The Legend of Paul Buchanan and the Church Gap

Mar 3, 2021
by Taj Mihelich  

Words & film by Taj Mihelich

Paul probably wouldn't like being the center of attention in this cartoon. Sadly I can't be sure. There's no easy way to talk about Paul Buchanan without addressing the excruciating depression that overwhelmed him and ended when he took his own life. Working on this project, I spent hours and hours thinking about him, remembering what a genius he was on a bike, and feeling heartbroken that I'd lost touch with him through the years.

But this goofy cartoon I made is not a sad story. Thinking about Paul Buchanan also means remembering how pioneering, creative, inspiring, and just plain burly he was on a bike. Someone whispered a tall-tale-like version of this story to me a few years after it happened. I remember my feeling of incredulity. The "Church Gap" was a big deal. I couldn't wrap my head around someone attempting one of the biggest challenges on a bike and not bothering to capture it on film or video. The next time I saw Paul, still flustered with disbelief, I asked him about it. He calmly told me, "I just wanted to see what it felt like."

Sandy Carson was with Paul that day and was kind enough to tell the story. Since there is no footage, I did some animation. Paul might not like being the center of attention, but I miss the guy and wanted to share this small moment of his greatness.


57 Comments

  • 126 0
 Thank you for this. There is nothing sadder than someone taking their own life. We can't see the pain and anguish others may be feeling. Be nice to people, it's free and easy to do.
  • 15 40
flag theoskar57 (Mar 3, 2021 at 12:32) (Below Threshold)
 I mean, whilst it is very sad indeed, can't agree on "there is nothing sadder than someone taking their own life", it is even sadder when someone takes someone else's life on purpose, but it also comes along with anger and a lot of questions. Every death of anyone affects others, even of old age, so as you said, be nice and kind to people, you never know if you won't see that person anymore.
  • 72 0
 Taj, this is next level story telling and use of your mad art skills! Thank you for your time and effort in putting this together. I nearly spat out my coffee I was laughing so hard at the end!!! Telling a story through comics with a narration by someone who was actually there really lets the imagination run.
  • 6 0
 Thanks!
  • 5 0
 @Tajlucas: I was hoping the link that you had in the article was gonna be that props commercial. I was not let down. Hearing that Grade song brought me back to the first time I saw it. The footage still holds up 20 years later! Before he moved to Austin he lived in my neck of the woods I always heard legend of him from the older bmx guys whenever we went to spots. Truly an inspiration.
May he be at peace.
  • 27 0
 youtu.be/bmO439w6yWA
Road fools clip
  • 15 0
 I never was a bmx'r, don't have a lot of bike skills. But I come to PB to get glimpses of race this and that, other stuff and things. Like this. A peek at something I never knew before.

The loss of Mr. Buchanan by his family and community, well...I feel that too. Don't have to be a bmx'r to know loss, whether it's by oneself or by cancer or whatever label we put on it. And I definitely know the anguish of the loss of not just a relationship, but what it could have been. Some dots are unconnectable at times so I hope you've found peace in that regard, @Tajlucas .

As for the storytelling...I love this format, the style, the literal bits. I'd love to see more of these vignettes (ode to Canada's NFB).

As for the gap. Holy shit. That is all.
  • 10 0
 Thanks! This little 5 minutes of animation took weeks to make. It turned out to be an effective way to process the loss for sure. Good times, bad times, I put my head in them all. And thanks very much!
  • 13 0
 I heard the legend of this Church gap probably 15 - 20 years ago. I also heard he was wearing a backpack!! And there it is in this recap....is that true!! I had the pleasure of riding with Paul at REV trails in Whistler (BMX Only) and it was one of my best Canadian memories. What a nice guy and he complimented my riding to my wife which she later told me and that was probably the best complements a BMXer could ever receive! RIP Pauly B what a LEDJ!! Sandy rules too! Idols...
  • 12 0
 Just watched the Jimmy Levan doc. That gap is a big deal!
  • 3 0
 Jimmy the MAN it is tho
  • 8 0
 The first Road Fools (and Props) had such an impact on my life. I wore that VHS out! I immediately recognized the handrail that Joe 180'd to 50/50. Witnessing, and then recreating the simple template of going on BMX road trips guided me through my teenage years, and helped frame MTB riding away from the racer-centric NORBA days into something far more enjoyable to me. I still quote it to this day.
  • 5 0
 Totally! A massive influence on my music collection too!
  • 4 0
 Thanks for this. The legend of Paul B was a favourite pass time for all the bmxers in the Vancouver scene - I loved every story/rumour and always aspired to become a great rider, like him. So, sorry to hear he lost the battle in his mind... this is a good little memento to think on
  • 4 0
 As someone who has lost a brother... and an uncle to mental illness, I appreciate the open dialogue surrounding Paul’s death. Mental illness needs more coverage. On a lighter note, this video and story was badass!!!
  • 6 0
 I wish there was more footage of Paul. Here is 43 seconds of greatness.

