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Friday, June 29, 2012

Teens and Big Air at X Games 2012

Tom Schaar investing a lot of time in training in order to prepare for the X Games 2012. Photo unknown
Does the rise of the Big Air young guns hurt skateboarding credibility?

During this past week, skateboarders worldwide witnessed something that they though would never happen: out of the 18 skaters selected for the Big Air contest at the X Games 2012, 6 of them are less than 15 years old. On top of that, six of those under 15 were selected for the final and two landed 900’s back to back. To give you the big picture, since the birth of the X-Games, nobody ever landed a 900 on Big Air and suddenly: two in a row…
Add to the astonishment that not only some believe that a 1080 might be landed during the contest and some others outrageously argue that we could even see a 1260, a move that has never been done in a skateboarding ramp… Never… And guess what? If those tricks are to be landed, they will be done by the gang of six: Mitch Brusco (15), Jagger Eaton (11), Tom Schaar (12), Alex Sorgente (14), Trey Wood (11), Alex Sorgente (14).

Mitchie Brusco and all the pre teen on the Big ramp at X games
Trey Wood and Jagger Eaton. Ph unknown
Last year, Mitchie Brusco, only 14 years old at the time, became the youngest Big Air X Games competitor and finished fifth. At just 12 years old, Tom Schaar landed the first 1080 in competition ever. Could you name another major sport in which pre-teen and young teenage athletes are capable of competing with grown men three times as old as them?
That prompted Bob Burnquist to say that he isn’t a fan of the injection of those (very) young guns into the competition. He said: “Tom Schaar and Mitchie Brusco are 110 percent deserving to be [skating Big Air]. But you have to keep in mind that this is a professional contest, and you can't open it up to any kid who can jump the Mega. If [contest organizers] really want to do it that way, have a kids division.”

Some people are arguing that if 13 year old kids, with only a couple of years of skateboarding under their wheels, can compete against older skaters with more than 10 or 20 year experience, that is totally undermining the prowess of the old skaters.
Some said that because of that, skateboarding is not a sport: a human being’s physical ability peaks at 25-31 years old. It's science. If those kids can do better at 13 than 30 years old skaters, then, they are undermining skateboarding’s credibility as a sport; relinquishing it at the same level of scooter practice…

Well, first of all, nobody said skateboarding was a sport. But let’s keep it as a sport for the sake of the argument. Unlike every other athletic competition, skateboarders aren’t held back by their undeveloped bodies; they’re aided by them, much like you don’t see 30 year old gymnasts winning contests or the Olympics. Does that mean that gymnastics is not a sport? On the other hand, do you really think that those kids are just lucky to be able to ride the big ramp? Guess what? The have dedicated many weekends to riding the Woodward West ramp in preparation for the contest. To prepare for the big ramp, those kids spends a good 20 minutes squeezing them into a flexible, makeshift suit of armor. In addition to the standard helmet, knee pads and elbow pads, they wears full-finger gloves, full-length soccer shin guards and one of those plastic-plated vests commonly worn by motorcycle racers. They also wears snowboard-grade gel-injected padding to protect his tailbone and hips from high-speed contusions and strapless mouth guards. Well, nothing to do with your average scooter boy at the skate park…

The fact that 13 year old kids are better at Big Air simply means that Big Air should be kept for teens; much like gymnastics is a teen’s sport… The contest is called Big Air. It's not called Big Trick.

But keeping Big Air for kids does not undermine skateboarding as a whole: none of those kids were invited to the park contest and none of those kids were invited to the vert contest. There is a reason: the vert and park require a practice that only a decade of training on a skateboard can bring. The vert skaters have unlimited tricks and it takes years to learn how to land each of those tricks. Conversely, the park requires power to be able to push in order to exhaust all the possible lines in one run that those kids can’t provide.

Frankly, what those six teens have accomplished this week is a phenomenal feat and they should be fully recognized for it. Each of them is worthy of incredible hype and, as skateboarders, we are amazed by their prowess and skills.

What happened during this week has changed skateboarding forever, but those kids are definitively not weakening the 30 year old skateboarders. That is just an amazing opening of a new category in the big family of skateboarding.

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posted by Xavier Lannes @ Friday, June 29, 2012 


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