Shooting The Breeze: With Jack Kelly


Around 2010, a new face was beginning to emerge from the fringes of the Australian BMX scene. The dude was pale, skinny, quietly confident and obviously skilful at bikes, his name was Jack Kelly (JK) and he was about to get real good, and quick. 

Growing up in the eastern Melbourne suburbs and not too far a distance from Australian BMX media honcho Cooper Brownlee, it was inevitable that JK would end up in the Focal Point and Colony vortex, a destiny which would be fulfilled. From this point on, JKs output and technical ability skyrocketed, his status and standing within BMX then assisted through a number of trips to America and featured videos on The Come Up (TCU) as well as full-length video parts. 

Big boy stuff. This would have been peak JK rail slaying, perhaps 2014/15. Photo very likely set up by Cooper, however button pressed by someone else

Rails, rails and more rails. Consistent with the Focal Point aesthetic, JK was quick to transition his style from the ramp kid to a fully-fledged rail slayer, complete with a deep bag of hits, a hefty serving of balls and the all important yet less tangible pre-requisite of determination, toughness and patience. And this is how the dudes videos were crafted, on mission upon mission looking for the next rail to conquer, with a ledge or two sprinkled in to dress up the beige bulk. 

This is certainly how the dudes contribution to BMX could be characterised, with the quality and quantity reaching a peak around the release of the Focal Point project, 'Alive and Well' in which JK received the ending part, a huge honour in these circles. From this point, there was another trip to California in 2018 focussed around the dude clocking phone clips with the homie Pat Freyne, with a subsequent compilation video come February 2019. 

Since this video, the internet has been suffocated from any further JK footage, which doesn't appear to have come with any obvious reason. Clearly this occurs regularly, there are so many good riders who silently exit the scene, replaced by the next hungry up and comer. To me, this is a shame, it feels a little empty to not have some kind of closure to the arc. So, with the LUXBMX Journal as our platform, I'm now able to bring to you, an illumination of the JK story post February 2019. 

JK beachside, photo by Cooper Brownlee from around 2016

I will just add, obviously, social media now means you can just follow a dude and have that instant connection to what they decide to share. While this does give a version of what's going on in their life, it is certainly not detailed, nor easy to place in any sort of broader context. So, the value of the following piece comes from the effort taken to understand and interrogate the notable parts of JKs current life and then to present it in a (hopefully) interesting and coherent fashion. It might take time to read and it might take energy to focus, but in this practice, you will find meaning and a portal to opening yourself up to life's seminal values. 


Surprise, surprise, the bane of injury fells again, another biker down. Those within JKs circle would have been alert to his poor run with serious injury, however probably not to the extent it impacted his riding and ability to continue progressing. Certainly from my perspective, his trajectory was abruptly and subtly resolved, however as he explains, there is much more to the story.

"Riding the way I was basically came to an end due to the condition of my knee’s. Riding how I wanted too was just becoming unsustainable, and I had no confidence in my body to be able to take impacts or bail. My body was just letting me down, and at the time it was making it super hard to get motivated, when I was in constant fear of tearing another ACL, which then stops me from working, then I cant pay rent, etc.

The older I got, the more implications injuries had in my life. I just knew it wasn’t something I was going to be able to do forever, so I decided to end it on a good note (while my knee’s were intact) & pursue my other interests and hobbies like motorcycles/dirt bikes before I physically couldn’t. That being said, I ride BMX here and there. I still love it and every time I ride I can’t help but try and do new tricks and ones I 'used to know how to do' haha. However, I paid the price for that too because only a month ago I tore my third ACL, now I need another knee reconstruction."

Playground whip hop from healthier times. Photo very likely taken by Cooper Brownlee

That the dude outlined the need for another knee reconstruction does well to tear at your sympathetic tendencies. It's devastating to hear about this scenario whilst discussing that very issue and the implications it has on ones life, especially when getting to know the extent of knee related injuries over time past. 

