When Terry Adams returned home to Hammond Louisiana in August of 2005, he was enjoying as successful a season as he'd ever had. Already a respected name in the world of professional flatland with a laundry list of sponsors and video parts under his belt, he had just won the Sprite Urban Games in London. That win followed his Asian X Games victory in three months earlier in Seoul, South Korea, and both results came amidst a healthy exposure in both BMX Plus! and Ride BMX magazines.
Adams spent the month continuing his rigorous practice schedule, which consisted of two-hour sessions in the morning followed by more hours later in the afternoon. And then, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, and turned Adams' life upside down.
Hammond, Louisiana lies approximately one hour inland of New Orleans, northwest of Lake Pontchartrain. And as Hurricane Katrina approached, the residents of Hammond braced for the worst. At the time, Adams was helping the father of his girlfriend at the time board up the windows of the family house in preparation for the storm when the unexpected happened.
"He had a heart attack and died right in her front yard. I had to bring her to her house with her dad laying there dead in the yard just hours before the storm hit. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Most families were running around trying to buy food and water, while I was helping her through a very difficult time," says Adams.
Hammond ultimately avoided the kind of destruction seen by many communities, and despite the personal tragedy he endured, Adams never lost perspective. "With me being one-hour from New Orleans, it's hard for me to speak about rough experiences because so many people that lived near the water lost their lives, homes and their entire world," he says.
But the storm -- and his experiences surrounding it -- would nevertheless profoundly affect Adams.
Adams rose up through the BMX ranks during the late '90s and into the early '00s. Born in August of 1983, he started riding flatland at the age of ten, and immediately became obsessed with the idea of riding at the pro level. "I was the type of kid that was obsessed with whatever I was doing. I had no other hobbies besides riding," he says. In 1999, at the age of 17, he entered the pro ranks.
Terry's first years as a pro captured him developing a signature style of flatland riding, marked by innovative rolling combinations and a fair share of Hail Mary type jumping maneuvers. Eventually, the BMX world started to recognize Terry's progression up through the ranks. He began to appear in magazines, worked the contest circuit with reckless abandon and eventually qualified to ride in the 2002 X Games. "My goals were to be in the X Games and have tricks that stood out enough to make a name for myself. It was all I ever thought about," he says. Adams only managed 16th place in the X Games, but the invite alone was evidence of his career momentum.
The next two and a half years saw scores of video appearances, a signature frame from sponsor Ares Bykes, and a steady improvement in competition results that culminated in his tear of wins prior to the death of his girlfriend's father and Hurricane Katrina making landfall.
In the weeks following the storm, Adams returned to what he knew best: riding flatland. And although he had endured one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, he was inspired. He dreamed up a new flatland trick, involving a rolling crackpacker to leap of faith over the back wheel, into a backpacker.
"I thought it was impossible. About a week later, I went outside on a mission and I was so stoked to see that my feet actually made it to the pegs," he said. He named the new trick "Katrina."
Technically, the "Katrina" should be impossible. The move, which consists of balancing while rolling on the front wheel, then jumping halfway over the bike into a backwards, vertical front wheel rolling position, wasn't one of those tricks just waiting for the right person to come along and do. More akin to parkour than BMX, no one in the world had thought to even attempt it because of the bodily risk and sheer difficulty involved, but Adams didn't see it that way. "No one will ever be able to tell Terry that he can't do something. If it's in his head, he will find a way to make it happen," says Ride BMX Associate Online Editor/Staff Photographer Fat Tony.
If learning the "Katrina" wasn't enough, Adam's confidence was bolstered by winning the 2005 NORA Cup Number One Flatland Rider of The Year award in October of '05. And in February of '06, he graced the cover of Ride BMX Magazine doing the very trick he learned during the hardest time in his life. Adams was the first flatland rider to grace the cover in almost ten years.
Eventually, Adams returned to the life he had been developing for himself before the storm hit Louisiana. He appeared on more magazine covers, won more contests and even tried his hand out at organizing contests. (He co-organized the Voodoo Jam Series, which ran successfully in New Orleans for four years and is currently on hiatus.) He also picked up new sponsors (including Red Bull and Lotek Footwear), and performed on various TV shows, including ABC's "Master of Champions" and "The Ellen Degeneres Show." Add one more NORA Cup (in 2008), signature products from Odyssey and Lotek, a happy marriage and a consistently busy demo schedule, and you've got the life of Terry Adams circa 2010.
As another disaster looms over the Louisiana coastline so close to Adams' home, he once again refuses to lose perspective. "I am about one-hour from the coast, so I am seeing and hearing about a ton of things that are truly heart breaking … But I am going to keep doing the same thing I have been doing: riding," he says. "Not taking this life for granted is always my top priority."