Through The Lens: Catching Up with Catfish

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If you ride BMX, you know who Catfish is…If you don’t, you are blowin’ it and need to get caught up and that’s where this interview comes in. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to call Catfish a friend for years now and it’s always a pleasure to get to hang with him. I noticed he was in Cali for a visit after kind of going M.I.A for a while in Spain and I was determined to chill with him and find out what the hell he has been up to so I hit him up a few days ago and we made it happen. He is the type of person that runs his life according to a very loose schedule and has one goal and that is to have fun. His BMX roots date back to the late 80’s, he has been an announcer at nearly every single major BMX event in recent years and has seen some of the most progressive riding to date with his own eyes contest after contest. If you haven’t seen him on TV announcing a contest you may have caught him on an episode of his own show “Strangers in Danger” with his co-star and BMX legend Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla. Either way, Catfish is one person that genuinely loves riding and truly understands what it’s all about. Sit back, relax and enjoy a little sarcasm from the man himself.

How about you let everyone know your name, age, hometown and sponsors.
My name is Sir Zachary Alexander Catfish Catfish Yankush III Esquire. My hometown is Youngstown, Ohio and my sponsors are DK Bicycles, Monster Energy, Fox, Arnette Eyewear, Nooka Watches, DC shoes, and Bogiatiland Crew.

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Rooftop and Catfish doing a doubles run on each other’s bikes. 

So, Mr. Catfish, what the hell has been going on lately man? Please 
take this time to fill the world in on what you have been up to.
I’ve been enjoying my life, traveling a bit, taking a bit of a vacation from my existing vacation called life. I have also been riding as much as I can and trying to smile even more than that.

For those out there who don’t know; who is Catfish?
Catfish is the funniest person I know. He’s also the best BMX rider I have ever seen. I heard from the ladies that he is also an amazing lover with a huge penis.

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How long have you been riding BMX? I know that I have seen you post some
old throwbacks of you as a young kid on a bike.
I started riding back in 1985. I got my first official BMX bike in ‘87. I have been in the game for a while now.

What first got you into riding?
I remember seeing a BMX magazine and thinking that the tricks looked so impossible. I remember seeing a bar ride and thinking to myself that the rider must have a “locking stem” to keep the bars straight. I don’t even know what a locking stem is. Ha-ha.

What was it like growing up as a BMX’er in Ohio?
It was awesome. I am actually really glad that I grew up there. It made me appreciate so many aspects about BMX. I had a really good crew of older riders that I hung with that took me under their wings. There were also contests that brought a lot of the Ohio guys together. Ohio is such a hot bed for so many good BMX riders that I think a lot of people forget about. Guys like Colin Winklemann, Nate Wessel, Scott Powell, Dave Shaffer, guys that I not only looked up to but I am friends with.

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A few of the many tats that cover Catfish including a frog hanging from his nipple. 

Most people know you as the guy that announces a lot of the major
 contests but you also have a few other roles in BMX. Care to explain?
I announce a lot of events but I have been involved with DK bikes for over ten years. That’s where everything really started for me as far as being in the “Industry”. I got hired at DK to manage the stunt team and that grew into team manager. Now I am kind of rider/personality/lunatic guy at DK.

What is new over at DK? I know that I have heard about a few changes
 going on over there.
There is so much going on with DK. The thing that I am the most stoked on is the fact that DK is really going hard getting quality BMX bikes into the hands of kids that normally wouldn’t have a chance. DK is now available at some chain stores and to be able to produce a quality BMX bike at a reasonable price that isn’t going to break after riding it one time is hard. The fact that a kid can buy a Drew Bezanson complete bike with chromoly bars, forks, and frame with a 25/9 gearing for less than $250 bucks is crazy. These are the same kids that bought a BMX bike and broke it the next day. BMX getting bigger means BMX is getting better.

