Not long ago, performing a 900-degree spin on a skateboard seemed impossible. Then Tony Hawk landed one at X Games 5 in 1999. A back-flip on a motorcycle, likewise, was but a scary idea. Fast forward to X Games 17, which begin Thursday in Los Angeles, and fans will witness multiple spins and flips, and see how remarkably far the core action sports have progressed, with icons such as Travis Pastrana, Cam Sinclair and Bob Burnquist attempting stunts that make those of yesteryear almost seem like child’s play (see video for a sampling).
Pastrana, who in 2006 became the first freestyle motocross rider to nail a double back-flip, is focusing on what he calls a 720 Toilet Paper roll, which unraveled when he first tried it two years ago, as he fell rump-first from about 30 feet. He thinks he has finally mastered the trick and fans probably will find out during Thursday night’s popular Moto X Best-Trick competition.
Sinclair, an Australian who was severely injured two years ago when he under-rotated a double back-flip, is said to have another double planned, but with a no-handed element to increase the degree of difficulty.
Interestingly, Sinclair’s longtime mechanic also has become a medal hopeful. Mark Monea attained sudden stardom during an exhibition last spring when he became the first FMX rider to land a front-flip 360, called the Carry On. (That’s a forward flip while also spinning a heavy motorcycle in a 360-degree sideways rotation.)
On the lighter-bike side, BMX star James Foster will bring the crowd to its feet — and likely strike gold — if he can become the first BMXer to land a triple back-flip during, Thursday night’s BMX Freestyle Big-Air competition. BMXers in general have really stepped up their stunts and fans will witness an array of flips and tail-whips during the Big-Air event and Friday’s Vert Final.
Another marquee, big-trick event is Skateboarding Big Air on the MegaRamp, which features a 70-foot roll-in, a jump over a 70-foot gap, and a 27-foot quarteripe wall. Athletes perform tricks as the soar across the gap and above the quarterpipe, more than 40 feet above a hardwood floor.
Burnquist, who has a MegaRamp in his backyard, became the first skateboarder to perform a backflip Christ-air (full body extension, arms outstretched) over the gap. He did this recently on the Nitro Circus Tour, and if he can nail that trick and add something special above the quarterpipe, he’s likely to reclaim a Big-Air title won for the past two years by Jake Brown.
However, there’s a new Big-Air kid on the block named Mitchie Brusco, 14, who while practicing for an event recently in Brazil became the second person to perform a 900 above the quarterpipe and stick the landing. Burnquist had previously accomplished this during a filming project.
So the 900, as a major trick, is back in the X Games spotlight. Only this time it’s being referred to, fittingly, as the Mega 900.