Freestyling can be traced back to 1975 when kids started riding bikes in concrete Escondido reservoir channels in San Diego, California. And, bike riders were seen in 1976 riding at Carlsbad Skatepark in Carlsbad, California. Skateboarder Magazine published photos of kids on bikes riding in empty swimming pools in 1975.
Bob Haro and John Swanguen rode BMX bikes at Skateboard Heaven, a concrete skatepark in San Diego, California in late 1976. Later they transformed freestyle beyond skateparks by creating new bike tricks on flat streets. In the fall of 1977 Bob Haro was hired as a staff artist at BMX Action Magazine where he befriended R.L. Osborn, son of the magazine publisher Bob Osborn. Haro and R.L. often practiced freestyle moves in their free time.
In the summer of 1978, Paramount, Lakewood, and other Southern California skateparks began reserving sessions or whole days exclusively for BMX bikes. BMX racer Tinker Juarez was innovating freestyle moves in vert bowls.
Towards the end of 1979, Bob Haro and R.L. Osborn formed the BMX Action Trick Team and later began performing freestyle shows at BMX races and other events. After the BMXA Trick Team became known, other organized trick teams were founded and quickly gained prominence. The freestyling movement at this point was very much underground. Although several BMX manufacture-sponsored freestyle teams were touring the US, they were promoting the sport of BMX in general, not specifically freestyle.
The American Freestyle Association (AFA) was the first governing body for BMX freestyle, founded by Bob Morales in 1982.
Bob Osborn founded a slick quarterly magazine devoted solely to freestyle. In the summer of 1984, Freestylin' Magazine made its debut. The BMX world suddenly noticed the sport's massive potential. Manufacturers hurried to the drawing boards to develop new freestyle bikes, components, and accessories, and began searching for talented riders to sponsor. Bike shops began stocking freestyle products. The AFA began to put on organized flatland and quarter-pipe competitions.
Peak and decline in popularity
From 1980 until 1987, the sport of freestyling was at its zenith, with 1987 reaching its highest peak in popularity. During this time period, the sport progressed with new bike models being released all the time, as well as new components and accessories designed strictly for freestyle. For example, Haro released the Haro FST, Sport and Master each year consistently with blazing graphical colors, new look and new frame designs.
In the early 1990s, BMX freestyle suffered a decline in its commercial popularity; subsequently a number of large companies reduced or terminated their investment in the sport. In this economic climate, communities of new rider-owned companies and initiatives began to redefine the sport according to their own needs and interests, paving the way for what is now a largely rider-led industry. This decline and subsequent new phase of the sport's development into an independently driven industry was notably referenced in the introduction to the BMX video Ride On (directed by Eddie Roman).
Freestyle BMX riders participate in several well-established disciplines. As in the other forms of freestyle riding, there are no specific rules; style/aesthetics, skills, and creativity are emphasised.