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Shit's getting all crazy
August 3, 2007 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Extreme sports have gotten a little, well, extreme as of late. Video games showed a hyper-reality that's now being duplicated in the real world. With the advent of foam pits and foam resi ramps to try new tricks safely, trick progression in skateboard and bmx is moving very fast. While foam practice areas let riders do some pretty amazing stuff, when things go wrong over plywood, they're going really wrong. Witness a double-backflip crash that resulted in broken bones and teeth, Stephen Murray's crash that resulted in paralysis from the neck down, or last night's incredible X games freefall from fifty feet up to flat ground (Jake Brown walked away and only suffered minor internal injuries).
posted by mathowie (72 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I post this not to glorify the gnarly crashes (they're very hard to watch for me), but to simply point out that things are getting pretty crazy out there and people are starting to get seriously injured several times a year.

Also, as the sports progress further, they also move further away from having a connection to a kid in the street with a skateboard or bike. If you see someone boost a double flip over a 50 foot jump, how on earth does that resemble anything a 10 year old could do at home?
posted by mathowie at 6:48 PM on August 3, 2007


how on earth does that resemble anything a 10 year old could do at home?

Oh, kids will find a way to attempt it at home. I saw that skateboard crash while I was at the gym this morning, and it really reminded me of ski-jumping. Where do these guys practice?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:57 PM on August 3, 2007


That's the first time I've ever seen someone land so hard that their shoes shoot off of their feet.
posted by puke & cry at 7:01 PM on August 3, 2007


They often practice as places like Woodward Camp. A bunch of riders have moved there and live at the place full-time, so they can just train year-round.
posted by mathowie at 7:03 PM on August 3, 2007


I saw Jake Brown's crash last night, live. I thought he was dead.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:05 PM on August 3, 2007


That looks so fun. I would have loved giant pits of foam to launch splayed and akimbo into gravity with nary a worry. I would still do that as a thirty-four y/o lame-o.

Other extreme sports include hurf-durf-roommate-bowling (nsfw language at the end).
posted by YoBananaBoy at 7:06 PM on August 3, 2007


Yeah, that X-Games event looks a little to EXTREME!!!1!11! to be sustainable. Between this wipeout and the one where another guy falls about the same distance and manner but onto his legs, it's really only a matter of time before someone winds up as a spinal or a corpse live on ESPN.
posted by rollbiz at 7:10 PM on August 3, 2007


Jake Brown suffers liver and lung contusions. Not too bad for a 45 foot fall.
posted by puke & cry at 7:10 PM on August 3, 2007


I guess liver and lung contusions are minor compared to, say, death.
posted by Eekacat at 7:32 PM on August 3, 2007


Okay, I just want to say this.

WHAT.
THE.
FUCK.
MEDICS?

Some guy just plummeted fifty feet, hit the ground so hard that his shoes fell off, and you *let him stand up?*

No. You don't have X-ray vision. You bet on a spinal fracture, you immobilize, and you apply diesel, and you don't let that spine move more than a millimeter until Rotengen's rays and fancy computer processing tell you that you're not about to rip a big gaping hole in the spinal cord.

Yeah, the guys are getting big air, and they're going to get hurt. But this guy apparently had compression fractures of the vertebrae. How much suck is there if he makes his heroic stand, and the weakened vertebra gives way, and his heroic stand is the last time he ever walks.

The guy was lucky twice, and the so-called medical advisor who let him leave that stadium without being tied to a back board needs a serious amount of remedial training.
posted by eriko at 7:44 PM on August 3, 2007 [10 favorites]


That was the most horrifying thing I've ever seen happen on a half pipe. His 720 over the gap was unbelievable.

These X-Games jumbo ramps and gaps are mind-boggling, upping the ante for air and injury. In the Christian Hosoi documentary Rising Son, Danny Way jumps a monster gap and does a 15 foot+ Christ air.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:46 PM on August 3, 2007


I saw that 50 foot freefall last night . Wow. I am still amazed that he walked away from that. And as someone who rode a lot of dirtbikes (and snapped my collarbone like a twig among other injuries) when I was a kid, I still cannot wrap my mind around a backflip on a bike. Much less a double backflip. sheesh. Grandes cojones.
posted by vronsky at 7:49 PM on August 3, 2007


And I never really skateboarded much, can someone explain how the board stays on their feet without them holding it when they make that big jump?
posted by vronsky at 7:51 PM on August 3, 2007


We were watching the X-Games last night at my house, and our comments mostly consisted of "How do they DO that and not get killed????"... Same thing with tonight's BMX bike competition... And don't even get me started on the motocross. My SO used to race motocross back in the day, and he is mesmerized by all the "extreme" stuff they're doing now.
posted by amyms at 7:53 PM on August 3, 2007


how on earth does that resemble anything a 10 year old could do at home?

