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.
Mount Rushmore, the "Shrine of Democracy" is a massive sculpture carved into the face of a mountain in South Dakota. The monument features 60-foot sculptures of the heads of former United States Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
With X Games upon us switching the attention to the Action Sports world we started to think what if there was a Mount Rushmore for Action Sports athletes; which faces would be carved in to the mountain?
Before we considered the athletes, it was important to establish the criteria. For instance, we narrowed the focus of our search to athletes rather than leaving it open to the whole industry. After all, Mt. Rushmore was created from a pool of US Presidents instead of the entire universe of people who made the country really function.
Another guideline is to select an athlete from the one of four major action sports, in this case Surfing, Skateboarding, Snowboarding, and Moto.
Here's the list of accomplishments that must be met for an athlete to be on the mountain:
Now, with clearly defined criteria it's obvious to us which faces to chisel into the granite of Mount Action.
First up is no other than Mr. Tony Hawk. The Grandfather of Skateboarding first stepped onto a skateboard in the 70's at 9 years old and that moment would shape his and skateboarding's reality forever. By the time he was 25, he had competed in 103 pro contests, winning 73 of them and placing second in 19, a record that will almost certainly never be matched. He was crowned vertical skating's World Champion 12 years in a row.
photo courtesy of tonyhawk.com
Tony also became the first skateboarder to ever land a 900, a maneuver that eluded him for 10 years. It was one of skating's most important moments as it played out on national TV during the X Games.
Maybe one of his most impactful contributions to the industry came when he teamed up with Activision to create the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video game franchise. The video game series became one of the most popular game franchises in history and continues to enjoy widespread success.
Tony has ensured the future of the sport with Tony's Foundation which has donated more than $3.2 million to more than 450 skate park projects throughout the United States.
There's no doubt he exceeds all of the criteria to make our list.
Next on Mount Action with little debate is the planet's greatest surfer, Kelly Slater. No other athlete in the world has maintained such a high level of competition and success for longer than Slater. He won his first world title when he was 20 and recently won his 10th world title at age 38. Name another athlete who has the distinct honor of being the youngest and oldest champion in his sport?
He has a record 46 World Tour victories and 10 World Titles; even Mother Nature is impressed by Slater.
Slater's crossover to the mainstream celebrity status started when he appeared as the recurring character Jimmy Slade on several episodes of the popular TV show Baywatch in the early 90s. He's a regular on ESPN's Sportscenter and he even threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium last summer.
He's been known to date celebrities such as actress Pam Anderson and Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen. He's gotten a taste of the rock star life jamming on stage with Eddie Vedder and Jack Johnson.
Maybe the biggest recognition of Slater's impact on the industry came on May 8, 2010 when the United States House of Representatives honored Slater for his "outstanding and unprecedented achievements in the world of surfing and for being an ambassador of the sport and excellent role model."
He started the Kelly Slater Foundation that raises awareness and financial support for existing social and environmentally conscious charities.
Once again there's another lock for the Action Sports Rushmore.
The third face to join this exclusive club belongs to the youngest member but there's little doubt about the impact Shaun White has made in his first 24 years on earth.
He's a two-time Olympic Gold medalist in snowboard halfpipe, and his success at X Games is unparalleled. (10 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze medals) Not to mention, he's won X Games gold in skateboard halfpipe as well. White seemingly wins every competition he enters; even when he doesn't it still feels like he did.
White really made his mark on the industry in the winter of 2009 when he teamed up with Red Bull to create a custom half pipe in the backwoods of Colorado. It's there that Shaun perfected a series of new tricks that changed snowboarding forever.
During that year leading up to the Olympics snowboarders from around the world practiced feverishly to learn the "Double Cork" turning the sport into a frenzy. At no time in snowboarding has one dude advanced the sport to the level Shaun did in one season. One of the tricks he invented was the 1280 Double McTwist that eventually won him his gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Due to his Olympic success, White rose to mega-celebrity status. He's been featured on the cover of Rolling Stone twice, he recently made his Hollywood debut in "Friends with benefits" playing himself and continues to be the face of top brands like Oakley, Red Bull, and Burton.
Without a doubt, his success and mainstream notoriety continues to bring people to the mountains around the world every winter.
And the final face on Mount Action is Mr. Travis "thumbs up" Pastrana. Not only is he absurdly talented on both two and four wheels he's by far the gnarliest dude on the mountain. There's nothing this nice guy won't do and he's proved it with stunts like back-flipping into the Grand Canyon on his motorcycle and jumping out of an airplane without a parachute in Costa Rica.
