It will always be the most gorgeous sunrise I’ve seen.
We were out well before the sun, and we hiked a steep cliff off the side of town to wait for dawn.
We enjoyed the stillness of the season, sipping coffees, and Kelly told stories of the incredible times suddenly unfolding before him.
As the sun began to reach the horizon, a long warm gradient grew in the sky. We grabbed our bikes as gold and glittering waves pushed long shadows across the hills, and we twisted lefts and rights through bar high bushes.
I remember Barham freaking out. The scene was unbelievable and he knew we had captured something special.
The glow of the morning faded into the brightness of the day.
We all had somewhere to be, but figured it would be cool to capture a few dodgy cliff drops before we all departed.
We found a real sketchy one.
Kelly and I both thought it was a little too dodgy.
Kelly said he didn’t want to ride it, because he wanted to stay healthy for his first Rampage. But he decided that he’d better get used to being afraid in that kind of terrain if he was planning to make use of his hard-earned space at Red Bull Rampage.
So he dropped in. And he rode away clean.
I really didn’t want to ride that drop.
But I was still young enough to make up non-existent pressures in my head and hold myself accountable to them. So I rolled forward, nose dived a little, and felt my front wheel turning as my handlebars connected with my chest.
I got tossed a long way.
And when I rolled out from the dust, I realized my collarbone was broken and my head was a little shaken.
Kelly, who needed to drive back to Whistler to pack his gear and get on the road to Rampage, was already stretching his time a little thin with our huck session.
But he insisted that he come hang with me at the hospital, ‘cause it wasn’t a big deal.
And he waited with me in the Emergency Room for a couple hours while I waited for X-Rays. Filling my ears with tales of adventure and positive reassurance.
Eventually I Found out my collar bone was broken in two spots, and that was the end of the year for me.
And when we went outside, I realized that in the midst of the post-crash chaos, I’d ran my car out of gas.
It all felt like a bit of a bottom out.
But Kelly flagged down a stranger, hitched a ride to the nearest gas station, and bought me a can full of gas. And then he drove me and my old car home to moms house, ‘cause he figured it'd be too dangerous for me to get behind the wheel anyway.
On the drive home he talked about how he didn’t understand the success he was suddenly having in riding. That it was all sort of surreal. And that he figured he had a shelf life of another 2 or 3 more years at contests, before he would go back to working construction full time.
He also filled my ears with encouragement. He told me he wanted me to put together a tidy little resume. He figured I could pick up some sponsors, and that it would be cool to see me out at some events.
Once we got home, I gave Kelly my thanks and told him to get going. He was running hours behind schedule and he’d already been far too kind that morning.
But he insisted that he come in and meet my mom.
So he sat down and chatted with her for a while. Assuring her that my situation was no big deal. He joked around a bunch. And I think he warmed her up a little bit to the idea that I was fine, and that getting hurt might be a semi-normal occurrence if I was choosing to follow this lifestyle.
And when the afternoon light finally began to show, Kelly decided to get on his way. A friend drove his van over to moms.
Kelly said, “Chur Chur,” and as I watched him drive his classic old blue van from the front patio at moms house and off into the soft September sun, I knew that I’d made a special kind of friend.
Kelly taught me a huge lesson about human compassion that day. One that I’ve tried to pay forward ever since.
For a guy who didn’t think his riding career was going to make it any further than another couple years, I doubt it ever flickered in his imagination that he would go on to shake the whole world with some of the bigger moves that would ever happen on bikes.
And far more important than the ground he shook with his riding, were the hearts he shook along the way.
Anytime I hear Kelly’s name come up in conversation, eyes light up and smiles grow larger around the circle as stories of something special about Kelly were shared.
And whenever I saw him at events, I got the biggest hug. And as many times as I asked for tales of his travels since our last encounter, he insisted he was much more concerned with hearing about mine.
When I was digging at Rampage in 2012, Kelly broke his ankle. He tried to keep riding. And when he admitted defeat, he smiled and called me something incredibly offensive (apparently it’s a compliment in New Zealand) and told me that he wanted me to take his place on the roster.
A year ago, when I found out that Kelly had passed away, I lost it.
And I still cry sometimes when I think of him, and remember that I wont see him around anymore.
But in another light, I wonder if perhaps I see him more often now. Because I get to see him and the spirit he left in the world, shining bright in the eyes of everyone who knew him.
I met Kelly Mcgarry in September of 2008.
He was visiting Kamloops to collect photographs with Dan Barham and warm up for his first Red Bull Rampage.
This Dan Barham photo of Kelly and I riding together is from that September morning.
It was the first of many cover shots for Kelly, but its my one and only.
I can’t imagine a better person to share that with.