youtu.be/3LLjeggFODg
  • 2 0
 A beautiful tribute and a good story! I love this kind of storytelling, where the art and narration complement each other so well. Reminds me of one of my favorite things on YouTube “Doc Ellis & the No Hitter on Acid.”
  • 3 0
 That brought a tear to my old eye. I could hear the love in the narrators voice and it reminded me of old friends I've lost, but their legends live on. Thank you!
  • 4 0
 I really appreciate this. I recorded an hour of Sandy talking about Paul and felt the same way. They were really close.
  • 2 0
 You're the best Taj!! Somebody make sure this gets to the boys at Dig/OurBMX! Plenty of other mid-schoolers out there that haven't made the switch to big wheels yet who would love to see this!
  • 2 0
 Thank you for this, Taj. I was born 20 years too soon for BMX, but I know a real story when I hear it. Paul's story is a heroic one, with a tragic ending. Heroic stories all too often end in tragedy. Much respect. RIP Paul.
  • 3 0
 Masterfully crafted Taj! I have always enjoyed how Scottish people tell stories, he sounded so happy to be talking about his friend.
  • 5 0
 "It's Jimmy The Man not Jimmy LeVan" - Joe Rich
  • 1 0
 Spent most of my late teens and early 20s where my riding was heavily influenced by Paul, Sandy, Taj, Joe and the like. I was over the whole contest thing, riding ramps all the time and would just go find street spots to session. Thank you for animating the story of Pauls church gap, and having Sandy, the only witness besides the bloke on the stairs that would shut up was just mint. One sighting run in the BOOM! Done. Dusted. Thank you Taj. RIP Paul.
  • 1 0
 I still remember clearly seeing Paul foot jam tail whip nose the sub box at Chenga. At the time, foot jamming it was really good. I sat back and watched Paul destroy that thing. Super stoked I finally get to see him ride in person. Great story Taj....great memories.
  • 1 0
 The Storyteller was kind enough to alert me that my shoes were on fire one night ...probably would have figured it out eventually, but I never met Paul as far as I can recall.
  • 1 0
 Awesome! Those where the days, thanks to that T1 add on Props Paul B will always make me listen to Grade an Grade will always make me remember Paul FK I miss BMX. shout out to all the 'plus size' BMX'ers here
  • 3 0
 Absolute legend, dude was years ahead of his time. RIP.
  • 2 0
 Best thing i've watched in a while, awesome little story beautifully presented.
  • 2 0
 Great story, and tribute. The fact that there were no pictures makes it a true legend.
  • 3 0
 Can anyone share a google maps streetview of the gap? Can't quite find it
  • 4 0
 It doesn’t technically exist anymore as they’ve removed the stairs at the landing. BUt, there is a big segment on it in the Jimmy Levan Go Fast Pull Up documentary that is on Redbull Tv
  • 3 0
 @Potorider: And if you back the view up a little bit (I have the camera parked at 951 Brazos St), Streetview will let you choose several different dates to view it. The lower stairs still existed in June 2009, and they were gone by March 2011 (with construction barriers still up).
  • 2 0
 @barp: Thanks! this was an awesome way to check an iconic spot!
  • 2 0
 @Potorider: you can also scroll back in time on street view to see the gap. July 2009 on street view has a clear view of it.
  • 2 0
 Always love seeing Taj as the author
  • 3 0
 Rest easy Paul!
  • 1 0
 Beautifully brilliant. Paul was a true legend of BMX. Thanks for reminding me x
  • 2 0
 I dig the mogwai shirt. Scottish shout.
  • 1 0
 Ho man this is like The revolution of the crabe but for who like to send so gap!
  • 1 0
 Nice video! I first saw that gap on Jimmy Levan's doc, ridiculous...
  • 1 0
 really a great job! thank you Taj
  • 1 0
 Thanks that was really well done.
  • 1 0
 There are a few church gap fails out there.
  • 1 0
 he rode for himself, legend!!
  • 1 0
 That was so good. May the legend of Paul live on!
  • 1 0
 This was beautiful. Thank you Taj.
  • 1 0
 That was AWESOME!
  • 1 0
 Thanks, Taj, Sheps.
  • 1 0
 AMAZIN !
  • 1 0
 Legend. Thanks Taj.
  • 1 0
 that was awesome
  • 1 0
 Cheers Taj

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