Back in the spring of 1988 when I was 14 years old, I was lucky enough to attend Woodward Camp in Pennsylvania. One of the pro instructors there, was Joe Johnson. Even though I was a flatland rider, I was well aware of who Joe was.
After all he was one of Haro's main vert riders, had won lots of contests, and was featured in the magazines on a routine basis. Joe was a superstar on his bike, yet he was soft spoken, down to earth, and very humble off of it. He could blast airs bigger than almost anyone in the sport, while doing difficult tricks with an effortless yet aggressive style.
Joe received the most notoriety during his career when he unveiled a new trick called the tailwhip air. Joe started working on it in the early part of 1988. I never saw him try it while I was at Woodward, but later that same summer, Joe worked on it for several weeks, and later pulled the tailwhip at the AFA Masters contest in Wayne New Jersey. This was the first ever documented tailwhip air. Joe continued to pull the tailwhip in every contest he entered after that as photos and video of this incredible trick began to circulate around the world over the next few months.
The following year in 1989 Joe got picked up by GT Bicycles and won the Woodward King Of Vert while showing the world an even more incredible trick, the double tailwhip air, and beating an unstoppable Mat Hoffman in his prime.
Another year later Joe had all but disappeared from the contest scene. He decided to leave GT and return to school full-time to study mechanical engineering and faded from the BMX scene completely. In a matter of a few years, he went from his highest peak, to vanishing from the sport. Many of us always wondered, what the hell happened to Joe Johnson? Where did he go?
We met up with Joe and got the low down on his humble beginnings, riding for Haro Bikes, pulling a tailwhip air for the first time in a contest, riding sessions with his buddy Dennis McCoy, riding for GT Bicycles, sustaining a knee injury, what caused him to leave the sport for good, what he's doing now, and..... was Joe actually the first rider to do the tailwhip air?
So get comfortable, crank up your speakers, and get to know a true bmx vert legend... Joe Johnson!