Way back in the day (2008-ish) we were at FISE and went for a swim in the Mediterranean with a bunch of our friends. Kelly and I were racing out to a buoy, and everyone was just splashing around and enjoying each other’s company. I remember thinking at the time that the meaning of life was to create as many of these moments as you possibly could, in the time that you had here. I’m so thankful that I got to create more than a few of those moments with Kelly, and I will remember them for the rest of my life.
I think losing Kelly has been even more devastating than we could’ve imagined, because of what he brought to our world of riding, contests, and trips. It was something that you couldn’t learn in a foam pit or mulch pile. What truly made Kelly special was the way he treated everyone like they were the most legendary person he’d ever met. Even standing in his gigantic shadow, we had the opportunity to bask in his light – and now it’s important for all of us to pick up where he left off and keep that light going. Words by Aaron Lutze
|Back in 2009, I had never shot mountain biking before. I had spent 9 years chasing winter, shooting skiing, and on finally having a summer in NZ, I picked up my camera to shoot a new sport. Kelly was one of the first bikers to be in front of my lens. He took a chance on this shy Scottish chick and believed in what I could achieve. He didn't have to, he didn't know me from a bar of soap. This photo was one of the first bike shoots I did, all thought through by Kelly, Seb Kemp and I in Otago NZ. We got lucky with some amazing light and Kelly's fab skills to get this banger. This shot was my first shot to be published in Bike Magazine, and was the opener to the 2010 Bike Photo Annual. I'll never forget the kindness he showed me in launching my career into the mountain bike world. Ride in Peace my homie.- Camilla Rutherford|
|Anytime me and my friends saw Kelly, we shouted at him, "FREERIDE KELLY!" To us, he is a face of freeride mountain biking. Then he would smile back at us, followed by a, "hell yeah kids!" Nicest guy, always good vibes around him. He had that power to make people around him happy! I hope we can all keep that happiness and the good vibes in sport.- Thomas Genon|
|I knew Kelly for a solid decade, we had travelled the world together through mountain biking. He was and always will be a dear friend of mine. He was full of good conversations over our drives through Europe, jokes and loved Eminem. He could rap off the whole song after hearing the beat that started it. Kelly and I spent many times together looking at features on courses, gauging one another's speeds and pushing each other to 'just do it.' More than riding with one another, I am going to deeply miss just hanging out, getting a drink or dinner after events and reflecting the danger that we just made it through. He was and always will be one of a kind. Was the first time I had broken down in a long time, hearing about my fallen brother. I know he was doing what he loved when he passed and I hope the wheels are still spinning up above. I'm sure he'll be waiting to shoot the shit once again and I know it'll be a great time when it is time. Miss you, Brotha!- Geoff Gulevich|
On February 1, 2016, I was hit with some news that will affect my life for ever.
I knew Kelly well, we had 13 years of hucking and living behind us, and we had been on hundreds of missions together. The news of Kelly's passing swept over me and darkened my world. My perception of the future instantly changed. The shockwave of terrible news reverberated worldwide among everyone who had met Kelly, and a lot of people who hadn't met him but they 'knew' him through numerous media articles, TV, and Internet video appearances as an amazing guy with a huge presence and who had time to chat with everyone and anyone. A friend who knows both of us messaged me to say a Totara, (a tall strong native NZ forest tree) had fallen, this was true, but at that time I felt total deforestation had occurred.
Accepting that the one person who I knew that generated the most stoke and warmth in this world had moved on, was never going to be an easy task for me, or anyone else. We figured out life's biggest mysteries together including how to backflip DH bikes in about 2004 without having to spend your entire weeks wages on wheels and suspension linkages post-ride. And he encouraged me with my riding and life choices.
Even last year he generously decided to take me up to the Rotorua Crankworx course and assist me to have the ride of my life on the sunday morning after the biggest day of his life building and riding the course, then help me pack my gear and clear a spot in one of his famous battle vans for a mission to the airport to drop me off. He could have easily spent the night at the bar soaking up his achievements and had been constantly back-patted about the amazing jumps and the epic contest that had just completed but he went out of his way for his friends in times like these. When you were with Kelly, either in a group or just the two of you, it was a party - a bike party.
