The New Spirit of Exploration: Mike Escamilla
The BMX pioneer and Hollywood stuntman is known for thrilling exploits on and off the bike. Now his greatest feat is passing on a sense of adventure to his daughter.
Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla can do almost anything on a bike. The California native essentially invented street riding in the mid-’90s, bringing a skater’s aesthetic to the world of BMX in popular videos that had him grinding rails and gap-jumping roofs. Then came the X Games competitions, the big-brand sponsorships, and the world records (he owns two: longest backflip and longest 360). At some point, Escamilla took his already extreme riding to an even wilder level. Picture him backflipping over a helicopter’s spinning blades. Picture him riding through a park full of flaming ramps—and he’s on fire too.
With those last two feats in mind, you won’t be surprised to learn that Escamilla eventually parlayed his athleticism and daredevil attitude into a second career as a Hollywood stuntman, working on box-office hits such as Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain Marvel. Perhaps more unexpected is the fact that his constant companion in adventure and exploration is only just learning to ride a bike and is still too young to see many of the films he helps create.
“I’ve never met someone that is so excited about life, so curious and so eager to be like, ‘OK, I’ll do it,’” Escamilla says of his six-year-old daughter, Luna. “To see her face so excited about things that I have been doing for so long—there’s nothing better.” And while backflipping BMX bikes and diving through second-story windows might not seem like obvious on-ramps to parenthood, they’ve prepared Escamilla in ways he never could have imagined.
“Riding taught me to see the whole world through those two wheels,” says Escamilla. “Stairs, the street, a ledge, a mound of dirt…BMX showed me the entire world in every way possible.” It’s through that adventure-is-everywhere lens that Escamilla is now approaching each day with Luna.
One morning she woke up and she goes, “Dad, what’s a cave?” So we went and found one. And that’s been the case ever since.
As a pro athlete and stuntman, Escamilla certainly puts in his time “at the office.” But when he’s not working on the next Marvel Cinematic Universe film, he and Luna are out exploring the world. And for all of the grand adventures the pair has enjoyed together—they’ve been on helicopter rides, gone snowboarding, ridden ziplines, and tried out rock climbing—they’re happiest when they’re sticking close to home, exploring the landscapes surrounding Los Angeles on small road trips.
“She’s so curious,” Escamilla says. “One morning she woke up and she goes, ‘Dad, what’s a cave?’ So we went and found one. And that’s been the case ever since. Every time she asks about something, we just go and do it.”
They hunt for roadside attractions, search for stars in dark skies, hike to hidden waterfalls. Sometimes Escamilla has a specific destination in mind, but often the duo will just wander. Adventure seems to be around every corner. In other words, Escamilla no longer has to set himself on fire to have a good time.
“There’s so much in everyone’s town that they don’t know about,” Escamilla says. “My daughter and I go on so many trips that are within a few hours of our house, and we come back with all these photos and experiences. It’s all there. You could just walk out your door, turn left or right, and you just make an adventure wherever you go.”
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