At first glance, they were just a bunch of punk kids from Vancouver, BC, wearing bandanas, drinking 40s and riding mountain bikes around the city.
They called themselves the Bicycle Rockers, and dropped into skate parks on their downhill rigs, built dirt jumps and sent huge stair sets. With their “we-don’t-take-shit-from-nobody” attitude and BMX tricks, the small crew was doing more than just pissing off the neighbors. They were introducing a punk mentality to a young and confined sport.
At the same time, in the early 2000s, the North Shore mountain bike scene was starting to blow up. I was 10 or 12 years old, and every time my mom and I would visit the grocery store I’d beg her to buy the latest Bike Magazine or that year’s North Shore Odyssey calendar. Then I’d go home and cut out my favorite shots, pasting them to the walls of my bedroom.
As the imagery spread onto my ceiling, I began to discover the photographers and riders of the era. The sport was new, people were beginning to explore what was rideable, and I absorbed every bit of that progression that I possibly could. I was interested in photography myself, and carefully noted the styles, subjects and locations favored by each shooter. At the bottom of many of those incredible photos was a small, scribbled signature: “Harookz.”
Born in Vancouver and raised in nearby Surrey, Haruki “Harookz” Noguchi grew up riding bikes. North Shore, however, was too far away for the young shredder, so Harookz and his friends rode what was available. Some days it was the skate park, others it was backyard ramps. Along the way, he picked up his mom’s old point-and-shoot, snapping photos of his friends, simply because getting the prints back was fun.
His passions eventually led him to the North Shore and the Bicycle Rockers, and those prints began appearing everywhere. The combination of what the bandana-clad punks were doing on bikes and how Harookz was documenting it became a key influence on me and my perspective on mountain biking. To this day, those older photos are imprinted on my memory: Brad Mckay riding Leeside, or Jesse Roberts slipping sick street-style downsides. Shooting film, Harookz was experimenting as much as the riders, hoping when the roll came back that something turned out.
A decade later, Harookz is an icon in mountain bike photography. This is due mostly to his skill, but it’s also due to his booming voice, constant humor and endless positivity. With Harookz, even the shittiest shoots become memorable, laughter-filled experiences, everyone involved agreeing there’s no one else with which they’d rather be stuck. Mountain biking has introduced me to some of my closest friends, and I’m happy to say Harookz is one of them.
Just as in those early years, when Harookz is not on assignment it’s guaranteed he won’t be indoors or anywhere near the city. His passion for fly-fishing consumes every minute his photography and family do not, and these three loves, in perpetual unison, make up his life. He and wife Danielle continually seek out British Columbia’s secluded locations, where they relax and raise their little boy Logan with his hands in the dirt, breathing fresh air and watching dad slay some fish.
Most people would say family is defined by blood. To me, it’s a feeling, not a fluid. Harookz is family to me, and I’ve been lucky enough to watch him live on his own terms since we met. It’s something I’ve always appreciated, and another reason I love working with him. He’s taught me life isn’t about getting rich. It’s about happiness and a connection to nature and family.
Now I understand why those photos of the Bicycle Rockers were so influential—it was because Harookz was immersed in that culture beyond the activity. When someone is so invested in and comfortable with their subjects, magic happens. And that’s how Harookz operates. Not as someone on an assignment, but as someone who’s a part of a family, sharing passion and creating magic.