If you ask BMX legend Rick Thorne, his latest project — a largely self-filmed five-episode series called Pool Seekers, airing this fall — is about much more than riding abandoned pools in vacant backyards. As the lifelong competitive thrill seeker and national TV host sees it, his new series began as a therapeutic outlet for him and became a positive lesson he could share with the world.
“I went through a divorce, and I was so attached to that house that it was really hard for me to let it go after I’d worked my whole life for it,” Thorne says. “With that said, I started getting more involved in riding pools, because I realized that you can’t take anything with you in life. I loved the freedom of going to pools that weren’t meant to ride — pools that weren’t abandoned at a different time when they had families and kids in them — so I started filming every pool that I would ride and realized it was a good opportunity to share both positive messages about life and the history of pool skating and riding aside from just hanging out with friends. Then it just evolved into a show.”
As far as shows go, Pool Seekers isn’t the most glamorous thing Thorne has done. Whether he was filming it or not, the sweat and work of the 47-year-old’s pool-seeking adventures generally begin the night before and can sometimes last for days.
When you’re looking to ride a pool that was designed for water over wheels, the first issue is finding an abandoned pool — which is quite a bit tougher than just pulling up a list of local skateparks. Using everything from the internet to the contacts in his phone book, Thorne spends the time after he puts his two kids to bed finding possible locations to scout the next day while they’re at school. From there, the single dad still has to check each of the possible spots to see which ones will work before spending anywhere from a few hours to 10 days using buckets to drain any swampy residue left in the bottom of the pool to make it rideable.
“There’s an etiquette to riding pools,” Thorne says. “You might spend a few hours finding a pool however you do that — whether it’s with Google Maps or through friends or just investigating photos and driving around. I may be up until 3 a.m. looking for pools and doing research, and then the next day you spend hours finding the pool and cleaning it out. They’re secret spots, so you can’t just give them out, and they don’t last long because that’s the nature of riding a pool before it gets torn out of the ground.”
But for someone who felt he’d lost so much after being at the top of his sport, Thorne believes Pool Seekers isn’t just a way of making peace with his past. As the veteran rider sees it, it’s also a way for him to move into the future. With a stronger social media presence than most of his contemporaries, Thorne is able to take things into his own hands and rebrand himself for a life outside of his days on the X Games and MTV Cribs. As popular as sites like Pinterest and Buzzfeed have made the DIY community among the general public, Thorne sees his return to backyard pools as going back to his self-made roots.
“When you do the big events like X Games, Warped Tour, or working with guys like Tony Hawk and Mat Hoffman, that stuff is awesome and I’d do it all over again,” Thorne says. “But the thing about pools to me is that you never want to get caught in that feeling where you go to do something and you don’t love it anymore. For me, I knew I loved riding but I was questioning whether I wanted to keep doing all of it. Putting together a run for the X Games or putting together a video piece or anything like that is challenging and I love it, but I’ve always been a DIY kind of person, so this fit right into that category for me. I wanted a new challenge, so I went back to what got me into it in the first place: riding pools.”
Of course, having skateboarding legends like Tony Hawk and Steve Alba on his new program isn’t enough to keep Thorne busy with the project. Keeping true to his DIY spirit, his band, Good Guys in Black, soundtracks the entire show, and Thorne himself is handling a good chunk of the production. Although that might sound like too much work for your average athlete and show host, it’s barely enough for the dedicated Thorne. After all, how many other BMX riders are willing to ditch their entire romantic lives in order to focus on nothing but family and career?
“I don’t have a girlfriend or a wife or anything, I just have my kids,” Thorne says. “Without having any responsibilities outside of my children, all of my time is for me when I’m not with them. I don’t look at it as sacrificing my relationships, but the most important things to me are raising my kids, riding and playing music. I’ve devoted my life to those things, so that’s where all of my time goes.”
All five episodes of Pool Seekers air via Boost Mobile’s outlets and YouTube channel beginning in August.