Friday, March 26, 2010 | 11:52 a.m.
He speaks the same way he rides that little bike of his. Up and down, around and around.
One moment he’s talking fluidly of how he loves to work with dirt. The next, he goes airborne in a 360-degree spin, laughing about how a “gnarly” mishap last month while training, which left him with a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, has cut into his time on the bike.
It’s the type of injury that takes NFL players weeks to rehabilitate. Surgery is often required. But not in this case.
“Me, dude, I’m just going to work out of it,” said Ricardo Laguna, at 27 an aged warrior in the world of BMX, but somehow the sport’s Peter Pan. He comes across as a kid sometimes, as he talks of turning his own mud pies into dirt moguls two dozen feet high. “I’m at this two hours a day. If I’m not, I get bored. I get bored pretty easily.”
Later, he’s an adult, sitting in his office — his real office. His other office is the half-acre behind his house in North Las Vegas, financed by the money he’s earned as a superstar whose only instrument is a bicycle so scarred-up that it looks like it might have been purchased at a garage sale.
Laguna, one of the biggest draws in the uniquely close-knit world of BMX, hosts the annual Ricardo Laguna Dirt Jump Challenge during Saturday’s Extreme Thing Sports and Music Festival at Desert Breeze Skate Park. The contest is a facet of the festival that features more than a dozen local bands on four stages (a festival first), a roller derby tournament and an amateur BMX and skate competition.
A total pro these days, Laguna forged his name in the world of BMX after learning of competitions at Nellis Air Force Base. Having no discernible career path as he grew up, working at times as an assistant for a physical education teacher, a high school lunch monitor and as a staffer at a day care center that paid him $7 an hour, Laguna observed the stars of a generation ago — which in BMX is like 10 years — such as his friend T.J. Lavin. He saw a way to make money by partnering with “her,” or in this case, his 20-pound Robinson sst BMX bike.
What set Laguna apart in his early career was simply willingness. “A lotta guys, when they fall, they do not want to get back on that bike,” Laguna said. His eyes dance at the next sentence, “Dude, I want to get back on that bike!”
Laguna’s earliest paid performances — and he is an athletic exhibitionist rather than an athlete who competes in such competitions as BMX races, which gravitate to Olympic events — were at Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif. Exposure there, and his appearances at the popular Gravity Games, helped him secure corporate sponsorships and led to yet more appearances across the country. Five years ago he was even a color commentator — for the Spanish-speaking broadcast of the X Games.
Broadcasting could be in his future. Or not.
“I’m asked that all the time, and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Right now, just give me some good dirt and I’m happy to play in it.”
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.