In an industry as competitive as pro mountain biking, the only way to get to the top is through hard work, determination, and balls of granite-qualities rider Darren "Bear Claw" Berrecloth exudes in spades. In his relatively short career, Bear Claw has done for freeride mountain biking what Laird Hamilton did for big-wave surfing, Tony Hawk did for skateboarding, and Lance Armstrong did for cycling-he got people's attention, brought the sport into the mainstream, and became an icon in the process. With an up-beat attitude, a drive to go big and be creative, and an unending passion for riding, he has not only swept the award ceremonies, he's also won more competitions than you can shake a kickstand at. But success never comes easy. "I get out there and put a lot of work into my career," he told MF recently. "There are a lot of guys who just have everything handed down to them. I don't want to be that guy."
Rise to the Top
For pro athletes in the "alternative" sports industry, there's nothing cliche about the concept "the greater the risk, the bigger the payo." Take the story of mountain biker Darren Berrecloth. After high school, Berrecloth flipped his co-op program coordinator the bird and left his future career as a tool-and-die technician behind to ride his bike instead. And that's when he hit the jackpot. "This guy was telling me to forget this childish biking thing and assess my priorities," Berrecloth says. "Otherwise, he said, I was just going to be a loser with no job. Here he was, some dorky dude who'd probably been picked on his whole life, telling me what to do. At that point I was like, 'Screw this, I'm gonna ride my bike, I'm gonna make a go at it and make it work.'" Eight months later, Berrecloth landed his first major sponsor and started making enough dough riding his bike that he could finally stop begging his mom for gas money.
Now Berrecloth is dominating the mountain-bike world. In a sport where individual effort is all that counts-where there are no coaches, referees, or boundary lines-being a star isn't just about being the best, it's about having a blast. "Wins are always fun," Berrecloth says, "because of the excitement and the exposure that comes with them. But for me, the big thing I get out of competition is the fact that I get to go out and shred with all my boys." Meaning, even when your sport is your job, having a good time can still reign supreme.
And, whether you're a pro or an amateur, discovering your true passion is the real key to getting and staying fit-physically, financially, and emotionally. "I hate the gym," says Berrecloth. "How can people stand being in the gym when they could be outdoors breathing fresh air and ripping down a trail or paddling up a big wave? You get a better workout, plus the exhilaration. That's what really makes you feel alive."