For BMX vert rider Jamie Bestwick, an eight-time X Games gold medalist, ink runs in the family. The 39-year-old says after seeing tattoos on older members of his family, he always thought images came out better on skin than on canvas. “They just take to life when they’re on somebody’s body,” he explains. His first tattoo was of a family member—his bulldog, Archie.
Once he began riding BMX professionally, Bestwick, who was born in England and now lives in Pennsylvania, was connected with other tattooed friends, and his interest in ink kept pace with the speed of his career. After a rough accident that required extensive surgery, he decided the best way to cover up the scar was to get another tattoo. He chose a huge Chinese dragon because “historically, they’ve always been guardians and very powerful figures.” Of course, when he ended up on the operating table again, his surgeon was faced with a new challenge: sewing Bestwick’s arm back together so the tattoo would still look right. Luckily, there was little scarring, and Bestwick went back to his artist for a pain-free touch-up over the scar. He says the tattoo is now in great shape and calls the entire thing “a neat experience,” but not something he would like to go through again.
Bestwick, who has sat for up to eight hours of tattooing at a time (including one session in his own kitchen), says there’s a similarity between getting tattooed and riding BMX, explaining that they can both be exhausting—but they’re both about the end result. “When you pull a trick, you’re just enjoying what you worked hard to accomplish—and that is something that carries along with tattooing. You’re enjoying somebody’s work with a passion, and when it is completed you fully appreciate what’s been done. There’s a sense of fulfillment and when you get to that point, it’s a huge rush.”