Speaking of DK, you recently met up with Brett at the rehabilitation 
facility that he is at in Texas I believe. How is he doing? I know that 
you have a crazy close connection to Brett and that you really helped
 to shape the person he is today so that whole situation must be tough to
 handle.
Brett is getting better every single day. His progress is so inspiring. When I saw him he was basically comatose. It broke my heart. This is my best friend and at times literally my son, as I would have legal guardian status over him when we would travel. The whole situation is one of the hardest things that I have ever had to deal with. For starters I was in Spain when it happened. So just the communication of what was going on was driving me crazy. Then after I saw him, I lost it…like really in my mind lost my shit. That was the point that I was basically like fuck the world. My best friend is not coming out of that bed. I didn’t go to Interbike because I couldn’t deal with people asking me about him. I was pretty much so angry and upset that I wanted to block it all out. I got back to Spain and then I saw the video of Brett walking. I was so blown away. That’s when I knew he would be ok. Up to that point I really thought my little buddy was gone. After I saw the ARF video, I knew Brett was going to kick this things ass. He has always been the strongest most persistent person I have known. If he wanted to do something or learn a trick, he was going to do it. That’s the approach he is taking with his rehab. He is going to get back on that bike. Shout out to my homie Brett.

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Catfish showing off his new Instagram photo shot by Rooftop. 

How did you originally get into announcing?
I started announcing contests back at my local skate parks Section 8 and Chenga World. From there is has just grown into an international incident. My big break came from Nate Wessel to announce the X Games a few years back.

What is the best part about it?
Knowing that I have the ability to get the riders pumped up. I can get a crowd going crazy with positive energy. Then I can take that energy and zap a rider with it.

What is the worst part about it?
Long days and losing my voice.

What is the next contest you are announcing?
There is a contest that Monster Energy is doing in Holland in January. I’ll be all up in that.

You have announced a ton of contests in the past few years and BMX has
 happened to progress at an alarming rate. What is it like being at the
 forefront of progression and watching it all unfold right in front of 
you?
It’s the best part about BMX. If you are a rider, an announcer, or just a spectator, YOU ARE A PART OF IT. BMX has gotten so insane over the last five years or so and I think there are a lot of factors that go into it but watching new tricks get pulled live at a contest is just the best. BMX history is constantly getting re-written and it’s awesome.

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Catfish got a flat while shooting so he made the best of it and put his front wheel to good use.

You are no stranger to quite literally traveling the globe. Please 
explain how much you have traveled in the past five years.
Wow. Yeah, I have travelled quite a bit. I will say this right now that traveling is the most important part of BMX. Anyone that has traveled because of this little bike will tell you the same thing. BMX has taken me to some of the craziest places and introduced me to some of the most amazing people. Man just in the last five years I have probably been to over sixty countries. Riding my bicycle in every single one of them. I have never been without my bike on any trip. Bicycles make seeing everything so much easier. I would hate to go to a city without a bike. Fuck walking.

How was it having your own television show “Strangers in Danger” with a 
legend like Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla? I say “was” because you mentioned 
there being no more seasons after the first two right?
It was incredible. I mean…of course it would have been awesome to do it with someone else but to be able to share all those insane experiences with a good friend AND a hero is just priceless. 
We had so many good times filming the show. We are contracted for 5 seasons but I think Fuel TV is going a different direction with programming so we might be done. Granted that could change tomorrow and I can be on a plane to the South Pole.

How did that all come about anyways?
I have a good friend at Fuel TV named Sonnie Solberg. She hit me up about an audition for a TV show in Hollywood that I should go to. I had never been to a real audition and I was reluctant but she insisted. I went to the audition and got the part right there on the spot. The executive producer asked me if I knew any other BMX riders that might be a good fit for the show and I gave them Rooftops info. Three weeks later we were filming the pilot in Vietnam.

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What are three things about the show that would surprise people?
1. That there are only four people on the road with us. Myself, Mike, the director Brian, and the lead camera man Erik.
2. Some of the bits weren’t planned and we literally just made them up on the spot.
3. It’s not all glamour and glitz and being on a TV show isn’t always what its cracked up to be.

You pretty much barfed in every episode so at some point, you had to be
 sick of puking. Was all of the food you were eating really that gnarly?
I have a really weak stomach anyways. For example I have thrown up from smelling farts. So when I am sitting down to eat something that I know is gnarly it’s just too much for my head. I can swallow it, but it always comes back up.

Since Strangers in Danger is done at the moment; what’s next?
Just kinda’ chilling for a little bit. I’ll be back in Cali for a couple weeks in January getting my reel together and maybe hit up some auditions.