I think the reason for the downfall of hair metal lies somewhere in that sentence.
posted by kersplunk at 8:03 PM on August 3, 2007


Here's Chad Kagy getting knocked out cold with a triple tailwhip attempt on a halfpipe. He crashed in practice for tonight's big air bike event, breaking his collarbone so badly that it will require a plate to fuse the bones back together.

When I used to ride a lot, I knew guys at the top of the sport and several of them quit riding after their 4th or 5th concussion and resulting time spent passed out. Some of these guys are getting knocked out cold once a month so I just don't know how they keep doing it.
posted by mathowie at 8:08 PM on August 3, 2007


Colin Winkelman attempts to jump a moving ramp, later commits suicide.

Tracey Latham breaks his legs during jump.
posted by puke & cry at 8:16 PM on August 3, 2007


Yeah, I remember hearing the news about Colin, and all the memorial contests they threw.

The Stephen Murray paralysis brought up another crazy aspect of these sports: there was no medical insurance provided to the riders for the sponsored (NBC covered and promoted) event. So now everyone is throwing fundraiser after fundraiser to pay the costs.
posted by mathowie at 8:30 PM on August 3, 2007


Thank you Bananaboy, for a homer meets peter griffin moment.

Now watch this drive. 255 foot cliff drop by Jamie Pierre. Such a tall drop that he would have needed a drogue chute to keep himself upright.
posted by anthill at 8:32 PM on August 3, 2007


I think these guys were born with an instinct that I just don't have. Wow. Impressive, but hard to watch. Excellent post.
posted by chinston at 8:33 PM on August 3, 2007


the so-called medical advisor who let him leave that stadium without being tied to a back board needs a serious amount of remedial training

I think they need a lot more than that. A smack to the back of the head, for starters.
posted by mediareport at 8:33 PM on August 3, 2007


mathowie, that is incredibly sad. After having watched "Sicko", I wonder: can US health insurers deny you coverage for 'reckless endangerment' or some such excuse if you go mountain biking, drop a cliff, and break your neck?
posted by anthill at 8:34 PM on August 3, 2007


Amazing that he walked away, and stupid that they let him.

Always be safe, kids. A friend of my daughter's just died of head injuries in a long board accident. No, he wasn't wearing a helmet. Yes, now all his friends do.
posted by The Deej at 8:39 PM on August 3, 2007


A smack to the back of the head, for starters.

That's remedial training -- hit them with a clue by four.
posted by eriko at 8:53 PM on August 3, 2007


Obligatory related XKCD comic.
oops, sorry, this isn't Reddit
posted by wendell at 8:56 PM on August 3, 2007


When I was a judge for the NSA (pro skateboarding organization) back in the 1980s, the gnarliest thing I saw was a drunk Jeff Grosso jumping off a second-story balcony in our hotel.

I would not want to be a judge these days. I never would have imagined this kind of stuff.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 8:57 PM on August 3, 2007


anthill - wtjfc was Jamie Pierre thinking?

Is such a jump even theoretically possible to make? Even if he landed on his skies, wouldn't the skies just sink into the snow and his foreward momentum smush him into a wall of rapidly compressing powder?!

Well, as long a people aren't endangering others to get an epenephrin high. As for helmets, if I was a biomedical engineer, I'd look into making helmets with protection from neck and spinal cord injuries and go niche.
posted by porpoise at 9:01 PM on August 3, 2007


In case there are any ten year olds reading: stay off those vert ramps, kids. Stick to street skating, flatland or street bmx and trials. The tricks are just as crazy, the crashes not nearly as bad, and the chances of irritating passerby and being harassed by cops are much, much higher.
posted by box at 9:04 PM on August 3, 2007


Favorite quote from Jake Brown 50-ft human slam footage.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we do have, uh, the best medical staff...in the business."

Second fave.

"Wow. I can't believe he made that 720."
posted by humannaire at 9:12 PM on August 3, 2007


So how will they top this level of insanity ten years from now? Will you have to do a 1080 Christ Air with a baby grizzly in one hand, a baby cheetah in the other, and two very angry mothers in pursuit to turn any judges head?
posted by bunnytricks at 9:21 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


The big problem is that kids watch this stuff and think they should be able to do it. No foam pit practice, no body armour, sometimes no helmet, they just f'n go for it.

I'm all for kids doing crazy shit, trust me, but a bit of reality and honesty in the ways these things are presented would go a long way for me. Like, show me the prep, guys. Show me how many times they didn't make it before they did.
posted by unSane at 9:25 PM on August 3, 2007


Organ donors.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:36 PM on August 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


And I never really skateboarded much, can someone explain how the board stays on their feet without them holding it when they make that big jump?

