An interview with BMX legend and stuntman, Mike Escamilla
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
Mike Escamilla has lived the outlandishly action-packed career that a kid with a race car bed frame could only dream of; pro-BMX star, stuntman, world traveler, TV host, a part in Guardians of the Galaxy. Hell, the man is even a playable character in Matt Hoffman’s Pro BMX for Pete’s sake. Listing Escamilla’s accomplishments is like reading off someone’s wild bucket list; the entries only get wilder as you go down. At 41-years-old, Escamilla is certainly not throwing in the towel anytime soon. In fact, he’s just getting started.
For the latest episode of the Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy Lux sits down for an exclusive interview with Mike Escamilla to talk biking, travel, life as a stuntman, and where life will take him next.
Growing up in a middle class family in Southern California, young Escamilla probably didn’t imagine that his passion for biking would possibly land him a job in Hollywood one day.
“As far as hobbies go, I just rode BMX since I was in the sixth grade then that just became my job…” he explains.
“So it’s been like 25 years of being a professional BMX bike rider as well as doing stunts. Which is what I always wanted to do for a living since the mid-90s. I've also done about 80 episodes of television and gigs hosting different shows.”
But before doings stunts in movies, Escamilla got his start doing skate vids with some friends. In high school he actually got a gig riding a unicycle in a Nintendo commercial and another in a Spike Jonze production. His resume and list of projects kind of just snowballed from there with more parts in the show Pacific Blue, the Disney movie Stick It, even a part in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and countless other titles.
“Over the last few years I've sort of made stunts a priority and now I've gotten to work on some pretty, pretty cool movies in the last couple of years,” he says.
Along the way, Escamilla has traveled to 62 countries, worked over 200 different jobs, and now hosts a podcast. Oh, yeah and he’s also the father of a 5-year-old girl. Somehow the guy manages circling the globe and raising a family. But where does he get the time? You probably won’t like the answer, but Escamilla’s finds spare time by laying off the shuteye. That’s right. The dude only sleeps about six hours a night and he says that its key to his productivity.
“I read somewhere that if you sleep eight hours a day for 60 years you have been asleep for 20 years of your life,” he explains.
“I mean you think about it, if you slept six hours a night, you would cut off five of those years. And so what could you do in five straight years? That's 24 extra hours a day for five years. I get about six hours of sleep a night so that’s two extra hours to my day. I'm not always productive with that extra time, but you can get a lot done.”
But despite all the movie parts and exotic gigs, Escamilla never forgets his BMX roots and it’s something that keeps him grounded and humble. When talking about the world of BMX today, Escamilla certainly speaks with veteran-like authority. And to be honest, he’s not always impressed with what he sees being put out these days.
“I don't know if kids actually ride bikes anymore,” he says, “I feel like they only ride bikes if they're filming clips. Like every day on the Internet, I see someone doing some trick with a backwards manual 360 and I just don't care anymore. It's just so saturated now.”
Truth be told, Mike isn’t impressed with your two-inch double peg grind reel you filmed in the middle of Spain when you could’ve just pulled that stuff off in a church parking lot.
For Escamilla, the stakes just aren’t high enough. You can say that might make him old school, but Escamilla remembers the days of building his own ramps during the SoCal scene back in 90s, as well as some of the gnarly tricks he used to land. Some of which he almost regrets.
Lux brings up a classic clip of Escamilla doing a crazy bike grind and backflip into a ditch.
“Yeah! I can’t believe it took so long for someone else to do it,” he says.
If there is something that can certainly be said about the guy it’s that he doesn’t worry a care in the world what others say about him.
“I’ve had people go like ‘Oh, are you mad that someone one-upped you?’ and I’m like, ‘No, that was over a decade ago.’ You can’t really one-up someone 15 years later. It’s called progression.”
Speaking of progression, Escamilla seems to be making the transition from BMX star to parent pretty well. Life can be a balancing act but he’s taking it in stride. His greatest concern is teaching a good sense of character for his daughter so she can live her life fearlessly.
“Life affects me directly on how I want my daughter to view the world,” Escamilla says, “I want her to understand empathy, to understand what people are going through. Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you’re happy. Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean that you’re sad.”
From his humble beginnings as a kid jumping ramps in his backyard to landing stunts for the big screen, Escamilla knows a thing or two about beating the odds. His mantra is one of freeing one’s self of the constraints and barriers we put around ourselves.
“You can pretty much do anything you want,” Escamilla explains, “So I just got to instill in her that anything is possible. Anything. Stop saying you can't and just go out there and do it.”
You can follow Mike on Instagram @mikeescamilla and be sure to check out his new podcast called Keep Bleeding. Jeremy and Mike had a great conversation that’s honestly too good to fit into one article. To hear the full story on Mike, including his BMX beefs, travel stories, and the great piece of wisdom rapper Xzibit casually gave him while hanging out at his crib, check out the Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.
All photo's from Mike's Instagram: @mikeescamilla
Cover Photo: Jeff Zielinski