There was no weird with Kelly, it was all just good vibes and positivity. Kelly was always stoked, he listened to you, he asked his friends' advice in times of uncertainty, he thought about his life and how to maximize his time here on earth. He did it properly, he did it his way, never stepping on anyone's toes and never claiming anything that was not rightfully earned. He was a sponsor's dream and he brought mountain biking from out of the trees and mountains and onto the TV, into everyone's lounge room. He also brought his fair share of dirt into the house on his socks and grazes! He truly showed everyone how to live.
His bike riding achievements were enormous, but they were nothing compared to his ability to make everyone feel good, and bring out the best in themselves. The realization of just how far reaching Kelly's amazing personality had been, made it even more difficult to comprehend. I felt like for a time we might have been best friends, and we were, to me, but then it was evident that this was a man who may have had 100 best friends. There was enough of him to share. Everyone was his best friend. His unselfish energy made you feel special, anytime you were with the McGazz it was good times.
Everyone can learn from Kelly about doing - don't think too much, just hum some 90s punk or use your mouth like an entire metal band as you go into life's challenges and do it! He broke new ground in so many areas of life, he was the epitome of the action sports lifestyle, shredding everything from BMX to moto to surf and snowboarding, all with that huge trademark smile. He shredded life itself. Your goals may be different to Kelly's as you most likely won't be contemplating front or back flipping the biggest gnarliest jump in mountain biking, but take a leaf out of Kelly's book of life and do it! You can do it, with a little help from your friends.
We all learned so much from this amazing human about living the life we always wanted, live the dream, don't cut your hair and if you want to do something - do it! My thoughts are constantly with Sammy and his family and his thousands of friends around the world. R.I.P McGazza. Forever a legend. Words by Brett Frew
I remember first meeting Kelly in 2011 in Seattle with Billy Lewis and going up to some of the BMX trails to ride. A few days later Kelly, myself and another friend went to some public jumps down the street. I can’t actually recall if this is where the infamous elbow started, but regardless; he ended up crashing on an X-Up onto this weird crushed brick compound dirt. His elbow split open and separated from the skin; medically called tunneling where you could literally; stick a finger down his arm. In good sprits, Kelly shrugged it off and eventually went to get it looked at that evening. For the next year or two, he would only ride with one elbow pad to protect it from further damage, which seemed a bit ironic.
One day in Les Deux Alpes in France, Kelly and Gully joined me for lunch; out of nowhere Kelly says to me “Paris, you’re a good guy to have around mate”. Kelly made everyone in his life feel special, even if he didn’t know it. I wish I could have gotten to tell him that was the most genuine thing someone has ever said to me, because it stuck for a long time and will always remember him for that. Words by Paris Gore
|Losing anyone is always hard to take, losing a friend that was as large of a personality as he was tall is, even harder. Everyone loved him, there simply isn't anyone that thought otherwise. Just an absolute beauty! It will not be the same without him in our scene. The good times we had together will be held closely to my heart as with everyone who was lucky enough to get to know him. Miss ya buds!- Darren Berrecloth|
I thought that I had wrapped my head around losing Kelly but I keep seeing that smiling face everywhere and he seems so close, so alive, it just feels so surreal that we are never going to see him again. I can picture that big grin with that turn out tooth staring down at me, those fury blonde arms glowing in the sun, that belly laugh, those locks. Kelly was one of a kind. He was a listener. He shared himself, for better or worse. He didn’t care what people thought, he was real. He wore his heart on his sleeve and let people in. He wanted to make each persons life he touched a little more special. He made my life that much more special.
My last memory of Kelly was a couple of days after Rampage - Jasper Wesselman and I were driving out to the old Rampage site when we spotted the big blue McGazza Astro van parked up near the BMX track at the bottom of Flying Monkey so we cruised on over. We drank beer in lawn chairs and watched the Utah storm clouds circling around us in the open field. From there Jasper, Kelly and I were all going to Salt Lake City - so we caravaned. Kinda. More like he went, we passed him, and we waited for him. hahahah. The McGazza mobile doesn't go very fast, maybe 50mph, if that - and the headlights barely work and it was torrential rain. I couldn't not believe he drove that thing in that storm. That was gnarlyyyy. He might have lost one of his 9 lives right there. He was laughing at how scary it was. We obviously made it to SLC much earlier but we had all talked about In and Out so we decided to meet there. We got there around 1am and were hungry so Jasper and I ate - I think if it weren't for Jasper, I would have given the meetup a raincheck because it was late, but we waited. We waited at In and Out for nearly an hour before the faint headlights of the McGazza mobile rolled up. He ordered his meal and I ate his French Fries while we laughed and told stories about nothing till they closed up around us. The next morning, we took our time like we had nowhere to go despite having a drive to Seattle ahead of us. One last giant bear hug and that was the last time I ever saw McGazza.