They are holding it. Look again.

The drop a hand down right at take off and let go right before they land. They're usually confident (and they do it by feel) that the board is rotating and moving at approximately the same vectors as their feet, so it doesn't take much to hold on.

If you look closely at the Jake Brown clip, his error is attempting to adjust his feet before the takeoff and before he can get down to grab the board. He's gets greedy, attempting to recover from this mistake and doesn't choose to bail out to a simpler trick. So now the board is vectoring one way and his center of gravity his vectoring another. And upon leaving terra-firma with nothing holding onto it, the board immediately flies away from him.

At take off for the fall, he's also leaning back a little, to get extra height on the jump and to prepare for the spin, which pulls him farther away from the wall, so he can't hit it high and slide down it, which would be significantly less painful. Once the board flies away, this is probably what he expects to happen, but oh shit, you're already several feet away from the wall and now you're going straight to the bottom. This is probably why he starts flailing in the air right away, trying to "swim" to a place he's more comfortable falling from.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:48 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


These guys are doing some amazing stuff. It's very impressive.

That said, most of that amazing stuff is a Darwin Award waiting to happen. These guys know it, but they're doing it anyway.

It's a free country, so rock on dudes!
posted by zoogleplex at 9:51 PM on August 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but zoogleplex, these guys are one argument against socialized medicine. Maybe "Xtr33m Sportzterz" should be made to sign a waiver.
posted by davy at 10:11 PM on August 3, 2007


it seems so weird to me that the kids that skate and are into "punk" are cool now. where do the misfits go nowadays? do kids still get their asses kicked for just riding down the street on a skateboard anymore? i remember back in highschool when pagers were still rare. a friend of mine broached the idea of everyone getting a pager so we could phone in when someone got jumped. that way hopefully someone could race across town to back each other up. not like it was a warzone, but it still happened often enough.
posted by andywolf at 10:13 PM on August 3, 2007


davy: how are they anymore of an argument against socialized medicine than, say, driving cars? or eating fast food?

/derail
posted by papakwanz at 10:21 PM on August 3, 2007


No cool papa bell - I watched it last night and several of the guys made the first jump without touching the board at all. I'm positive. The announcer and Tony hawk started to explain it but got caught up in the next jump. Something about they were using much heavier boards than usual and air pressure but it didn't make much sense to me. Anyway, it looked cool, very silver surfer'ish.

(And I am talking about the firt jump across the gap, not the huge half pipe at the end)
posted by vronsky at 10:33 PM on August 3, 2007


What really impresses me is if you look at the slow-mo of the fall, he immediately knows he's screwed and manoeuvres mid-air into a "safe" position to take the fall. His feet take the first impact, then his butt, then his torso and his head last. It's not panicked flailing, but rather highly developed reflexes similar to how cats right themselves in a fall so that they land on their feet.

Yes, it's amazing that he walked away, but given the way he landed I think the worst that would have happened is a broken ankle or leg.
posted by randomstriker at 10:34 PM on August 3, 2007


Moreover, wood skating surfaces will yield slightly when you hit them. Big difference between wood and concrete. Think about how many times you've dropped a class on a hardwood floor and it just bounces, but not so on tile.
posted by randomstriker at 10:41 PM on August 3, 2007


er...glass, not class
posted by randomstriker at 10:42 PM on August 3, 2007


50 feet = a five story building randomstriker. And the show "Scarred" on MTV showed a similar fall on the same ramp and the dude drove his femur down through his shinbone and it were not pretty.
posted by vronsky at 10:51 PM on August 3, 2007


(Jake Brown walked away and only suffered minor internal injuries).

and the bitter irony of course is that, if you talk to any ER doctor, nurse, or paramedic, every day the see people break their backs after, like, slipping on a little water spilled on the floor or tripping on a pencil

I can totally imagine somebody paralyzed from their waist down after slipping in the shower, watching that footage on Anderson Cooper from their hospital bed and hating this skater's guts quite a bit
posted by matteo at 10:57 PM on August 3, 2007


In case there are any ten year olds reading: stay off those vert ramps, kids. Stick to street skating, flatland or street bmx and trials. The tricks are just as crazy, the crashes not nearly as bad, and the chances of irritating passerby and being harassed by cops are much, much higher.

Are you fucking kidding me? Hey, ten year old kids - don't listen to this. It's totally wrong.

Street skating is much more dangerous than vert. Street skating involves stairs, rails, ledges, gaps, benches - and if you're lucky, a hip or bank or ditch or two. Not to mention traffic and pedestrians and screwy terrain.