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If anyone has kept up on your #barcelonadogoftheday posts on Instagram it’s obvious 
that you have been spending quite a bit of time in Spain. What’s the
deal?
I’ve been in Spain on and off since May. Anyone that has been to Barcelona knows how amazing it is for a BMX rider. The spots, the people, the girls, the food, the parties…everything is top notch. I like to surround myself with positivity and Spain is full of it.

What country do you prefer living in?
I like Spain better than the States just because the people genuinely seem happier.

How long can you stay over there at a time? What kind of visa do you
have?
I honestly have no idea. I am just running it. I have a couple passports so if something gets weird with one. I pull the ‘ole switch-a-roo.

What brought you back to the States this past trip?
Christmas. I came back to see the fam in Ohio and made sure that I had a week in California to ride and cause problems.

You used to live at the OSS house when you last lived in Cali and you’re
 staying there now while you visit. Entertain us with a good Adam22 and Chris Long story.
Oh wow. There are so many of them. I don’t even know where to start. I don’t want anyone to go to jail. Um…one time I brought them both to China. We got wasted at a Hooters and when we left there were all these Styrofoam coolers outside and we started throwing them at each other. All of a sudden Chris grabs one and starts running at a random woman that was tying her shoe. She never even saw him coming. I then watched Chris break a cooler over a strange Chinese woman’s back. She was so scared that she jumped up and started hitting Chris with her purse and it was one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen. On that same trip Chris was smoking a blunt on the Great Wall of China and some dipshit American and his 70-year-old parents tried to call us out. Chris basically told him he would knock him the fuck out right here on the Great Wall. Totally ruining their experience. That was awesome.

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So, some might say you’re living the dream and from what I can tell, it
 looks to be that way. What kind of advice do you have for young kids 
looking to make a name for themselves in BMX without having to be a pro 
rider?
Just have fun! Immerse yourself in the culture of BMX. Make as many friends as you can. BMX is so small that pissing off one person can come back to haunt you. You can be the best rider with all the best tricks and be an asshole and you’ll get nowhere. You see so much talent in BMX today, you need to look at yourself like a brand. If you aren’t marketing yourself right…fix it.

How about we talk tattoos since it has become something you are
 definitely known for. Collecting some rad pieces along the way seems 
like an awesome way to remember each trip you have been on. What was your first tattoo?
I got a little circle on my ankle when I was in high school and yes, I thought I was so cool. Ha-Ha.

How many do you have?
147 now.

What’s next on the list?
I never really have plans. Most of them are pretty spur of the moment. Maybe I’ll bang a couple out while I’m in the States.

What do you have in store for the upcoming year? You always seem to have some things in the works.
I actually have a lot in the works for 2013. I can’t give out all the information yet but I assure you that 2013 will be the most important year of my life to date. I have a lot of surprises for the world to see when the time is right.

Go ahead and fire out some shout-outs and thanks?
First and foremost thanks to Mom and Pops for always supporting me riding BMX. Thanks to all of my sponsors for allowing me to live this amazing life. DK bicycles and everyone there, Bill, Charlie, Chris, Jered, Trevor, and everyone who has ever been involved with DK. Thank you so much. Monster Energy, Joy, Robbie and FOX Racing. Nooka watches. Big thanks to all of the viewers of Strangers in Danger. Thanks for all the love! All my friends- they know who they are. Thanks to everyone who is passionate about BMX. You Jeremy for this interview, Mexican people, Spanish people and all of my homies in BCN. Fernando Gomarin, Ema Scutella, and girls everywhere.

Last words?
Never stop asking questions and never stop having fun.

Feel free to follow Catfish and his daily adventures on Instagram @catfishvsthug and Twitter @catfishcatfish and also check out his website www.catfishcatfish.com

Catfish will always be someone that I look up to for the simple fact that he lives his life according to his rules, and that’s what it’s all about. Life is too short to live any other way. Hopefully you learned a bit about who Catfish is and enjoyed a glimpse into his world. Be sure to check back next Wednesday for the forty-fifth edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me at info@jeremypavia.com and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jeremypavia.

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