I think my heart is always going to jump when I see a sketchy looking Astro van and flowy blonde locks but the warm memories will rush right in and I will smile. I miss you my friend. Words by Katie Holden
|This is my very favorite photo I have of McGazza, it makes every bit of me so happy.- Katie Holden|
It was so rad be a part of Kelly’s transformations throughout his career. Starting out with virtually no support, and working his way up to the podiums of the biggest contests in the world, it was really amazing to see hard work and drive pay off. When he started getting into the big contests like Crankworx slopestyle, I was starting to get tired of the injuries and was getting into my last couple years of slopestyle competition. Every weekend at whatever contest we were at, he’d give me a hard time about not wanting to do a trick or hit a big line, and would ride them with me, always pushing me to man up and ride like we both knew I could. It was awesome, and it was something he didn’t have to do, but he went out of his way to help me get through some of the bigger stuff out there. In turn, towards the end of his slopestyle days, his new Diamondback teammate was up and comer Carson Storch. It was so rad to see Carson step into that same role of getting the older guy through the gnarly stuff at the contests. I think the last two or three years he rode in Crankworx he told me “this is my last Crankworx”, but each year he ended up doing awesome and getting invited back again! Some of the best times of my life were with Kelly. He helped build my backyard deck, roll in, and lips for the jumps, and often described it as the Porter Slave Labor Camp when he showed up because we would work as much or more than we would ride. On film trips, if we had 10 minutes to kill while the photographer set up, sometimes he would just lay down and take a quick nap, regardless of location! I’ve seen him fast asleep in the grass in so many epic locations, but some of the best were Machu Picchu, Slovenia, and Alaska. We were laughing pretty much all the time when hanging out, and he always kept the mood light regardless of stress level. It’s been good to read things other people have written about Kelly, and realize how many people’s lives he touched. Kelly was the best! We’re going to miss you Kelly! Words by Eric Porter
|I properly met Kelly for the first time at Taxco DH in 2013. Of course I knew who he was on a bike, especially after seeing his 2nd place run at Rampage, but when we started to talk I discovered that he was the nicest and happiest guy ever. He was with his girlfriend and you could tell from the first second he was an incredible person. Very humble, always smiling. Someone you remember forever.- Remy Metailler|
|Kelly McGarry - there are a lot of way you could describe this man; 1. a flying octopus, giraffe, 2. a caring, heartwarming guy, 3. a guy who was always wanting to push his limits.- Seb Sobels, 10 years old|
|I didn't know Kelly on a personal level, but every encounter I had with him was a positive one that brought out a lot of laughter. It seemed there wasn't a single mountain bike event I would go to where Kelly wasn't there or a part of in some way. Kelly would always greet me with some kind of humorous approach in his kiwi accent and he'd always leave me laughing with a loss for words or a worthy comeback. He was involved in our global mountain bike community in so many ways and his giant presence will be greatly missed but never forgotten!- Kyle Norbraten|
I remember I was writhing with anticipation waiting for Kelly to come down his run at Rampage 2013. He mentioned earlier in the day that he was going to flip the 72ft canyon gap. Up to this point, no-one had flipped anything this large in competition. I had dug out my photo spot, under the canyon, lying down on my back, pushed up with my feet against the cliff walls, sand running down the back of my shirt. It was very uncomfortable, but like the rest of the photogs there, I knew it was going to be worth the wait.
I heard the crowd erupt as Kelly started down his run. I put my finger on the trigger, and set up my angle. The crowd got even louder, and then I could hear his tires on the wooden ramp. I held on to my shutter button and let it rip, as I saw Kelly flashing in sequence across my viewfinder with a perfect backflip. Then he was out of frame, and the crowd went wild. Everybody started screaming, I started screaming. I looked at my arm. I had goosebumps, then I noticed Bryce, the editor of Bike mag, he also had goosebumps. It felt like history had been made, and I can honestly say that was the only time I have ever got goosebumps shooting mountain biking. Words by Margus Riga
Kerry McGuire, Garry McGreary, Karly Mcgregor, Garry McKelly. Kelly McGarry - whatever people mistakenly called McGazza they would always refer to him as a legend.