"I first f*#@ed up my right knee on the way to an Adelaide trail jam, at Bordertown dirt jumps, I was doing t-bogs over one of the jumps and Coop was shooting photos. I must have thought I was Brock Olive or something because I was trying to get them as dipped as possible, I can’t remember how I f*#@ed up, but I just bailed on one of them, probably from pulling back too hard for extra height, and I landed sort of sideways on the landing. Before I could absorb the impact with my legs, my knee just buckled the wrong direction. There was pain for about 20 mins and it swelled up like crazy, I remember waking up on Rhys Gogel's couch the next day and could barely walk. So I just got wasted at the trail jam that day instead of riding.

I had private health at the time and got surgery pretty quick. I had a synthetic ACL ligament replacement (popular with AFL dudes) and I was back on the bike in maybe like 6 months.

The second time I was in LA somewhere with Coop, at this steep & short rail. I was f*#@ing around seeing if I could think of something to film. I tried to hit a quick oppo ice, looped out, jumped off like it was no big deal and again, before I can even absorb the impact with my legs, my left knee buckles and blows out my other ACL.

This time I don’t have private health insurance, but I have travel insurance. They’re sending me to get X-rays while I'm still in the US, but I can barley walk and Coop had to fly home. I was staying on my friend Barney & Tatiana's couch, they were driving me back and forth to these appointments so I just wanted to go home & get out of their space because I was just a burden at that point.

The travel insurance people agree to fly me home, but they didn’t disclose that as soon as I left the country I wouldn’t be covered anymore. They screwed me! But at least I flew home first class, reclined flat, full of pain killers, basically slept the whole way and didn’t even get to enjoy it haha. But when I got back I had to go through our public health system, so there was no option of getting another synthetic ligament, I would just have to get a regular grafted ligament, so the healing time would be longer. Fortunately I was high up on the waiting list as an 'athlete' who needed a reconstruction and I got surgery within a couple of weeks of getting back and I was back on the bike in probably 9-10 months

During those long periods where I couldn’t ride there were also periods I couldn’t work because I'm in construction. There’s lots of expensive physiotherapy sessions and I even became an Uber driver for a while there, so that I could afford rent haha. The injuries were obviously affecting a lot of other aspects in my life.

Clearly the dude is in a spot of bother, I cannot imagine the frustration around your body failing you and the patience required to endure such a long time off the bike and the subsequent impacts to the flow of your life. It is then that one arrives at a hypothetical 'fork in the road', whereby you choose to embrace your fate, or fight it. 

Sponno shot, with mood. Photo by Cooper Brownlee


As I've mentioned on here many times, BMX is incredibly unique, a remarkable pursuit that can serve to embolden and enhance the path of those within its ascendancy. Like the lesson of life, for one to accept the great, there must be an equal acceptance of the grief. In this context, the grief is understood as a vacuum, a hole that may not ever truly be filled. For some however, this task might not be as arduous, particularly with an air of optimism and zest for recalibration. JK presents as one of those dudes, inspiringly so. 

"Not long after I stopped riding, Covid hit which really gave my body a lot of time to heal. With the abundance of time that I had on the weekends due to not riding as much, I bought my first dirt bike and started riding motocross. Which I know sounds insane to go from one sport that is injury prone to another sport that is arguably worse haha, but fortunately wearing big knee braces in motocross is super normal which really held me together. Also, bailing 100 times a session trying to film a clip isn’t really a thing on the moto, so it was actually less harsh on my body than BMX was.

I have always wanted motorbikes, and I’m super into engineering, fabrication & mechanical stuff as well. My first motorbike I got while I was still riding BMX. It was a 1975 Yamaha XS650 that I built into a custom cafe racer type bike. But it wasn’t until I stopped riding BMX that I got a dirt bike, and found that perfect blend of the adrenaline rush I would get from BMX, and also the mechanical side of building, maintaining and fixing the bikes & engines."

