2012. The year when 218 exchange students gathered at the University of Hong Kong. These students were sophomores and juniors, spread out amongst the 10 faculties and 21 dormitories.
Since most of them were from the States, a country known for its extreme sports culture, it was not surprising when all of the members in the BMX Club were exchange students. The annual intake of new members was restricted to nine, in order to ensure that the handpicked individuals were each capable of holding a show of his or her own. Led by two assistant professors who have largely retired from the sport, the club would have an annual trip outside of Hong Kong, to demonstrate to the world how impressive their grinds and flatland tricks are.
For 2012, the destination was Japan, more specifically the cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. Nine popular outdoor sites were set out by the club instructors, Scout and Iverson. After a democratic process, the nine members picked their favorite sites, more or less.
The objective of the members was to study the outdoor site beforehand, to mentally think of a series of tricks and maneuvers using the site’s ledges, handrails and other objects, to practice the stunts on-site for one hour, and to execute the final demonstration within five minutes. The final score, decided by the two instructors, was based on the overall entertaining factor and the speed of executions. Points would be taken off according to the number of falls and the monetary damage done to the constructed hardscapes. The member with the highest score would automatically become the club leader, be involved with the university’s meetings, and will have the decisive vote during club purchases.
With one week left until departure, Scout and Iverson advised the students to each pack a small baggage. BMX bikes were designed for maneuvers and not for speed. To ride around the country would be an inefficient waste of energy. Since most of the inter-city travel would take place on bullet trains, traveling light would be advisable. There was also a requirement from trains and most airlines (including JAL) for bikes to be disassembled and placed into bike bags or preferably boxes.
It was a Saturday when Clayborn (also known as Clay) got onto E34, a bus headed for the Hong Kong International Airport. His adventure was about to begin.