With as much presence as he had in height he really was a helluva human being. I’ve been lucky enough to have spent a lot of time with Kelly as he rose through the ranks of the free-ride MTB world. From crashing on our sofa at Crankworx Colorado where I was building the course and he was shredding it to pieces to eventually building the Queenstown, Winter Park and Rotorua courses together with our own course building company and having a non stop flow of his many mates coming to sleep on our sofa.
When you travelled with Kelly you were never short of good people to stop in and catch up with for a ride and a cold piss (beer) or two. Pretty much anywhere you went there would be multiple people that would be honoured to call Kelly a great friend. Probably because hanging out with Kelly was always a good time, the mood was fun and he made everyone feel special; special because someone as legendary as Kelly McGarry was genuinely stoked on what was going on in their lives even though they were so in awe of him.
People say don’t mix business with pleasure but doing business with Kelly was always a pleasure. His infectious enthusiasm for life force fed an injection of stoke into every day, from his first ‘burnt dirt’ (coffee) in the morning to the last celebratory ‘cold piss’ (beer) after a shred at the end of the day. Every day was better when hanging and working with Kelly, always full of laughter, usually at each other's expense, and love for what we were creating. We were always proud of the courses we built and none more so than the slopestyle course for Crankworx Rotorua, the wooden features Kelly built here are works of art, legs from giant redwoods and dressed in Kiwiana theme, they look beautiful but more importantly for Kelly they ride beautifully and are a working legacy that the world's best slopestyle riders will enjoy for years to come.
Crankworx Rotorua will be bittersweet this year. As I prepare the course for the event there is an empty void where McGazza should be. A void that will never be filled, it won't be the same without him but the opportunity should be taken to celebrate his love for life and accomplishments with friends from NZ and all over the world.
Many people take inspiration following a persons death but I don’t think I would be alone in saying that Kelly inspired me as long as I knew him. When unsure about taking a risk I would often ask myself ‘what would McGazza do?’ And most likely the answer would be ‘yeah boy, just do it!’ I think this is why his life worked out the way it did, he earned a lifestyle that most people would kill for. When his mates would complain about having to go to work he would remind them that he had been working all week, plus the weekend…riding his bike!
This didn’t come easy, years of eating shit, nerves at contests and having to pay his own way around the world before the big sponsors saw what he could do for them with his insane bike skills and love for mountain biking.
His amazing girlfriend Sammy and countless real friends and fans around the world are a credit to his unforgettable personality and attitude to life. It almost feels like Kelly knew he had a limited time on this earth. He lived his life full throttle, taking up any opportunity that was anywhere near his path and didn’t wait to do things, he just did them and I think he would be pretty damn happy with what he achieved in 33 years on this planet. So Chur McGazza, I’m deeply honoured to be a part of it whilst you were here and will continue to grow your legacy now that you are no longer with us. Words by Tom Hey
|Kelly was a freerider! That is the first thing that comes in my head when we talk about him. He was a real one, always on the road on the sickest trips, just going riding and looking for a good time. I knew Kelly for a long time; the first contest I ever showed up to, he was there and it was funny because he was like five times bigger than I was. I will always remember him with a huge smile on his face and all the gear on, ready to go! He was always on it, always riding and, what is the most important thing, he was always happy and stoked to hang out. Kelly was one of those dudes that really loved the sport, he had so much passion! Always going huge and riding hard with the sickest heavy metal hair cut and a huge smile on his face. There's not many left like him and we are gonna miss him so much. It's going to be hard to go to the places and not see the kiwi giant walking around, but I'm sure that he is riding in paradise!- Andreu Lacondeguy|
