In this age of digital media, it’s all too easy for glossy content to obfuscate the true personality of a professional athlete. We see money shots, we hear commentators’ hype, and we get predictable post-race interviews that prop sponsors and offer little insight beyond that. But every once in a while we get a taste of the very real person behind the pixels, of the strengths and weaknesses and idiosyncrasies that we can all relate to. And when that person is professional mountain biker Casey Brown, it’s hard not to love her. Her humility and ‘go big or go home’ attitude endears her with fans and promises a bright future for this hometown hero.
Revelstoke Mountaineer: World Cup Downhill racer, Queen of Crankworx, and now Enduro World Series racer — you’ve worn a few hats in recent years. Do you think you’ll stay focussed on Enduro for a while?
Casey Brown: For me I see a bit more longevity in Enduro compared to DH. I’m still competing in Crankworx but not going for the overall. My dream is to do more filming and editorial pieces.
RM: You’ve got to love some of the venues chosen for Enduro. Where are you right now?
CB: I’m writing to you from Madeira, a little island belonging to Portugal, way off the coast of Morocco. This place is exotic as f*#k!
RM: Travel is certainly one of the perks of racing or producing film content. Is there any place you haven’t been to yet?
CB: I would love to spend more time in Asia; I see Nepal in my future.
RM: You’ve called Revelstoke home since you were a kid. What keeps you here?
CB: I moved to Revelstoke when I was eleven in 2002, from New Zealand. I stay because Revelstoke has matured into home for many athletes and entrepreneurs. I’m honoured to be surrounded by such inspiration. The true seasons and endless mountain adventures are also what keep me here.
RM: I’m always curious about the stresses of being a pro, mostly because the public just sees the sunshine and lollipops. What are the stresses in your life?
CB: There is a bit of sunshine and maybe a lollipop or two, but for the most part it’s training, dealing with sponsors, and constantly figuring out what the best direction is for the brand. There is no guidebook for this career path. You are always taking risks on and off the bike.
RM: Like Death Grip — bombing a trail on a bike without brakes. Serious risks there!
CB: I hope I don’t have to do that again — one of the more questionable things I’ve done on a bike. I’d be stoked to do some more creative filmmaking.
RM: What do you think the key is to ‘making it’ as a pro athlete?
CB: I’d say be persistent and just when you feel like giving up, go harder and throw every ounce of enthusiasm and heart into it. Find what makes you unique and run with it. Who you surround yourself with is important.
RM: What’s your take on the environmental impacts of race travel and the racers who are seeking solutions to it?
CB: It’s so rad to see these heroes taking a stand and shaping the future of their sports. These people are truly inspiring. I plan to do my best by eating a vegan/vegetarian diet to counterbalance my carbon footprint, since animal agriculture is 18% of CO2 emissions and 14% of all transport.
RM: Ah, vegan. Do you find it tough to maintain that on the road?
CB: I am somewhat particular about my food. I feel like when you buy food you are making your vote, so buying sustainably-farmed and cruelty-free food is important to me. I have learned so much about finding good food in foreign countries but I always take emergency nutritional supplements with me. Most of Europe is on the meat, cheese, and bread program.
RM: Do you ever feel physically worn down by your career?
CB: In the past I’d get worn down mentally by riding all year round, but now I’ve learned that I need a break from bikes (skiing) and it makes me more passionate about my career in the long run.
RM: Can you ski like you pedal?
CB: I try, ha ha ha.
RM: You gonna be turning wrenches down at the mill when you’re done with bikes?
CB: Believe it or not, I’ve worked in the mill! Funny, all the jobs I’ve done to pay for World Cup racing. Ten years from now I hope to still be riding bikes for a career in some way. I’ll be in Revelstoke for sure.
RM: Home is where the heart is I guess. Your dad, Lou Brown, is quite a character too.
CB: If you want to hear some seriously crazy stories go visit my dad in the Big Eddy.
OK, so we did. Here’s our Lou Brown interview:
Revelstoke Mountaineer: So you made the move from New Zealand to Revelstoke and Casey followed with her sister when she was 11. Was that a big change?
Lou Brown: It was about as remote as you can get. No luxuries down there. Home schooled. They had visitors now and then but it was pretty much a primitive upbringing.
RM: In retrospect, they probably have positive memories of that.
LB: They do, and they talk about going back but I tell them it’s not like you remember. It rains a lot and it’s really windy with sand flies and bugs. And then we moved out of there, moved inland, moved into a dry area and they went to school and learned about life. I made ’em watch The Simpsons every day and said ‘that’s what it’s gonna be like’.
RM: The Simpsons? Really?
LB: No, I’m joking. They didn’t like TV. They’d just come out of the bush and they were, ‘Do we have to wear shoes?’ Yeah, you’ve gotta wear shoes. ‘We gotta wear clothes?’ Yeah, you’ve gotta wear clothes.
RM: Did Casey adjust to life in Canada easily?
LB: She thought she could come over and not go to school. She just wanted to dig snow. But she went to school and of course everybody loved her. I’d bike to school with her every day and a couple weeks later she said “Dad, don’t bike to school with me, it’s embarrassing.”
RM: Sounds like a pretty well-adjusted eleven-year-old. Biking was just a part of life?
LB: Biking in the summer, snowboarding in the winter.
RM: And then eventually she got into racing?
LB: She did. And she banged herself up pretty good too, three or four times. She’d take on some pretty big stuff but she wouldn’t take the time to pace the stuff out. Whereas her brother Sam paced it out, paced it out, paced it out, and then he’d take a shot. Casey was type of person who’d fly off a cliff and hope for the best. She came close to dying, wrecked her liver pretty bad. She had to lay still for 10 days.
RM: Was she trying to keep up to Sam, hitting the same jumps and all?
LB: The younger ones will always try to keep up. He was an inspiration. She definitely tried to follow his style.
RM: Did Sam’s death in 2009 have a pretty profound affect on Casey?
LB: Around then Casey decided, maybe I’ll pursue this. So it was probably his dying that made her go extreme. She just didn’t care. I’ll go fly off a cliff and see how it goes. Not quite but she pushed it to the limit because of that. If you asked her, she’d say that was her inspiration and her motivation for taking it to the extreme.
RM: What do you think of the career she’s making out of biking?
LB: She’s doing pretty good. Still, she’s got no guarantee. You break something, you’re out of it. But it’s something to be proud of. She’s done everything herself, not like the others with financial backing from the family.
RM: Is it odd to see her in the limelight?
LB: Half the time I don’t know where she is. She figures I’m going to worry, which I do, occasionally. I went down to Whistler last year and I was late for some reason for one of her races but she had just finished, won the race. I couldn’t even get to her, there were so many cameras on her. I said, that’s my daughter, they didn’t care “f*#k off, get to the end of line,” ha ha ha.
RM: Casey said that you’d have some embarrassing stories that she’d really like to have in print. How about it?
LB: Early on I got a pretty good mountain bike for Casey and we went biking up the hill a ways. About a mile up, Casey was lagging behind, dragging her bike on the ground saying “I don’t wanna do this, I hate this, I hate biking.” That didn’t last long. Pretty soon she was away.
This story first appeared in the September issue of the print Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.