Professional BMX rider TJ Lavin, 34, has made it a point to keep his home here; the Las Vegas native just can’t seem to get comfortable anywhere else. The dedication helped Lavin get through one of the most challenging times of his life. On Oct. 14, while competing in the Las Vegas stop of the Dew Tour, Lavin crashed, breaking his wrist and fracturing the bone around his eye socket. He was rushed to the hospital and put in a medically induced coma. His injuries came just one day after his fellow Las Vegas BMX rider, Ty Pinney, suffered a similar incident for which he is still hospitalized. Lavin, who is out of the hospital and on the road to a full recovery, says the outpouring of support from locals for himself and Pinney has been overwhelming, and is yet another reason for the hometown guy to stay put.
What has the recovery process been like?
It has been really trying because it’s so slow. All the support that I have and all the people have been overwhelmingly positive, so I can’t say that it’s been that much harder. It’s been very good when it comes to that. Everyone has been very helpful and very nice, so I can’t complain.
Has this injury changed your outlook on life?
It has changed for sure. Before I crashed I was more footloose and fancy-free and I had a million friends. Now you really pay attention to the people who really matter to you. Everyone else is cool, but material things don’t matter.
Why is it important for you to stay in Las Vegas?
It’s a thing for me that I can’t explain—why I don’t leave and go to California or live at the beach or whatever. It’s a local community that is pretty tight-knit. There aren’t very many of us who were born here, and the ones who were seem to take you under their wing and don’t let go. It’s kind of weird. It’s a comfort zone. I think it has a lot to do with the mountains; they feel like a bathtub. I go to other places, and I feel funny without the mountains.
Has growing up in Las Vegas given you a different point of view?
I have an overwhelming sense of needing to be entertained, and I think a lot of that has to do with being from Vegas. I don’t drink or smoke or do any drugs, and I think that has a lot to do with Vegas as well. You see what you can do when you’re on that stuff and it’s not good, so I just don’t do it. I just stay away from it and try to stay clean. Besides that, I killed all my brain cells in one crash.
Do you still think kids should get into extreme sports?
For sure, 100 percent. I look back at it now and we were going as big as motorcycles and we were wearing skateboard helmets. If you’re jumping big jumps like we were, you definitely should wear a full-face [helmet]. If you’re street riding, you can wear a skate helmet because you’re not necessarily going that fast or that high like we were. I would definitely advocate for safety stuff and making sure you wear it. It just isn’t worth it. Being where I’m at is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I think it’s a very clean sport. Our sports are some of the cleanest in the world. I don’t know if it’s the lack of money, because you don’t sign the $6 million contract when you’re a BMX rider. It’s very clean and very clear. It can keep a kid out of doing drugs and stuff like that when they’re in high school.
When will you ride again?
It could be five to 18 months for my vision to come back. As soon as my sight comes back and gets better, I’ll start rolling around. I can’t see that happening for a while. At least a few months.
Do you believe in luck?
Not really. I know that being lucky is being prepared for the right opportunity, and people tell me all the time how lucky I am about the crash. I feel lucky, too. At the same time I put all those hours in at the gym and I put my hand out at the last second—things like that, that was preparation for that slam. I knew I was preparing for the hardest crash ever. I didn’t know it was going to be that day or time, but you’re going to crash. It’s a matter of when and how bad. I’m lucky for sure because the sheering of your brain is different and that’s lucky for sure, but it’s also being prepared. I wore a helmet and a mouth guard, and that helped a lot.