|Kelly is a guy who is never going to be forgotten about. His positive demeanour touched everybody that came across him, and it definitely changed our sport forever. I remember working at the bike shop back home in 2012 (Bend Cyclery), having basically zero support. I was working my way to pay for travel to go to as many events as I could. The whole Diamondback crew (Kelly, Porter, Jon Kennedy, Billy Lewis, etc.) cruised through town to do a team trip. At this point I was kind of talking to the TM (Jon) a little bit about potentially getting a frame or two. Kelly came in the shop loud as all hell, introducing himself to everyone, typical Kelly fashion. I had met him before at the previous year's UDUG (Goldman's contest) so I was a bit familiar with him. I didn't realize then, but from that point forward I would be taken under the wing of the DB team, and given the chance to travel the world turning bike riding into a career with all of those dudes. I learned so much from Kelly over those years of photo shoots, filming, contests, and not to take away from any of the other guys, they helped me a bunch also. Kelly just had this positivity around him. The vibe where everyday he woke up and was ready to attack life at the throat, but still have the best time ever while doing it. It's something that will change me forever, inspire me forever, and drive me to keep the dream alive for Kelly. Cheers Mcgazza, see you up there one day.- Carson Storch|
|Back in 2009 I was graced with the honour of riding at the ANTI Days of Thunder event in Hafjell (almost a FEST before its time if you don't remember) but as a shy 18 year old kid who had never met anyone or been to a big event before it was a daunting arrival for me. Everyone there was a hero. Everyone knew each other already but two people came forward and welcomed me into the gang. Kelly along with PEF took me under their wings, introduced me to everyone and encouraged me every day on the jumps - I couldn't believe how inclusive they were. It may not sound like a big deal but this meant so much at the time and has really stuck with me to this day. It immediately proved Kelly's kindness and warm personality, and although we have had many great times together since, these memories of Kelly will forever be my fondest. It takes skill and dedication to be as good as Kelly on a bike but takes so much more to make a difference like he could. Thanks Kelly, because I know I'm certainly not the only one who you really made a difference to without knowing it. See ya on the other side 'Geeza'!- Sam Reynolds|
|Enough can't be said about how kind Kelly McGarry was. His incredible attitude trumped his riding; however, we are all lucky that he was incredible, otherwise we would have never had a chance for him to influence our lives for the better. His large stature, huge smile and long glowing hair created a glowing ora and giant flag of happiness so you knew when happiness was close. Kelly made us all want to be better people as he was the epitome of good. In his passing, we can only hope to be better people and take his legacy on throughout life with all of us in attempt to make the world a better place. I just keep imagining that I will see him on a trip somewhere... - Cam Zink|
|It's the first photo I ever took of Kelly at the end of 2006. I'd got his number from a BMX friend and was in Nelson visiting a friend and it was pissing down, I called him and he said he knew a wall ride in town he could ride in the rain. So I met him there. That night Kelly was sponsor-less - but the following monday he wasn't. He always made good first impressions.- Caleb Smith|
First impressions are important, I can tell you, having screwed up my fair share of them. I’m pretty sure though that 26-year-old Kelly McGarry hasn’t stuffed up a single one. His approachability, infectious laugh and attitude to life strike you instantly. Marry all that with amazing skills on a pushbike and you have a captivating package. Top international photographers, team managers, event organisers and sponsors have been won over by Kelly’s passion for life and riding. I’ve noticed that virtually everyone he comes into contact with is ready to help him out without expecting to be repaid. Kelly is the future of freeriding in New Zealand. He’s finally put us on the map. Yet things are just getting started for this lanky lad from Nelson. Words by Caleb Smith (originally published in Spoke Magazine, February 2009.)
