||www.lat34.com, august 2006: Joe now lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, and is still super involved in BMX events, usually helping out long-time friend Dennis McCoy behind the scenes.
Joe Johnson, www.lat34.com, august 2006: Im one of the organizers for all the BMX stuff at the Dew Tour. So, I help Dennis [McCoy] out with all the odds and ends. Dennis does all the organizing in between events. He and his wife have a lot to do for these things. So, I just kind of show up to work for the weekend. Its cool. I get to keep my foot in the door, you know.