Straight from Tribeca: ‘Birth of Big Air’ Review

“If you know anything about BMX, you know who Mat Hoffman is. Maybe that’s all you know.”

Prophetic early words from skateboarding legend Tony Hawk that do their share in making “Birth of Big Air” a compelling documentary and one that you will remember for years to come, regardless of how much you happen to care about BMX riding or extreme sports.

Fueled by passion and urged by a body and mind that can deal with absurd amounts of pain and torture, Hoffman turned the BMX world upside down in late ’80s and kept it alive through the later part of the next decade, when no one else cared about the sport and the few that did couldn’t even come close to competing with him.

A true pioneer in the sport, even to this day, Hoffman has inspired countless riders and athletes that have been told they don’t have what it takes to succeed.

An ESPN Films documentary appearing at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Birth of Big Air,” directed by Jeff Tremaine and produced by Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville, tells the unlikely story of Hoffman, who rose up from the heartland of the country [The last place anyone would expect you to come from in BMX back then] to become the best BMX rider of all time. Like all greats, it seems that Hoffman has a gift and can do things on a bike that no other mortal can. However, through the course of this film, it becomes painfully obvious, both literally and figuratively, that Hoffman has paid the price for all of his accomplishments. Breaking every bone in his body, in some type of violent manner, Hoffman’s ways even put fear into the eyes of legendary daredevil Evel Knievel.

Through the interviews of people like Knievel, Hawk and countless BMX riders and pro skaters, “Birth of Big Air” does an excellent job of putting Hoffman’s legendary career together. Taking us from his amateur days to his near-decade reign at the top of the sport, you’ll see first hand how untouchable he was.

Nevertheless, the interviews with his friends, family and wife add a human element to the film and shows another side of Hoffman that puts this entire production into perspective.

Giving up nearly everything he had for what he loved, Hoffman carried the cross for a sport and ended up making a living at it. Destroying his body in the process, he was forced to slow down for the sake of his family and be the father and husband they needed. Being able to show this type of emotion and still be endearing, funny and action-packed, all at the same time, makes “Birth of Big Air” a winner.

When it’s all said and done, Hoffman’s story isn’t just one of pain, suffering and success, it’s one that proves the American dream is still alive and strong; as long as you want it bad enough.

And you’re willing to break and bones and extremities in the process.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 12431 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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