Your chances of getting injured are much greater street skating than skating vert or parks.

Street skaters are much less likely to wear a helmet, pads and wrist guards. They're heavy to carry around from skatespot to skatespot and they just look dumb. I hardly ever see street skating kids wearing gear.

Vert and park skaters tend to prefer wearing a helmet and pads. At many private and public parks, it's a requirement. At parks, it's not mixed-traffic. You're not tangling with cars, bikes or pedestrians. The terrain is designed for skating. The concrete is smooth and polished for riding ease, and reduced abrasions.

I won't even begin to talk about the injury types and rates for street bmx or trails. Flatland freestyle, ok, that's mild. Worst thing you're going to do is fall and get tangled in your bike.


Remember, the only reason street skateboarding - as we know it today - was ever invented was because they closed down all the parks, bowls, pools and pipes back in the late 70s and early 80s.

Yeah, all that technical foot and board work is cool. Hey, awesome, you can 5-0 that kinked 3 flight handrail. Don't get me wrong, but: How many times did you fall to do that? How many injuries did you sustain?

And most importantly - were you actually having fun? The kind of free-flowing, flying, gravity defying, zen "effortless effort" kind of fun you get in a good park?

As a life-long skateboarder who still currently rides vert and parks - I don't miss street skating. It sucks. It hurts, the conditions suck, getting chased by cops sucks.

In my not so humble opinion - street skateboarding - while a valid reaction to the de-legitimization of skateboarding as a whole - set skateboarding back as a sport 30 years or more.

Street skateboarding fostered and encouraged a skateboarding industry more concerned with fashion and marketable rebellion, and much less concerned with skateboarding. Less concerned with quality of the boards and gear. More concerned about the graphics on the deck then the shape or materials.

It encouraged thousands of cookie-cutter twin-tip boards - all with the exact same cut and concave. Tiny, hard wheels, narrow, cheap and lightweight trucks. Boards suited for doing everything but actual skateboarding. Boards that were great for kickflips, for riding the same 10 feet of curb over and over - but not any good at all for actually cruising the streets, riding a bowl or pool, or even using it as transport.

These shitty boards and these design specs increase injury rates. Smaller wheels stop easier on pebbles. A broken truck at the wrong moment will ruin your year. A broken deck is even worse.


I still ride. And I ride vert. I'm 30-something. I ride a big 36"x10" spoon nose ramp board, with wide Independent trucks and fat rollerskate wheels. And I love it.

Vert is where the fun really is, and where the roots of modern skateboarding are most deeply entrenched - and sometimes, sometimes, I'm pretty sure that riding a bowl or pool is the one really true and pure thing in my life.

Lately you can find me at the Crocker or Pacifica parks in/near San Francisco. I also enjoy Newberg and Burnside when in Oregon.
posted by loquacious at 11:00 PM on August 3, 2007 [5 favorites]


*watches the Jake Brown video*

*laughs at the exploding shoes*

Sorry, I shouldn't laugh. But that was some Wile. E. Coyote shit right there. Jake Brown is going to laugh at that video later, so I shouldn't feel too bad.

Vronsky: There are a few ways to keep a board stuck to your feet while catching air, and they all have to do with insane amounts of skill.

If you watch - perhaps on a better video on smaller jumps, where someone just ollies something - skaters will use the griptape, concave of the board and light foot pressure to keep the board in-line and beneath them.

This is the basis of ollie tricks like kickflips and the like, manipulating the board with your feet while airborne. A "late" kickflip involves making the board stick, and performing the kickflip at the last possible moment. It's all a lot of fancy footwork in microgravity/freefall.

Another technique - usually used in vert - is to compress tightly right before air, but reserve some compression so that you can keep light outward pressure on the board - making it stick. If you run out of leg to extend, well, the board floats away.

This same technique is used when getting air from transition to transition. Ideally, you rely on speed and momentum for your altitude, which means you don't "jump" or "ollie" that much to achieve air, which leaves you some compression for handling the board. Naturally, you uncoil a bit to prepare for landing, but not very much, 'cause you really want to re-enter the bowl/pool/pipe in a compressed, heads-down manner.
posted by loquacious at 11:11 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, Mathowie:

What the heck are those "foam resi ramps"? I've never seen that or heard about it before.

And also, have the local grommets up there in Oregon stopped playing "HORSE" in favor of "Tony Hawk"?

I saw this whole group of kids doing that at the Pacifica park a few days ago and thought it was awesome. They were keeping track of multipliers, bonuses and everything, seeing who could link the longest combos together for high scores. Way nerdy.

(For the non-skaters at home "HORSE" is a skateboarding game - like the basketball variation - in which people do board tricks in sequence until "HORSE" is spelled.