His success came fast and often. At only 27 years of age he's considered by many to have reached legend status. He was a freestyle champion at age 14, a five-time amateur motocross champion, 125cc pro national outdoor champion, 125cc east Supercross series champion, and the most successful freestyle motocross rider in X Games history. He won 4 straight Rally America championships and an X Games gold in rally. If Travis does something there's a pretty good chance he's going to be good at it.
Perhaps the moment where his celebrity status reached the pinnacle was during a live broadcast on ESPN during the 2006 X Games. Travis looked into the camera, told his mom he loved her in case he died and then proceeded to pull the first ever double backflip on a motorcycle. It was easily one of the most defining moments in X Games history.
His life was documented in the film 199 Lives and he's the driving force behind the wildly successful Nitro Circus Crew that has its own series on MTV and is currently in the process of filing a 3D feature film.
Try and name another athlete willing to attempt a weekend such as this; Moto X Best Trick on Thursday and Freestyle on Friday, both in Los Angeles, Nationwide debut on Saturday in Indianapolis and Rally Cross on Sunday back in Los Angeles.
Don't let this humble charming fellow fool you, he's only getting started and he's already a legend.
There you have it, if the Action Sports world had a Mount Rushmore off its own these are the four faces that should be engraved in stone to memorialize their accomplishments for years to come.
Like the original Mount Rushmore, our decision to select these four faces was plagued with massive controversy and opposition, so I expect there to be some here.
So tell us in your opinion. What four athletes you would select for Mount Action?
It's that time of year again. Time for athletes to act like superstars and saunter down the red carpet for ESPN's annual ESPY Awards. The Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award's will be hitting the Nokia Theatre in LA on July 13th. Comedian Seth Meyers returns this year as host and is sure to keep the crowd rolling with his raunchy humor.
Before the big show, ESPN wants you to vote for your favorite athletes. Several X Games athletes have been nominated for these prestigious awards and we think you should show your support for them.
See who's up for what and get on over to ESPYs.com to cast your vote.
Best Female Athlete:
- Won SuperPipe gold medal at Winter X, Winter X Europe and Burton U.S. Open.
- Became the first female snowboarder to land a 1080 in competition, at Winter X.
- Won the Super G, Super-Combined and Downhill titles in 2011.
- Finished the season with eight race wins.
Best Male Action Sports Athlete:
- Won gold in Snowboard SuperPipe at Winter X 2011 and Silver in Skateboard Vert at X Games 2010.
- Won the two Skateboard Vert stops at which he competed on the 2010 Dew Tour.
- Winter X and Winter X Europe repeat gold in Ski SuperPipe.
- Won 2 of 3 Dew Tour events plus the Dew points crown.
- Earned the AFP Superpipe points title by an enormous margin.
-Won his 10th ASP World Tour title (most in history) in 2010 at age 38.
-Is now the youngest person to win surfing's top points title (captured at age 20) and the oldest.
-Won Moto X Double gold at X Games 2010 (Freestyle and Speed & Style)
-Won his 5th straight Winter X SnoCross gold.
-Won 11 of 16 National series contests despite racing the 2nd half of the season with a wrist that needed surgery
-Captured both 2011 National series points titles.
Best Female Action Sports Athlete:
-Won Ski SuperPipe gold at both Winter X (her fourth SuperPipe gold at Winter X) and Winter X Europe.
-Also earned victories at a pair of World Cup events
-Won Winter X SuperPipe gold medal, Winter X Europe gold medal and Burton U.S. Open.
-Became the first female snowboarder to land a 1080 in competition, at Winter X.
-Won her second straight Moto X Racing gold at X Games 2010.
-Also finished second in points on the Women's Motocross Association tour in 2010.
-At 23, won four of the eight surfing events on the 2010 ASP World Tour on her way to a fourth straight points crown.
Go get your vote on. Do it.
How else would you expect Travis Pastrana to reveal his latest rally car for X Games 17?
Three lovely "senior" ladies seductively dancing around the car wearing next to nothing. Makes sense right?
Pastrana's decided why not attempt to do the Ken Block formula for a successful viral video. Hot Chicks + Cool Car = maximum views.
The clip is a major spoof of his boss and fellow competitor Ken Block's viral video success. Mad Media, the crew behind the viral Gymkhana sensations, helped Pastrana with his spoof video directly mocking the one Block made revealing is 2011 Ford Fiesta WRC rally car.
According to Race-Dezert.com this all started back when Block threw down the gauntlet last year when he teased Travis about racing NASCAR. In response Travis has now vowed to beat Ken at this years X Games.
Wow. There is just TOO much going on in this. These Nitro Circus shows are indescribable. And I think Pastrana is literally marrying Lyn-Z. That's funny how it's thrown into a montage of world's firsts on motorcycles, bikes, and skateboards. Even WHEELZ did a wheelchair frontflip. Kid is amazing.