|I can't believe Kelly McGarry has left this world. He was one of those positive, happy, indestructible people that seemed superhuman. I am honoured to have called him a friend. I met him in Lake Garda, Italy in 2009 and we immediately hit it off - as he did with everyone. One of my favourite all-time interviews at Crankworx was when I looked at his bloody, fleshwound ravaged elbows and asked him, "Kelly, why don't you wear elbow pads?" He replied, "Tippie, two kinds of people wear elbow pads, smart people and pussies...and I ain't either one of them!" I'm going to miss that guy a lot. Events won't be the same without him. Condolences to his family, friends and fans. Love ya McGazza, we will never forget you buddy!- Brett Tippie|
|I first remember Kelly on a pink downhill bike trying to front flip it during Crankworx slope style. He had this go for broke, live to fullest style and always had a smile on his face. I could see that before I turned pro; having the opportunity to compete and travel with him on several occasions. He always was the most generous person and wanted the best for all of his friends. You could count on him from the smallest thing to an honest opinion; even if it was not what you wanted to hear. We had some great times, got into some trouble, and rode some bikes. No loss is easy, but at least Kelly went on his bike. The one thing he loved doing. His golden locks will for ever be missed. I know I will miss him. There will always be a hole in the freeride scene now that he has left. - Mitch Chubey|
|What can I say about Kelly that hasn't been said yet - other then that my girlfriend always told me how jealous she was of Kelly's beautiful golden locks. We truly did lose someone very special. Not only was he one of the toughest guys to throw a leg over a bike, but he was one the most down-to-earth guys that I have ever met. While I was laying in my hospital bed counting the holes in the popcorn ceiling not knowing what direction my life was going, I spoke with Kelly. He found a way to give me hope for the future. This is something I will never forget. He had a larger impact off the bike than he did on the bike for me. He was more than just a riding buddy, he was a friend. Someone I looked up to. I thank God for the time I had with him on this earth. I find peace knowing that the last words I said to Kelly was "I love you". I can't wait to ride with you again my kiwi friend. - Paul Basagoitia|
You don't meet many people like Kelly McGarry, he was truly one of a kind, one of the world's good buggers.
I first met Kelly in 2005 and started sponsoring him about a year later. Not long after signing him, I pitched the relatively unknown Kelly McGarry and his talents to a number of the brands we distribute in New Zealand. We crafted out a program that would get Kelly competing overseas with more support. This was far from the 'big time' I can tell you and still required Kelly sleeping and traveling in his van for most of the time, but it was a start, and boy was he grateful.
As Kelly's profile and results grew, so did the sponsors, and he traded the van life for more comfortable accommodation. He stayed incredibly loyal to Wide Open and a number of companies that had helped him from the beginning, this was the character of the man. Kelly’s sponsors meant a lot to him and not just from a financial point of view but also as friendships. Sponsors gave him the opportunity to live his dream, travel to amazing locations riding bikes, meet different people and have good times with his many friends. He never looked at sponsors for "what are you going to do for me?" It was more "there are some really cool things we can do together fella!”
He never seemed to tire of the never ending photo and video shoots or the constant texts and calls from riders wanting to go shredding. He just simply loved it and would treat all the same. His interactions with fans were amazing. He seemed so stoked that you were stoked to meet him. He would ask them a few questions with the biggest of smile on his face and then leave them with a photo or autograph and the biggest high five that would leave their hand stinging. He was a true “top man” ambassador, one many athletes can learn so much from both on and off the bike.
I feel privileged to have worked with Kelly and for him to be such a big part of Wide Open’s history. He was one very special human being, one the mountain biking community, New Zealand, and the world, should be incredibly proud of. You are an inspiration to us all mate. Words by Matt Whitaker
My name is Angus Sobels, I live in Australia most of the time, but over the years seem to be spending more and more time in this beautiful part of the world; riding bikes and hanging out with some of the best rider GCs that the world knows! I wish I was back here this time in happier circumstances, but its not to be. I am honoured to be asked to say a few words about one of the finest individuals that you will have ever had the pleasure to meet, on or off the bike, Kelly McGarry. Kelly had a unique attitude towards life and living - live now, live life for the moment and most importantly, follow your dreams and make them happen. There are many people that would love to emulate this, and plenty of people that profess to live like this, however there are very few people that I have known who truly have lived by this ethos.
For most people, if they were told that they had a month to live, or 6 months, or a year, they would change how and what they had been doing for this final period of time that they had left. I am sure that if Kelly was faced with a similar fate, he would have changed nothing. Every moment of every day of his life was lived to the fullest. And not only to the fullest, but at full, wide open throttle. We can all learn a lesson from these great attributes that Kelly was blessed with; live for now, live in the moment, and follow your dreams, as he did. And as one of the catch phrases said “travelling the world, L… the D…”
I don’t want to talk too much about Kelly's professional riding as I will leave that to others who were closer to him on the tour, except to say that his riding style, skills and abilities on any form of two wheels , could best be described as unlimited, often to the detriment of his body and bike! I'd like to relay a brief riding story from a few years ago in QT. Kelly and I headed out for a ride on one of the many pirate trails that seem to mysteriously pop up every now and then around this beautiful town. Given that my background is in marathon XC racing and Kelly's was at the total other end of the MTB spectrum, it was always an interesting conversation to be had about where we should go for a ride. Anyway, on this particular day, he won, and we headed up to a trail that was quite clearly going to be not only well beyond my 100mm travel bikes' limits, but more importantly well beyond my technical skill level if I was to ride it at a speed that would keep my fragile MTB ego in place. Anyway, we both rode down, Kelly obviously going first, knowing that I wouldn’t see him again until we reached the bottom. I made it to the bottom of the trail, very pleased with myself that I had not only made it down, was still in one piece, but also that I had gone at a reasonable pace that would surely guarantee that my ego was kept intact for another day. How wrong could I be – there he was, waiting for me, looking like he hadn’t exerted himself for weeks, with that massive, cheeky grin on his face . He looked at me and said, “Cussie Bro, what took u so long, did u have a mechanical, or 3 ?” He had me, the cheeky prick, I rode off a shattered man - until the next ride, which would be my choice of trail!