"Playing Tony Hawk" is like an open-ended variation of this, and an interesting way of quantifying skateboarding skills, as well as practicing for consistency, as well as just having fun.)
posted by loquacious at 11:18 PM on August 3, 2007


i've gotta second what someone said above. how in the hell did those medics/emts let him walk away? that's astounding to me, breaking every rule and on t.v. no less. i missed the xray and mri they rolled out to make sure nothing was wrong. i hope those shitheads had to start looking for jobs at walmart today.
posted by andywolf at 11:19 PM on August 3, 2007


and matteo, I just asked my dad if he had ever heard of such injuries from slipping on a pencil or puddle of water. And he said in 30 years of surgery he had never seen anything like that and laughed. So, wrong as usual, try again later.
posted by vronsky at 11:28 PM on August 3, 2007


What the heck are those "foam resi ramps"? I've never seen that or heard about it before.

It's a halfpipe covered in 2-4ft of high density foam, with a plastic top layer. On a bike, you can try a double tailwhip or 900 or something and still ride out of it if you get close. If you slam, it's not very hard and you can slide out pretty easily. I couldn't find any youtube videos of it, but it's been around at woodward for several years and skaters and bikers have been using it to practice after they get something down in the foam pit.

They have resi ramps for jumping too (not a halfpipe, used for practicing just straight jumps).
posted by mathowie at 11:30 PM on August 3, 2007


davy: how are they anymore of an argument against socialized medicine than, say, driving cars? or eating fast food?

Something to do with making choices, servicing basic vs higher level needs, and what level of need makes risk-taking worthy of general support. Driving often means going to work = getting money to buy food to live. Eating fast food while not optimal still = sustaining life. What need is being served by being extremely sporting? Entertainment, challenging yourself, seeing how far you can go, plain fun? Something higher level anyway.

Parallels with the couple of mountain climbing stories from a while back. Some feel those who chose to climb mountains under dangerous conditions in order to serve some higher-level need such as entertainment or even self-actualization are taking selfish risks the rest of us have no obligation to pay for in terms of also-dangerous rescue missions.
posted by scheptech at 11:54 PM on August 3, 2007


I'm only a spectator when it comes to skating, but street is a lot more fun to watch. Style, finesse, all that good stuff. Vert is kind of fun to watch, but also really predictable.

And loquacious, I think you're being a little unfair to the origins of street skating. All skate-boarding became as much a merch scheme as anything else after it broke big in the 80's. The guys I knew who were into street skating preferred it a lot of the times because they lived in downtown areas, and didn't have access to all those nifty suburban skate-parks that seem to be everywhere now. As for the "true spirit" of skating, well, I think a lot of people would disagree with you on this one as well. People started skating in swimming pools partly because it was kind of outlaw to sneak into people's backyards. To say that street is somehow less authentic than vert, what with all the X-game/Mountain Dew/Tony Hawk promotion that latter gets now, is pretty backwards IMO.

As another aside, I wonder if X-games will go the way of NASCAR restrictor plate races, where the guys easily could go faster if they wanted, but for safety reasons they don't. Kind of a stretch, but it seems like the ramps and dirt-mounds can't get any bigger.
posted by bardic at 12:28 AM on August 4, 2007


The NHS is happy to treat your sports injury and recognises the overall health benefits of an active lifestyle. Plenty of the doctors and nurses I knew were rugby playing types who had a lot more sympathy for people who knacked themselves doing something fun that the usual Friday night fighter glass-in-the-face types.
posted by Abiezer at 12:35 AM on August 4, 2007


The Stephen Murray paralysis brought up another crazy aspect of these sports: there was no medical insurance provided to the riders for the sponsored (NBC covered and promoted) event. So now everyone is throwing fundraiser after fundraiser to pay the costs.

When they get medical insurance for X-treme events let me know so that I can short that companies stock. Just kidding, but seriously it's probably cheaper to pool money and self insure.

Yeah, but zoogleplex, these guys are one argument against socialized medicine. Maybe "Xtr33m Sportzterz" should be made to sign a waiver.

Yeah, but think of all the money we'll save on social security.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:23 AM on August 4, 2007


I used to think I was a fairly radical BMXer back when it first broke out riding off houses into pools, working on flatops, kickouts and minimizing air over camel bumps. Now I think I was a little little kid who rode over some bumps and got some boo-boos.

I moved on and so did most of my BMX gang except for the best of all of us who didn't stop. He died at 32 after a neck snapping crash at an indoor track.
posted by srboisvert at 2:52 AM on August 4, 2007


Just more grist for the mill. More meat for the gaping maw of society.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:14 AM on August 4, 2007


That's the first time I've ever seen someone land so hard that their shoes shoot off of their feet.

