#NE2021 Re-Launch: Meet the Team

25 Mar #NE2021 Re-Launch: Meet the Team

The Northern Embassy first launched in 2010 as an online platform for Canadian BMX videos, photos, and editorial content. Since then, the website has gone through a variety of phases; there have been highs and lows. With some renewed enthusiasm and fresh ideas, we are hoping to bring back the site and make it better than ever. Welcome to the 2021 re-launch of the Northern Embassy.

To kick things off, we’d like to introduce the admin/contributor team consisting of Joel Fortin, Aaron Gates, Justin Schwanke, Ryan Eles, and Jeremy Deme. Dive in to learn more about the characters behind the site and their plans for showcasing Canadian BMX content from coast to coast.

Joel Fortin 

Current residence: Barrie, Ontario

Age: 26

Sponsors or company/crew affiliations: Merritt, OGC, Vans, Follow The Leader

First year riding BMX: 2010

First year as a member of the admin/contributor team: 2014

What have been your main contributions in BMX? What might people know you for?

That’s a good question. I suppose people probably know me from some edits that I’ve been in over time. I’d assume Merritt and BMXFU projects in particular. I’ve also filmed and edited a handful of videos for friends of mine over the years; those are always a blast.

How was 2020 for you? And how’s 2021 shaping up?

2020 was a strange year for me as I’m sure it was for most. The majority of my time was taken up by school, but I tried to maintain a good balance of riding and filming in the mix as well. As for 2021, if things go somewhat back to normal, I think there could be a bunch of cool things on the radar. I hope to work on more video projects for NE and my friends, ride as much as possible, and travel once that becomes an option again.

Do you have any projects in the works, Northern Embassy related or otherwise?

Currently, I’m working on a few NE interview pieces that should be released soon. Additionally, I’m slowly chipping away at my own projects, and riding and filming whenever possible.

What are you most excited about with this re-launch of the Northern Embassy?

Honestly, I’m just looking forward to having a home base for Canadian BMX content. There are so many talented people all over Canada that deserve recognition for the hard work they put into projects. This is an opportunity to showcase their work and hopefully motivate young kids to do their own thing as well.

Is there anything else you want to say? Any final thoughts?

I just want to thank anyone who’s been actively following NE through the years, and everyone who’s taking the time to read this now. I’m super excited for the future of the site. We have an amazing team working together right now and I can’t wait to see what we all come up with.

Aaron Gates

Current residence: Girdwood, Alaska

Age: 37

Sponsors or company/crew affiliations: NO BIKES. My kids and I also make a pretty mean skatepark crew.

First year riding BMX: 1995

First year as a member of the admin/contributor team: 2012

What have been your main contributions in BMX? What might people know you for?

Lots of little things. I like to think of myself as a longtime BMX media journeyman. When I was in high school I borrowed my parents’ point and shoot camera to snap some photos of a dirt contest in Calgary. I then convinced Ken Paul to let me write an article in Chase magazine about the contest (though he used better photos than mine!). Since then, I’ve written bits and pieces for whatever Canadian media was at the forefront of things (shoutout to David Hawthorne for running an actual riding photo of me in Red).

Also, when I was in high school, Travis Burroughs and I made some shirts that said “NO BIKES” on them after getting kicked out of a skatepark. That project evolved into seven full-length videos and then ten years of annual road trips focused on exploring new skateparks in the US (and a few in Canada). My favorite part of that project has been watching the riders from our early videos grow up to be so talented. Being able to plan out a dream road trip every summer and have everyone still on board after all these years has been awesome as well.

How was 2020 for you? And how’s 2021 shaping up?

2020 was a big year for the family. After nine years in Seattle, we moved to Alaska to raise our pack of wild children in more open space. Generally an awful time though, just like for most people. For 2021, we’re hanging out in a resort town with amazing snowboard terrain. Riding also feels better with age, and I’m looking forward to exploring more of the state.

Do you have any projects in the works, Northern Embassy related or otherwise?

Tony Piff and I are going to drive up the Alaska highway and make a movie.

I usually scroll through the feed at breakfast and post all the rad things I see Canadian riders doing to the NE IG story.

What are you most excited about with this re-launch of the Northern Embassy?

Connecting with more people in the North, and learning about cool scenes that we should all know more about. If you live in the North, hit me up!

Is there anything else you want to say? Any final thoughts?

Having a recorded history of our scene is important, as is having Canadian BMX institutions. The Embassy is important for those reasons.

You may be asking why I, an American, am contributing to this website. Don’t call me American though. I’m from Canada.

Justin Schwanke

Current residence: Abbotsford, British Columbia at the moment. I’ve spent the rest of my life in and around Edmonton though.

Age: 26

Sponsors or company/crew affiliations: Weird & Revered

First year riding BMX: 2000

First year as a member of the admin/contributor team: 2018

What have been your main contributions in BMX? What might people know you for?

Some people might remember me as “that guy with all of the sketchy ramps in the field.” The ramps are long gone now, but my admiration for backyard ramp set-ups still exists.

Our crew, Weird & Revered has released various web videos and a DVD; those have been my main contributions to BMX media. I’ve also done a handful of freelance video, photo, and editorial projects. Most recently though, I’ve been working on a documentary film series plus a full-length riding film for Our BMX. It’s called Project Spoke.

How was 2020 for you? And how’s 2021 shaping up?