When it came to giving back to the sport and community that had given Kelly so much joy, he did it as he did everything in life; 100%, open, full throttle, particularly in relation to children and youths. Nothing was too hard, nothing was too much to ask for. For most people who find themselves on a world stage at the top of their chosen sport, they lose their way, often their moral compass falls out of sync – not Kelly's, he never forgot where he came from, who his true friends were, the importance of being humble, and of course what had shaped him to be such a fine individual – his family. One of the great things about this was that I am sure that he did all of these things without a thought in the world, it just came naturally to him. It was only two weeks ago that we were in QT celebrating my sons 10th birthday, with Kelly and Sam and plenty of other GCs from the QMTBC. When I asked Kelly if he would like to join us for the evening, I was a bit apprehensive given that I knew that he wouldn’t be asked to many 10th birthday celebrations. I had nothing to be concerned about, his response, in typical McGazza fashion, was “shit yeah bro, wouldn’t miss it for the world.” To me, it summed up the mark of the man, and this night for us is now forever etched in our memories.
When Sam first met Kelly, I'm sure she had no idea that she would only be spending 50% of her time with Kelly, as the other 50% of the time he was well entrenched in a travelling and working bromance with his long time friend, confidante and buddy, Tom Hey. However, this didn’t seem to phase her, she took it in her stride – often love conquers all. And, the two of them, being Kelly and Sam, seemed to fit each other like a well worn glove. They were settled, happy, it was like the search was over, they had found each other. It would be fair to say that this relationship had all of the hallmarks of one that would go the distance. Sam, stay close, stay strong, stay tight, on behalf of the QMTBC and the world MTB community and family, we will be with you through these challenging and sometimes dark times. You never get over it, you find ways of getting around it. We love you.
Kelly, you were an inspiration to so many people around the world, on and off the bike. How you conducted yourself as an individual over your far too short 33 years was exemplary, you will live on forever in everyone who met you, regardless of whether they had known you for 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 months, or a lifetime. We will all miss you, but will ride on, as we know that you will. Ride hard, ride on, and most importantly, keep riding 'unlimited.' We love you brother. Words by Angus Sobels
|It's not an exaggeration to say that Kelly was easily the friendliest person I've ever met. He was a beacon of warm light at any event, party, or room he showed up at. Kelly was a constant flow of good vibes and positivity around everyone - regardless of who you were. He made everybody feel like they were worthy of his infectious smile. As most people know, a mountain bike slopestyle course can be a very scary place, and way back in the day when the Crankworx boneyard still had jumps and features that us ladies (and mere mortals) were able to ride, Kelly was always the first person to encourage me to hit something that seemed just outside my ability. He made it seem like anything was possible, and his unrelenting confidence in me gave me confidence in myself. I've never met a person in mountain biking who was so encouraging and I strongly believe that Kelly not only progressed the sport with his own riding, but with his enthusiasm and encouragement to his peers. He made everyone around him a better rider, but most importantly, a better person.- Darcy Turenne|
|It's crazy how everyone loves Kelly! And how, after that many years, there's only positive memories about him! The first time we met was in France back in 2009. He did a big season trip in Europe, and he was already that cool guy everyone loves, even with us little kids! The year after, I was on a one month trip to whistler with my french team, and he was there joking about us riding the whistler dirt jumps on our downhill bikes and chilling with us. I only saw our favourite hairy kiwi here and there for a few seasons, but in January 2015 I road tripped around New Zealand with him for two weeks for the MTB Heroes video trip. Kelly had the awesome life - living only summers for eight years, in a big cool van with a huge sound system, moto, bikes, surf, super relaxed dude. He was a rare kind of rider and a true inspiration! I'll miss you but will keep riding and do freestyle raps for you buddy! - Antoine Bizet|