Me too; to quote the aliens from The Simpsons: Holy Flurking Shnit!

That insane fall makes me wonder if someone could develop some sort of "airbag" clothing that skaters could rip-cord pop to help soften the landing.
posted by bwg at 4:15 AM on August 4, 2007


bwg: It's already being made. D3o reactive polymer armor.
posted by loquacious at 4:35 AM on August 4, 2007


I've heard of that, but isn't that more like a barrier for when something hits you or vice-versa?

I can see it benefiting skiers by protecting against ice and snow abrasions (and skaters from concrete or road-rash), but wouldn't landing on a hard surface from 50 feet up still be a hard impact, even with D3o?

Water is malleable and fluid too, but hitting it from a height is like slamming into concrete.

Then again, an "airbag" system might make you bounce ....
posted by bwg at 5:02 AM on August 4, 2007


They say it's not the height that kills you, it's the landing.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in the two contrasting videos linked above. In the first, you see the perils of backflips: when you lose it, nine times out of ten you're landing on your head or spine. Throw enough potential energy into the mix and that means death. Stephen Murray is lucky to be breathing right now.

Jake Brown's accident may have looked awful, but it was actually one of the best kinds of accidents you could be handed: he had that roadrunner-like moment where he realized what was going wrong and prepared for it. He can feel his board get squirly when it's flying down the last ramp, then it jumps out at nearly the apex of the run. Now, yes, he's got a lot of distance to travel, but it's that distance that's going to buy him enough time to get into a good position when he hits.

Feet first, on your side. Basically, every part of your body takes some of the force first, before your head. You can see it in the video when his shoes are kicked off his feet from the impact. Feet, then legs, then side, arm, and finally head. And when you land on your side, your arm absorbs much of the shock that would have gone to your chest. Arms are cheap and heal quickly.

It's like with cats. If a cat is dropped from two feet off the ground, it doesn't have time to roll its body over. Drop it from 10 feet off the ground, and it lands on its feet every time. Humans don't have the anatomy or the reflexes (or the instincts those two might produce). Watch a human fall in slow motion: it's a mess. Arms flailing, dumb-ass "Huh?" look on their faces... most of the time they don't even realize they're falling until they've regained consciousness.

But because Jake Brown was up so high, and because Jake Brown has probably experienced more than a few falls in his lifetime, there's a moment when his instincts kick in. You can see it at about 3:34 in the video. There's a moment where his kinetic and potential energy are swapped and he's hanging like Wile E. Coyote over a giant fall. His arms and legs are flailing like he's swimming in the air (which is apropo, since we're as equally unequipped for swimming as we are for flying), and it's at this point where his brain kicks into action: You don't want to be facing down when you hit. Roll, stupid!

If you've ever wanted to read more about this subject, I highly recommend Unplanned Freefall? Some Survival Tips.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:50 AM on August 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


The guys I knew who were into street skating preferred it a lot of the times because they lived in downtown areas, and didn't have access to all those nifty suburban skate-parks that seem to be everywhere now.

These parks? They didn't exist at all for nearly 20 years. No one had them - that's why we were all street skating. The municipal skatepark is still a fairly new phenomenon - but one that has received wide adoption and success.

If your friends were lucky they might have known someone with a mini-pipe in a backyard or garage somewhere.

But other than that, public vert parks pretty much did not exist for twenty-odd years.

I helped collect signatures for California's "no liability for risky sports" bill which paved the way to one of the very first new public skateparks built in California. The park is Murdy skatepark. It's truly terrible and very nearly unskateable. No, seriously. Check out the link. The "bowl" is barely 2 feet tall. It has a standard 1.5" expansion crack right at the bottom of the transition. The whole park is maybe 1000 square feet or so. This is what happens when city planners ask a landscape designer to build a skatepark, rather than skaters. It was a terrible, terrible disappointment to all of us when it was unveiled, and it is often held up as an object lesson of what not to build for a skatepark. Lessons learned, tables turned, you get burned - for playing by the rules. Others learned from it. HB still has not. Even worse - that park is vastly more dangerous than "big vert" parks.

As for the "true spirit" of skating, well, I think a lot of people would disagree with you on this one as well.

I'm ok with being disagreed with.

People started skating in swimming pools partly because it was kind of outlaw to sneak into people's backyards.

No, that's wrong. People started skating pools because it simulated the curl and carving of surfing. People started (modern) skateboarding because it simulated surfing - without all that messy mucking about with waiting for tides, flat days, blown out days, hurricane swell days. The ride was as repeatable and constant as you wanted it to be.