As I’m sure many can relate, 2020 was a rollercoaster of a year. I started off the year travelling and filming for Project Spoke. By the time March rolled around and the pandemic was in full swing, I was forced to return home. Since then, I’ve been editing the existing footage from that project and patiently waiting to travel/film again in the post-COVID world. On the personal side of things, I experienced many big changes in 2020: Getting married, moving provinces, and starting a new job. I’ve also been going through some health challenges since last September so continuing to work through that is my top priority for 2021.

Do you have any projects in the works, Northern Embassy related or otherwise?

Northern Embassy wise, I’ll be working on various content features. I’ve also been trying to improve some of our systems and processes; hopefully it will minimize the workload for our admin/contributor team and keep us better organized.

Project Spoke is my main priority as far as BMX projects go. It’s a bit of a beast so I’ve been dedicating 10 hours per week to it.

My friends and I have also been plugging away at the next Weird & Revered DVD. The timeline for that is a long way out yet. However, I’m always camera-equipped when riding so the footage collection is growing. We should have a mixtape with throwaway clips released in the near future.

What are you most excited about with this re-launch of the Northern Embassy?

I’m excited for there to be a home for Canadian BMX content again. I’m hoping we can make the Northern Embassy sustainable and continue to highlight Canadian riders and scenes for years to come.

Is there anything else you want to say? Any final thoughts?

I’ve always found that the most meaningful experiences in BMX are those that bring people together: Media projects, jams, bike shop events, road trips, mentoring, etc. BMX may be an “individual sport,” but that doesn’t mean we have to participate in it alone or always focus on ourselves. I challenge riders to consider what they can do to support their community. If the Northern Embassy can help with that in any way, let us know!

Ryan Eles

Current residence: Ottawa, Ontario

Age: 28

Sponsors or company/crew affiliations: Federal Bikes, Eclat BMX, Vans, The Trip, Ciao Crew, and OGC

First year riding BMX: I wanna say around 2008

First year as a member of the admin/contributor team: 2021

What have been your main contributions in BMX? What might people know you for?

I was a part of the full-length Federal video, FTS. Other than that, maybe some other video projects I’ve worked on over the years.

How was 2020 for you? And how’s 2021 shaping up?

2020 was up and down for me. I made the move from my hometown of Sudbury up to Ottawa. I started exploring the scene, but then had a pretty rough ankle injury that’s kept me out the whole year. I’ve been waiting on surgery; so hopefully that can get all fixed up in 2021. I’m also hoping for the pandemic to lighten up a bit so we can get back to traveling with the homies.

Do you have any projects in the works, Northern Embassy related or otherwise?

I’m currently working on a summer video contest for NE. Hopefully it’ll build some hype around all the lowkey Canadian riders who are killing it. Other than that, I’m just trying to stay healthy and rehab my ankle so I can start working on some video projects next summer.

What are you most excited about with this re-launch of the Northern Embassy?

I’m hyped to show that Canada has a pretty insane BMX community. We want to give it the shine that it deserves. I remember when I first started riding BMX, NE was the place to go to see all the dope content and events coming out of Canada. I hope we can get it back to that state.

Is there anything else you want to say? Any final thoughts?

I’m stoked that the Embassy is back and we have a good group of dudes contributing to it. I can’t wait to see all the sick Canadian content coming out in 2021. I hope that everyone is just as excited on NE as I was/still am!

Jeremy Deme

Current residence: Saint-Lazare, Quebec

Age: Old enough to party

Sponsors or company/crew affiliations: PRESENCE

First year riding BMX: 1998 I believe

First year as a member of the admin/contributor team: Day 1. November 1, 2010.

What have been your main contributions in BMX? What might people know you for?

Presence videos, starting NE and keeping it going the first 5-6 years, previously working at Ten Pack, and now working at OGCBMX.

How was 2020 for you? And how’s 2021 shaping up?

It was different. Work and family life kept me really busy, but I was able to ride bikes in the woods more than I have in a lot of years; that was a plus. I built my son a pump track in the backyard which was awesome. 2021 feels like an extended 2020 to date, but here’s to a better year than the last…

Do you have any projects in the works, Northern Embassy related or otherwise?

I have a few NE features in the works so stay tuned. With such a hectic work/life schedule, I’ve been trying to keep projects within reason and still have time to ride. As much as the PRESENCE squad is pretty scattered and busy “dadding,” it’ll never be dead. I’m really hoping to get to work on a personal project over the next two years; that may start this spring.

What are you most excited about with this re-launch of the Northern Embassy?

The crew of guys working behind the scenes on NE now is as solid as it has ever been! I’m hyped to work with these dudes. The motivation is flowing.

The Northern Embassy was created as a platform to represent everything “Canadian BMX.” We came to be a place for Canadian BMXers to rely on. Any Canadian rider can create content and have it featured on the site. The void of not having that over the past couple years has been hard to accept. In my opinion, Canada deserves and needs the Northern Embassy. I’m excited to help reconnect the Canadian BMX scene and get to know what is happening across the country. I am extremely excited to see all the content we will be able to host on the site this year and in years to come.

Is there anything else you want to say? Any final thoughts?

There might be 5 of us working behind the scenes of this site currently but NE is and has only existed because of you. We might be posting up, displaying or working with you guys to show other people across this amazing country what you’re up to, but NE wouldn’t exist without all of you doing rad shit each year. Northern Embassy is every Canadian rider and every Canadian rider’s interest in what other riders are doing across Canada. Thanks to everyone who’s graced NE’s pages over the years and will over the years to come.