|One of Kelly's favourite jokes to play on me was to ask if I had any 'Crackinhomie?' To which I would answer, "Whats crakinhome?" Kelly would then dissolve in laughter and blurt out, "WHATS CRACKIN' HOMIE!" This never failed to get us both in reels of laughter. Kelly's laugh was infectious. . . Always looking for the fun side of things, so positive and able to laugh at himself, attributes that made this gentle giant such a kind human. I got to know Kelly pretty well on a two week road trip around NZ's South Island back in 2013. We spent so many hours together in a yellow VW 1970's Kombi camper, chatting over almost everything. Bikes, adventures and our aspirations for life. Buying a house, paying tax (or not!) marriage to our other halves, did we want kids? We went over it all. . . Underneath this tough, talented biker was a soft and sensitive guy who cared so much for his friends around him. It wasn't always about the ride, but about making people smile, building bike parks for local kids, and looking out for his pals. - Camilla Rutherford|
|There is a real undeniable power that lives in the memory of a lost loved one. Their energy is forever there for you. Kelly's is a special energy. It makes you feel like you want to be positive, make time, look deeper, give back. It makes you feel like we are all going to be alright. - Claire Buchar|
|Kelly was a man with no enemies, and a guy that could cheer anyone up if they were having a shitty day. He was one of my favorite people, and the best person I can think of to have a beer with and share some laughs. My favorite part about him was how he'd laugh so hard at his own stories sometimes that he'd never get around to finishing them, but we'd all be laughing so hard at him laughing at himself, that we'd forget there was even a story in the first place. I'll always remember those half-told stories of his that were overshadowed with laughter, and I'm grateful to have been able to meet him and call him a friend during the time I was lucky enough to have spent with him over the years. He was as good and genuine as they come, and he'll be missed by more than he could have ever imagined. - Tyler McCaul|
“You’re a True Champion, Jonno!”
“Never play leapfrog with a unicorn, Jonno!”
“Hey, Jonno, what should I do?”
These are what I call McGazzaisms. Kelly McGarry was my friend.
I think what I like most about the McGazzaisms, is that they were constant, dependable… predictable. They were uplifting, humorous, and honest. Kelly trusted in our relationship and believed in me. He did all his friends. And that made us all feel like the luckiest people around. That’s who Kelly really was.
Kelly was the most enthusiastic and positive person I’ve ever met. Ask anyone who’s met him. His spirit was contagious and so uplifting. We had the most absurd of funny times together. Many a road trips with Eric Porter, Justin Olsen, and Carson Storch amongst others would leave us in tears laughing over Kelly’s shenanigans… hopping over statues of babies with his pants off, riding wheelies with no front wheel, epic rap battles - It was all the best.
There seems to be enough distance between Kelly’s passing and now to leave me with huge smiles when I think about him. Yet, the reality that he ain’t coming back leaves me unable to believe that he’s really gone. His passing may get easier with time. But no one will ever fill that absence of that hole in my heart.
I want Kelly’s legacy in the world to be bigger than 6’ 5” Kiwi and a 72foot canyon gap. I want that to be a metaphor for the size of a life lived to the absolute fullest… of a friend that was bigger than the bunch of them… of a heart that had so much intensity that it gave all it hand until there was nothing left. It’s almost ironic.
Kelly will forever be one of the greatest human’s I’ve ever known. For a dude full of gnar and steez, he sure was as soft and loving as they come.
“Hey, Jonno, what should I do?”
I hope you forever know the answer now buddy… you did it all exactly the f*ck as you were supposed to.
I love you, Kelly.
Words by Jon Kennedy
Thank you to everyone who contributed and reached out to make this memorial to our friend possible. And to all of the contributing photographers who have worked so hard to immortalize our friendly giant:
Ale Di Lullo
Trusts have been set up to continue Kelly's Legacy through a variety of facilities to benefit the mountain bike community in his name. If you would like to contribute, you can do so here: Kelly McGarry's Go Fund Me PageKelly McGarry Memorial Trust