Ride in peace

After his tragic death earlier today, Kelly McGarry, 33, will be remembered as a gentle giant of the freeride mountain biking world. At 6 foot 5 inches tall he may have towered over his fellow competitors, but he was renowned for his down-to-Earth attitude.

Born in Nelson, New Zealand in 1982, McGarry enjoyed riding BMX and motocross from a young age. However, his unusual height pushed him towards the world of mountain biking. He started his career as a racer and won a few national titles in New Zealand.

McGarry found himself gravitating more towards hucking cliffs and big jumps than speeding between the tapes, but as a sensible twenty-year-old he focussed on training to become a builder rather than chasing the mountain bike dream.

In 2006, at the age of 24, he travelled to Canada for his first overseas experience and the mountain biking spark was re-ignited. He entered a few contests and quickly attracted the interests of sponsors.

His big breakthrough came in 2013 when he was asked to appear at Red Bull Rampage. He shocked the mountain biking world by backflipping the 72 foot Canyon Gap. The footage of this has now been viewed 23 million times, making it one of the most watched videos in mountain bike history. The backflip earned McGarry the Best Trick prize and second place in the competition.

Described by commentators as “the toughest creature on Earth”, McGarry always rode with no fear. This was characterised best on his return to the Utah cliffs in 2014 where he overshot the Canyon Gap, resulting in this nasty crash that he walked away from unharmed.

McGarry made up for lost time with a number of high-profile achievements. He designed and built the 2015 Crankworx Rotorua course and enjoyed success at the Teva Slopestyle in Queenstown (New Zealand), Ranchstyle in Grand Junction (USA) and the Red Bull Joyride in Whistler (Canada).

Tributes have poured in from all across the mountain bike industry. McGarry’s team mate Bryan Regnier said: “The best mate ever, the coolest mate ever. I will never forget the good times with you.”

Fellow Rampage competitor Cam Zink said: “If I had to pick one person to be the face of happiness and positivity for the world, it would be this one atop a gigantic body with bright long hair; the easiest to pick out in a crowd so you always know where the biggest, happiest smile is. Anyone who had ever met this giant beam of sunshine knows how awesome and genuine he was.”

Our thoughts are with his girlfriend, his family and friends at this terrible time.