Casey Brown – Origins
Casey Brown’s life has spanned the spectrum of incredibly awesome to ‘Holy Shit ‘ and back again, and she’s only 23 years old. Born in New Zealand, Casey, the youngest of five children, lived in a world that was completely different to what most people could ever imagine. Her father fled the United States and the Drug Enforcement Agency prior to her birth, a result of things going sideways while running one of the largest narcotics plants in North America.
The family landed in the absolute most remote region of the south island of New Zealand in an area called Barn Bay, accessible only via a six-hour hike or a heli drop. The house was hand built by her father and sat on a plot of land with an airstrip in the front yard facing the Tasman Sea. They lived a primitive existence in a modern world. There was no running water. No electricity. Groceries were acquired only once every three months by a relay of travel that included fording rivers, bushwhacking through rainforests, riding quads and a bus to get to civilization. Shoes were rarely worn, but that’s typical of the culture in New Zealand, and they were also deemed unnecessary.
Following a split from Casey’s mother, her father eventually moved to Revelstoke, BC where he began work in the forestry industry. Casey’s brother Sam followed suit, and shortly thereafter Casey Brown and her sisters made their permanent residence in the rustic interior BC town. “The kids started staying with my dad for longer stints because he had all of the toys, bikes, skis – it was like the promised land,” she laughs. Once settled in Revelstoke, Casey quickly took to any activity that required speed and punctuated it with one-of-a-kind style. She competed in freestyle skiing at a regional level. Her dad and brother were always out on mountain bikes, so she followed them around until, eventually, her dad was following her around.
In one grade school assignment, Casey’s class was asked to do a project on their heroes. Everyone in the class chose famous people or movie stars. Casey Brown chose her brother. “I chose Project Sam. He was my idol,” she laughs. Sam is best known in the mountain bike world for his deconstructed wheel segment in New World Disorder 3. “He was always so busy but every time he’d come to town, whether it was 3 a.m. or whatever, we’d hang out and go for a night ride or something.” In 2009 when Casey was 17 and Sam was 24 he was busted for trafficking narcotics across the Canadian border via helicopter and sentenced to 40 years in a Spokane, Washington prison. Four days later he supposedly took his own life.
Casey Brown isn’t convinced the details revealed about Sam’s death are accurate; she does not think it was suicide. But instead of being angry and retreating into a dark place, Casey found something else to live for – her brother. She focused on perspective and growing stronger from her loss. “Shit things can happen, but you have to be able to take the good and move on,” she says. “Because of that experience our family became super close and I’m so grateful for that.” It also made her focus 100% on pursuing her dreams in biking. “You don’t take anything for granted after a thing like that. After that it was full on, ‘I’m going to be a mountain biker. I’m going to do what I love. I don’t know how long I have here.’ That is advice for everybody,” she says adamantly.
With summer riding focused heavily on the technical trails of Revelstoke or the massive jumps in the Whistler Bike Park, Casey’s talent quickly transcended that of a typical bike junkie. She was simply faster, stronger, and more stylish than almost any other female to ever put knobby tyres on soil. Her influences are evident in her riding. Growing up chasing Sam around, years with an ex-boyfriend that had amazing style and following riding buddies like Mike Hopkins have put Casey Brown in a class of her own with her jumping and style. She’s one of few women to regularly throw down in the Crankworx Whip Off Worlds and took the title this year, throwing it sideways with the likes of Benardo Cruz, Andreu Lacondguey, Danny Hart and the world’s best whippers.
As a perfect compliment to her style, Casey Brown is also known for her fearlessness on a bike. Taking lines that other women avoid at World Cups has netted her some strong results, as well as her fair share of injuries. In 2011 Casey tore her liver in half in a Canada Cup race, a mere day after she had been hitting big freeride lines on her six-inch bike. “I’d hit my head in a crash the day before while sending what was a 10 foot drop to about 25 feet. The next day in my race run, I just couldn’t process things fast enough and went over the bars and pretty much tore my bike in half, along with my liver,” she recounts. “I went blind for a bit, broke a few ribs, had a lot of internal bleeding. It was a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel type stuff.” She also put fear on blast with her video “Death Grip,” in which she removed the brakes from her downhill bike and sent a steep, and super fast line in Kamloops that had been the demise of riders in the past.
With plenty of career and racing left in her, Casey is ready to face the roughest trails, the biggest jumps, and the fastest women in the world. There are tracks to walk and mountains to summit with her dog, Snuff. Shoes not necessary, of course. She’s focused, but never loses site of the fun that riding provides. Happy, always smiling, mentally and physically tough, fast, and oh-so stylish – there aren’t enough good words to describe Casey’s personality, riding, and outlook on life. Perspective will always be at the forefront of her mind. We could all afford to take a lesson from her book, because she’s right. We really don’t know how long we have here.
Check out the rest of the episodes from Beyond the Bike right here:
(Author’s note: there are dozens of articles and features on the life and death of Sam Brown if you’re curious and want to know more about what happened. Since this is an article about Casey, we’ve chosen to focus on her life story. – Lacy Kemp)