Pro BMX Flatlander Renz Viaje is a man of determination. Starting out way young to see the possibilities through, what was once a hobby has become a full time job for him. A job that’s enviable for he’d be doing it anyway regardless of the wins and the accolades. He just wants to ride it out and show the world what he’s got. Just like his surname says, he is all about the journey and not the destination.
We had the chance to catch up with him in this lengthy conversation. Sit tight, have a coffee on hand and read about Renz Viaje and his BMX journey.
First off, how did you get into the fine sport of BMX? Can you share with us the process on how you turned it into a full-blown profession?
Actually, back in the 90’s era to early 2000’s, BMX riders are very visible as you could see them ride all over the streets. You could see them everywhere in all parts of the country; as long as there is a vacant lot or a public park in the area, surely there are BMX riders playing there.
When I was in grade school, there were two BMX Riders playing in front of our school every recess time. One plays with ramps while the other one is into flatland. I got curious then, how they were able to do the tricks— riding the bike while the front wheel is upside-down and jumping while they were riding their bikes. I was so amazed and I wanted to do those tricks myself, I wanted to have my own bike, a BMX!
I started playing BMX circa 2000-2002, I was in first-year high school then. I learned tricks and that was when I got hooked on BMX. My parents were against it and prevented me from riding my bike, they even padlocked it! My parents’ condition was for me to finish high school first but I was determined with wanting to ride BMX. I would sneak out after school and go to the bike spot even if I do not have a bike to ride with. I still play and practice some tricks borrowing bikes from my friends.
It was a two-year on-and-off BMX career for me at that time. After I graduated from high school, my parents gave me back my bike for transportation purposes and yes, they were still against my BMX hobby. I would still sneak out and go to the spot to ride my bike and practice my BMX tricks early in the afternoon so I could come home early, my parents would not notice that I practiced secretly. It was like a form of secret training for me so I could catch up with my friends who already excelled in BMX. After a year of “secret training” alone, it bore the fruits of my labor. I was able to catch up with the BMX skill level of my friends.
Way back 2005, my friends and I went to Manila for a BMX competition. I was lucky to win First Place, I was not expecting that I would win. This was also my first winning competition in Manila. The name of the contest was Edge Tour Sea Games Jam at Amoranto Stadium, Quezon City.
At first, it was just a hobby for me. BMX was a lifestyle for me and my friends. At the time I started winning competitions in Manila and other places, I started dreaming to become a Professional BMX Rider. Of course, it was not that easy! Especially with most of the BMX Riders I come across with, they tell me that BMX cannot support me financially nor help my family with our daily needs. They always tell me that BMX is just a hobby, it is a lifestyle for most of us. They say, only BMX Riders abroad can afford to become a PRO and we in the Philippines cannot compete with them.
For all the things they were telling me then, I took it as a challenge. I told myself that I will prove them wrong, especially for my parents. I decided to live in Manila, I am from Lucena City, Quezon Province. It was the year 2007 when I started chasing after my dreams to become a recognized BMX Pro in the Philippines. As the years went by, I was living my dream! Winning contest after contest nationwide until corporate sponsors started noticing me and I was able to support myself and my family with earnings from my BMX career.
I also started competing internationally until we (BMX community) have put BMX into the map of Olympic Sports, South East Asian Games (SEAG) was our breakthrough. Philippines was put into the limelight of international BMX as many first world countries acknowledged the skill sets of our Filipino BMX Riders.
You recently won 1st Place (Masterclass Category) from the American Flatland Association AFA Dream Run Contest. Can you share with us that experience? Congratulations!
Thank you! Actually, the American Flatland Association AFA Dream Run Contest is an annual competition in Colorado, USA. We cannot afford competing there due to financial constraints. Then came the COVID-19 Pandemic and changed the format of their contest into an online competition. We were all HYPED and excited to join the contest, it was a chance of a lifetime to enter an esteemed internationally recognized competition! We immediately signed up for the contest but did not expect to win as we were battling against the finest BMX riders worldwide. We put a mindset of “just have fun” and what was important for us was to participate so that Filipino BMX Riders will be known globally.
Being sponsored by Vans Philippines, I’m sure you have a killer shoe collection, can you share with us your top five pairs?
