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The Glaswegian BMX rider whose redemptive story has hit Hollywood

first_imgExtreme sports Buultjens’ life changed forever when he saw the Steven Spielberg film ET as a 10-year-old. “I was this little Scottish kid sitting in the cinema and I remember seeing these bikes flying. The freedom that it could give you stuck with me for the rest of my life. Even at that age, a bike represented the freedom I craved. You might not be able to fly with ET, but you could go anywhere, anytime you liked. Even now, as an adult, the bike still represents a huge amount of freedom.”Shortly after that visit to the cinema, Eldridge – the man John considers to be his true father – gave him the precious gift of a BMX. “Any chance I got as a teenager, I was riding this bike and dedicating myself to learning every single thing I could. It became almost an extension of myself. It gave me friends, a community and a feeling of self-belief I had never had before.”The stunts he learned on his estate gave him an escape and a foundation for his time as a competitor on the local BMX circuit. “People used to laugh at me in my early adulthood as I was still riding my BMX everywhere. I needed to push myself to a level in competition where I didn’t second guess myself when doing my jumps. I tried to channel this mindset into my normal life. I knew there were dangers, but I knew that, if I was prepared, I could always thrive.” Pinterest What is 2,011km long, lasts 82 days and takes 20,093 shots? Golf’s longest hole Facebook Share on Pinterest Read more Twitter Facebook Share on Messenger Twitter Guardian Sport Network Cycling (Life and style) Living near the city of stars, Buultjens met Hollywood producer Ali Afshar, who wanted a rare Haro bike to add to his collection. The pair ended up having a long conversation about Buultjens’ difficult upbringing in Glasgow and how he had found love and redemption through his adoptive family and BMX. Afshar said he would love to turn Buultjens’ story into a film.“It’s the typical thing you hear in Hollywood, isn’t it: ‘I’ll make your life into a movie’,” says Buultjens. “Initially I didn’t really take it seriously. Then things started to become a little more serious and eventually it gained momentum until we heard not only was it getting made, but Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges was going to play my dad.” Ludacris, a rapper-turned-actor who has starred in the Fast and the Furious franchise, took a personal interest in Buultjens’ story. Between takes, the pair would talk about their childhoods and how they followed their passions. The film is called Ride – the name Buultjens gave his autobiography – and Buultjens is playing the role of his biological father. He had dabbled in acting before, starring in Neighbours while living in Australia, but transforming into the man he had reviled as a scared, young boy proved psychologically exhausting. Topics Twitter Sport John Buultjens in his job as global brand manager forHaro Bikes. Photograph: John Buultjens “I like to think I’m a positive person who sees the best in people, but playing that man and channelling that amount of rage and violence – especially when you think it was channelled at me as a young child growing up in terror – that wasn’t easy. When we finished filming the scenes, I was absolutely exhausted – not physically, but mentally. Yet, I was proud of what this film represented: that even from the toughest starts, your dreams can come true.”Buultjens understands how far his BMX has taken him. Life is good in San Diego but he wants his story to inspire young people across the world. “The process of writing the book and doing the film has been emotional but incredibly rewarding because it gives me the opportunity to tell people that there is always hope there. I was a wee racist kid from Glasgow, who was given love and hope by a beautiful family. I never thought that riding around on a bike would give me so much in life, but it has. It gave me the strength to pursue my dreams and live a life I could only dream of as a youngster.”• This article is from Behind the Lines• Follow Jonathan Drennan on Twitter Cédric Anselin: I was ready to take my own life but phoning Clarke Carlisle saved me Support The Guardiancenter_img Facebook Share on Twitter … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Eventually John was rescued from this nightmare of domestic violence by his foster parents, Marianna Buultjens – a Paisley native – and Eldridge Buultjens, who had immigrated from Sri Lanka. John did not feel comfortable being seen in Glasgow with his adoptive father. “It makes me sick to think about it now but I was ashamed and I used to walk at a distance behind dad. This was a man who did so much for me, and showed me for the first time in my life what love meant, and I was ashamed because he looked different to me.” Share on Facebook Share via Email In his early twenties, armed with a passport and his bike tools, Buultjens moved to Australia to set up a new life and compete in professional events. “I competed purely for the love of what I was doing. There was always a serious risk. I had over serious 20 concussions and fractured my skull badly. I had a friend who carried a sewing kit to sew himself up after injuries. Yet, among this fear, I was able to live in the moment competing and never think about my past. The bike represented freedom.”Realising the limitations in his competitive abilities, Buultjens concentrated on his love of constructing and designing bikes. He earned a reputation as a knowledgeable and passionate designer and was eventually offered the job of as global brand manager for Haro Bikes in San Diego. “I never knew this until this job, but Bob Haro was the main stunt rider for ET. Can you imagine? This little kid who grew up watching this film in a cinema in Glasgow, dreaming of what a bike can do, and then eventually my love of riding a BMX eventually took me from a council estate in Scotland to California.” John Buultjens in his younger years. Photograph: John Buultjens features Cycling (Sport) Share on WhatsApp John and Eldridge Buultjens. Photograph: John Buultjens Pinterest Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Since you’re here… John Buultjens, a Glaswegian who made his name and fame by riding and designing BMX bikes, is standing outside his home in San Diego. The sun is shining and the sea air is clean and fresh. It’s a world away from where he grew. up “One of my earliest memories is the stench of waste in the streets,” he recalls. “It was in the middle of a bin-men’s strike. I remember streets that smelt of rotten rubbish and rats clambering around our feet. It summed up the mood of desperation. My childhood was a study in survival.”Buultjens’ early years do not make for easy listening, even when you know there is a happy ending to come many years later. “When I was three years old, I remember running to see my dad – excited to see him – and he just threw me into a fire. I still remember feeling my flesh on my foot burning. There was always a constant fear at home growing up. Just before Christmas in 1979, when I was seven years old, my dad was beating up my mum and I ran in with a kitchen knife to defend her. I was ready to kill him but ended up getting knocked out cold. That was the end up of my time in that house.” Read more Reuse this contentlast_img read more