These people - people like my dad, who used to go out to the desert to ride the gigantic California Aqueduct pipe segments before they were buried in the ground - were already rebellious and hairy enough that simply hopping in an abandoned backyard pool wasn't going to be much of a thrill in and of itself. This is California. Rebellion and anarchy are required learning in our schools.

Most of these people weren't criminals or criminally minded. They didn't get their kicks rebelling. Society had - for the most part - already rejected most of them. And frankly, they could give a flying fuck. These people just wanted smooth, curvy concrete, and would go to great lengths to get it. A road trip to the ditches of Phoenix from LA was once a rite of passage. They'd scour drainage canals looking for terrain. They would, of course, also scout out empty pools with tried and true techniques. The fence-hop, the ride on the roof of a car down an alley to spy over many fences at once, the real-estate sign spot.

To say that street is somehow less authentic than vert, what with all the X-game/Mountain Dew/Tony Hawk promotion that latter gets now, is pretty backwards IMO.

First off - fuck the X-Games. It's a few days a year in the US when people watch some sports other than football. Maybe.

Vert does not equate to X-Games. They have some vert events. They also have some flatland freestyle events. And a big-ass street skating course, which generally gets more airtime combined than the halfpipe when you add up the inline skaters and bikers, too. They also have a bunch of guys on motorcycles.

So.

I didn't say it was less authentic, I said it has been more harmful and damaging to the sport of skateboarding, and the reputation of skateboarders everywhere. Part of this is the marketing of faux-rebellion, spreading a false message that skateboarding is nothing more than being some asshole punk on the street with fancy shoes.

I did say, however, that the roots of modern skateboarding are in vert, because it's true. Everything we have today in modern skateboarding started in vert. Urethane wheels. Protective, hard-shell armor. Grip tape. Grab rails. The ollie was first done on vert. In fact, the first flatland ollies were called just that - a "flatland ollie", before it just became "ollie".

If it wasn't for pools and vert - we'd probably still be thinking of skateboarding as a curiosity. Or something that only little kids did. Or we'd think of it more like roller-disco. Or figure skating. 'Cause if it wasn't for vert, we'd still be riding around on little performance platforms trying to do handstands and board-walks in tight shorts.

Vert isn't all about big air and big ramps. Even accomplished park skaters have issues with a pro-sized ramp - just like weekend skiers would have issues with a pro-sized ski-jump. Hell, I can barely manage to get enough speed in a Skatelite covered pro ramp to reach the vert section without sliding out, and there's no way in hell I can drop in on one of those monsters. I don't really want to - 'cause I've got a few good concrete parks nearby. As in all things - there's gradations and many levels of accomplishment. Vert is also snake-runs, hips, banks, layback slides and so much more.


Finally, here's how I see it. It's real simple. The most pure and authentic form of skateboarding is whichever form gives the end user the most happiness and joy. That's it. There's no other valid argument. For me, that's the end of the story.

For some, that might be street skating. But my experiences and observations suggest otherwise. When I was still street skating - for the most part it wasn't very much fun. It seemed stupid, to me. I also felt like I was being lied to and sold a bunch of bullshit. It was fashion. Even before the advent of truly technical street-style skateboarding (sometime after 1990), it seemed like a whole bunch of hucking yourself at the ground and hoping you'd miss. Over. And over. And over again.

When I see kids today trying to street skate, I still see the same thing. I see kids trying to launch a kickflip off of a flight of stairs over and over again, and fallling hard 99 out of 100 times - all for a photograph or a snippet of video. Image, man. Image and style over substance and form. I see a lot of swearing and cursing. I see a lot of anger, and kids beating their boards against the ground after the 150th time they've nearly shattered their ankles. I see a lot of posturing and posing. I see a lot of angst and wailing and gnashing of teeth and all that - and not many smiles or laughter.

When I go to a park, there's none of that. Not even from the accomplished technical riders trying to stick something over and over again. There's a lot of community, camaraderie and laughter. People talk. They give each other pointers and help. They share. It's much, much more fun.

I don't recite this litany of skateboarding history because I went and saw both versions of Dogtown - I recite it because I was (almost) there for it - I was there shortly thereafter, and I'm still here, and still riding.


Skateboarding is about play and motion, freedom and self-expression, the joy of movement and physics. That, and taunting gravity - and for a moment, just a brief moment - forgetting you can't fly. It's not something that can be bought or sold. It can't be bottled. You can only get it one way - and that's getting on a board and riding.
posted by loquacious at 5:53 AM on August 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


Should we call it the Jackass Factor?
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:42 AM on August 4, 2007


I was surprised that the 'medical staff' didn't do any spinal immobilization at all and even more surprised when I saw that they seemed totally unprepared. Geez guys, at least bring a backboard & c-collar with you.