I have been riding for Vans Philippines for 10 years now! And, yes. I have my favorite shoes among my collection. The top 5 are as follows:
- Sk8-Hi Van Engelen
- Sk8-Hi Dakota colorway
- Vans Spectator Sued Camo
- ULTRA RANGE
- Half Cab Reissue
I always choose Sk8-Hi shoe styles because it’s a form of protection for my ankles too. Whenever I do hard or new tricks, I feel safe wearing those Sk8-Hi’s.
I remember the first time I received my first original Half Cabs from Vans, I feel so HYPED and stoked with the comfort. It’s so stylish with a lot of colorways to choose from.
Can you share with us your favorite music to listen to whenever you wanna get pumped up before a session?
I love reggae music and chill music during warm-up. I like to relax my mind so that I can think of new and original tricks.
During jam sessions with my friends, I usually play Hip-hop or Punk Rock music to get the vibe and be HYPED!
Do you think BMX now is more widely accepted in the Philippines, now that you got more support from companies (Mountain Dew, Vans) and the like?
Compared to 20 years ago, BMX is more culturally accepted by most Filipinos now. I think, little by little, we take baby steps for the BMX scene to grow as a widely accepted industry in our country.
I still hear several comments and remarks like BMX is for those street “tambays” and that BMX riders are trouble makers. But, it will still depend on the BMX community (past, present and future BMX riders) on how we will all handle the professional image / branding and promotion of BMX as a legitimate sports that is recognized to the highest level of sports competitions.
The corporate sponsors have a big role in our advocacy for recognition, they have helped us open the minds of the older Juans and Juanas to appreciate that BMX is not just a past-time or hobby but a sport for the next generation.
From Generation X, the Xennials, to us millennials (Generation Y), the I-gen (Generation Z), Generation Alpha, until the coming of age… BMX will thrive to exist and persist as it is passed on to generation per generation accepted by all.
Can you describe the BMX scene here in the Philippines for those who aren’t familiar?
BMX has been in the Philippines since the ’80s, spread nationwide from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. They are our founding fathers/mothers, and they have continued their legacy to spread BMX and encourage future BMX riders to uphold the BMX scene across the country.
The BMX scene in Metro Manila is relatively huge but not as active during the ’80s and 90s era when BMX was at its prime. BMX is not seen in the streets and public places as much compared to the good old days when there were many vacant areas and public parks we used as practice spots. Nowadays, there are a lot of public places that prohibit us from riding our bikes even if we are just passing through. Another factor of its decrease in popularity is due to the unfamiliarity of other Filipinos with BMX, but we are putting in more effort to make others understand the culture of BMX and its importance for us.
With the recent SEAG last year, a skate/bike park was constructed in Tagaytay. It was retained and maintained for the community so that we will have a decent place to practice and learn new tricks. This is a good start for BMX as plain folks will learn and understand what BMX is all about.
Here is a fun fact: BMX means BICYCLE MOTO-CROSS (X), it is a form of stunt riding technique on a rough ground or over an obstacle course using a bicycle designed to withstand high impact tricks.
Is there a trademark Renz Viaje BMX trick that you’d want to share?
Yes! It’s still fresh. I pulled this trick two weeks ago and I call it “PEDAL POP.” It’s a world-first, this link or trick is original. I am proud to say that is made in Philippines, made by a FILIPINO BMX RIDER.
It’s already written in the history of Philippine BMX Scene that a Filipino was able to make our own signature trick, for the first time! If I am not mistaken, it was also internationally recognized by several BMX Pros and BMX Legends around the world.
Your message to your followers and This Is Hype readers?
Thank you, This Is HYPE especially for having me here!
Kay Sir Rogel Simon, Thank you very much po!
Please support our local BMX athletes and local BMX riders nationwide! Support LOKAL! Ang inyong suporta ang nagbibigay sa amin ng inspirasyon para itaas ang antas ng BMX upang tayo ay makilala sa buong mundo at bigyang karangalan ang Pilipinas at bawat Pilipino. Laban, Pilipinas!
I would also like to thank all my sponsors for always believing in me and supporting me since day one— Flipbykes.com, Daily Grind Clothing, Team Manila Lifestyle, Vans Philippines, and Mountain Dew Philippines.
And last but not the least, to my wife and family for all the love and support you have been showering me. Pushing me to reach my full potential, to achieve my goals and make our dreams a reality! To God, for all the blessings He has continuously given me and my family.
Ride safe and ride harder than yesterday! Peace out yo!