Couple different vibes, the cafe racer and the dirt dog. Motocross boi. Photos supplied by JK

You'd be hard pressed to find something more in synchronicity with BMX than motocross, a well suited replacement indeed. Surprise to me, but it turns out this has been something of interest to JK from the early days and as he explains, a past time that he can now properly engage. 

"I always wanted a dirt bike growing up. I would ask my parents for one but never succeeded in talking them into it. So I knew that once I was old enough and could afford to buy one myself, that I would.

Once I did get older, I kind of put it off for a long time, because I was so focussed on BMX that I knew I wouldn’t have time to ride moto anyway. So I used my free time to work on whatever car I had at the time, whether it was a VW Golf, my first motorbike & then a Landrover 'Discovery'. The cars & road motorbike fulfilled my mechanical interests, and BMX fulfilled everything else.

Badboy. Photo by Cooper Brownlee

Now that I ride BMX less, I ride dirt bikes a lot. At least once a week i'll load it into the back of my ute and go and get lost in some state forest for the day and ride the hardest tracks we can find. It's super challenging & can be very punishing much like BMX.

I ride a lot more 'hard enduro' these days instead of motocross. I sold the motocross bike in favour of an enduro dirtbike about a year ago, for similar reasons that I stopped riding BMX. I knew that I didn’t want to race, but I was going faster and faster and doing progressively bigger jumps. So I had to self reflect a little bit and realise I was at risk of getting hurt badly from a sport that I wasn’t even invested in. It also took a few friends I ride with to suffer some pretty bad injuries like a broken pelvis and fractured hip for me to decide to ride enduro, which is a lot more sustainable long term."

Forest explorations, trail riding would be so fun. Photo supplied by JK

Damn it's cool to hear of someone transitioning so effortlessly to another 'thing'. And as we all know, you simply must have hobbies, otherwise you'll have to rely on other people or addictions or something meekly pedestrian, all nowhere near as inspiring as a hobby in the vein of BMX or motocross. Having made a clean leap, I then wondered how JK viewed BMX and whether he still had plans to pick it up again, what with it being almost in the hypothetical 'rear mirror'. 

"I still love BMX. I don’t consume as much of its content anymore, but I watch all the 'main' edits or DVD’s that come out. I still vote in Nora Cup if I feel like I paid enough attention that year to have an opinion. 

I still shamelessly throw on old edits from time to time. The memories that come with seeing those clips and remembering where and who I was with at the time are so priceless to me and I’m forever grateful that I have those memories documented. They mean a lot more to me than just a video or achievement, or a list of tricks I used to be able to do haha. I don’t reminisce about a time when I was 'good at riding', I reminisce about all those adventures, trips and good times that are all adjacent to riding BMX with your best friends.

This is toey. Urban moto guy JK, photo supplied by the dude

As I mentioned above, I just love the dude's attitude. Perhaps because I've found this process to be harder than JK makes it out. To further this, we spoke about whether there was any residual bitterness from effectively being forced out due to injury. 

"Yeah it sucks it had to end due to injuries, but I was also trying to prevent future inevitable injuries too. I didn't want to be limping around for the rest off my life, and I'm glad I got to step back on my own terms, not because I physically couldn’t ride anymore.

I don’t feel unlucky, it all makes sense really, that’s the way I treated my body. Maybe some people get lucky, and their body doesn't fall apart from the abuse that BMX does to it, but mine did unfortunately. A big part of it is genetics too, so maybe I got unlucky in the genetic lottery.

I feel content with BMX, maybe if I wasn’t, it would be a different story and I'd be a bit salty. I have so many other interests outside of BMX that keep me sane, moto being one of them and I got to 'retire' on my own terms, because I wasn’t injured at the time. So when I 'stepped back' I felt in control of my own life."


Feeling content with the hand that BMX has dealt and now moving forward with a new set of interests, it was clear that life for JK was pretty damn good, settled and in contentment with a health routine. Although, that is now likely to change as JK sneakily mentions in reference to his most recent skatepark injury. 

"Fortunately I don’t work construction anymore and am still able to ride moto because of the knee braces, so It hasn’t affected my life like it did in the past.
I have a kid on the way, due in only like 3 weeks. So I’m not getting surgery any time soon, but I will need it one day, because It would be a shame if my daughter never gets to see her dad do a backflip on a kids bike haha." 

Dad stoke. Photo taken from the dudes socials

Again, news to me, but it would appear that love is in the air and has manifested it's way into the world as a baby girl.

"Yeah as of the 16th of December I am officially a dad, so only a couple of days after I responded to your first e-mail, my daughter arrived! 11 days earlier than expected but she was healthy regardless, so stoked for that. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect leading up to the due date with a new born, only what I've been told by friends who have had kids, but they’re all different I suppose. So far its obviously been a completely new experience, learning how to navigate looking after a new born has been a challenge, pretty sleep deprived for the most part, I can’t believe how often they eat haha.

But the way she stares back at me when I look at her has made it all worth it so far. I've never considered new born babies to be cute, and call it personal bias, but my daughter is adorable haha."

What a wholesome moment to have caught, BMX familia stoke. Photo supplied by JK

Cute as. Having now added the family as a key priority just adds to the shift in circumstances for JK and another reason to be impressed with his ability to adapt. Perhaps a lesson learnt through BMX - which is another topic we discussed. 

"BMX is a big part of who I am today. I'm persistent which I assume comes from trying to get a clip for hours, but I'm also impatient, because the longer it took to get a clip, the more exhausted/hurt I would be. I suppose its subjective but I like to think I'm humble, watching people riding while I was growing up and seeing how they’d play it cool when they would do something awesome, or alternatively seeing how people celebrated their own success felt a bit over the top and would make me cringe a little bit.

Once you have a group of friends/peers, especially older guys who have been riding for a while, they'd let you know very quickly if what you were doing or the way you were acting fit in with the social standard’s of BMX haha."

Anyway, with a newborn daughter, a wife and a roof for shelter, the JKs are coppin' it sweet. Turns out the dude has also found his mojo in a work sense.

"I’m working in a facilities technician/management role. Which has been awesome compared to the construction work I have been doing since I left school. That was another thing I had to move on from, it was so physically and mentally exhausting that when I got home from work I had no motivation to do anything else. So I found a job that’s very similar skill set wise, but far easier on the body.

I truly feel lucky to have the job I have currently. I've never been more happy with my employment than now. And it would take a lot for me to go back to being a tradie haha."

Braaaap. Look at that airtime my brothers. Photo supplied by JK


In finishin up, there was one other question I wanted to run past the dude, being his knowledge of the second (?) wave of Focal Point homies and what they're all now up to. 

"I’m still friends with everyone, some I see more than others. I see Cooper, DJ (Daniel Johnson) and Vando (Luke Vandenberg) all the time. Coop only lives around the corer from me and we both share motorbikes as a passion, so we go riding every now and again. Same with DJ when his bike is actually running which hasn’t been for a while but he’s been one of my best friends for years. Vando has also been a good friend since before either of us rode with FP as well as Lachy (Swanton). I don’t get to see Marnold or Illman as much as I would like but when I do see those guys it's just like old times. 

All these guys have their own relationships with BMX these days that I don't think I could define for them, but most of of them still ride from time to time. Not including Cooper who is obviously still heavily involved with BMX and still continues to be a pillar of the Australian BMX community in my opinion. He's gonna hate me for saying this but the older he gets the more scared he is of actually doing tricks haha but he technically does still ride."

That's a wrap. 

Huge shouts to JK for being patient and committed to this piece, in the midst of his daughter being born. It brings me great joy when my interest to discuss BMX is reciprocated, there is little benefit beyond a love for sharing and connecting over bikes. Hopefully you find something in here that is either compelling or inspiring. 

To sign off, I've embedded a few of JKs video parts, in chronological order.