However, I've run into that before and it's usually because the medical staff consists of athletic trainers that know squat about emergency medicine.

Also from another article:
"Skateboarder Jake Brown, whose 45-foot free-fall Thursday night brought a hush to the crowd at Staples Center, remains hospitalized after suffering bruises of the liver and lung, stress fractures in his vertebrae and a small fracture on the top of one hand.

Brown, 32, who was injured during the big air competition on the mega-ramp during a silver medalist performance, is expected to be released from the hospital today or Sunday and make a full recovery.

"Doctors said there was no paralysis or anything like that," said Bryce Kanights, team manager for Adidas, which is among Brown's corporate sponsors.

Kanights was critical of X Games medical personnel for not immobilizing Brown immediately and placing him in a stretcher.

A hospital spokesman refused to discuss Brown's condition."

Brown = lucky motherfucker.
posted by drstein at 8:52 AM on August 4, 2007


Reading this thread, I'm glad I'm not the only one who got pissed at the medical team. I mean WTF? Best in the industry?

I'm glad I'm not getting injured in that industry, that's for damn sure.

I'm also glad that, after I knew he was ok, that when I saw the slow-mo of the landing, and his shoes shot off in different directions, and I laughed out loud, that I was not alone.

Because I felt like a bad person.
posted by quin at 9:50 AM on August 4, 2007


If it makes you feel any better, quin, my daughter and I both chuckled at that part too.

I think it's just a reaction of disbelief, not laughing at his misfortune.

You still might be a bad person, though.

posted by The Deej at 10:08 AM on August 4, 2007


and matteo, I just asked my dad if he had ever heard of such injuries from slipping on a pencil or puddle of water. And he said in 30 years of surgery he had never seen anything like that and laughed. So, wrong as usual, try again later.
posted by vronsky


my friends dad broke his back from slipping on ice. uhm, is this where i add a snide jackass comment like a little kid? you big dodo stupid head!
posted by andywolf at 10:12 AM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


loquacious: It's already being made. D3o reactive polymer armor.

bwg: I've heard of that, but isn't that more like a barrier for when something hits you or vice-versa?

We had an AskMe about that stuff: Ribcap helmet beanie in the US.

You are right, it completely misses the point, if you are trying to prevent death or paralysis. I did some back of the envelope calculations which make your argument, but quantitatively.
posted by Chuckles at 6:39 PM on August 4, 2007


loquacious writes First off - fuck the X-Games.

First off, your argument is getting way tangled. You brought up street skating as something that set all skating back for three decades, since it was all about endorsements and fashion rather than actual skating. I can assure you that many skaters felt just about the opposite way -- street skating was for urban and, dare I say it, black and hispanic kids, in a way that vert was for blow-dried poseurs in Vans. So sure, skating got co-opted into big business and fashion pretty quickly, but it wasn't street skating that led to this. If anything, street was a lot more authentic in a lot of ways. IMO, it still is, and always will be, because a kid with a board can always do street. Unless they have access to a skate-park or a rich friend, they won't have access to doing vert.

loquacious writes "When I go to a park"

Exactly.

Anyways, I'll let Lupe Fiasco have the last word.
posted by bardic at 7:17 PM on August 4, 2007


every day the see people break their backs after, like, slipping on a little water spilled on the floor or tripping on a pencil


The key difference: when you're engaging in these sports, you're always cognizant of the possibility that you might screw up, or equipment might break, and you have (at least some rudimentary) safety equipment; someone in their shower, say, is *not at all expecting* to fall, and is naked to boot.
posted by davejay at 10:10 PM on August 4, 2007


I did some back of the envelope calculations ...

Ha! See, I sucked at math so this is something I wouldn't try to calculate. Thanks, Chuckles.

Looking at the video in your link, I can see how D3o would have reduced or eliminated Jake Brown's external injuries (on joints and such) and maybe to some extent lessened the severity of his internal injuries, but I don't see it as able to completely cushion the fall like landing on some kind of airbag would (like firefighters use to catch suicide jumpers).

Obviously there's no way to have a bag on the skate ramp, but I was thinking that instantly self-inflating, expandable clothing (rather like the vests aboard aircraft) would work like a car's airbag, only in reverse -- the skater becomes the airbag.

But now that I think about it, this would create a major problem in protecting a person's neck, as the head would continue downward when the body lands and decelerates. It might be very difficult to design a comfortable yet functional cervical protection collar.

Maybe the easiest solution would be to line the ramps on each side with instantly deploying mini-airbags (similar to aircraft escape slides) that would soften the landing.
posted by bwg at 2:40 AM on August 5, 2007


Maybe not -- I just watched the video of the slam again and realised that the ramp is a lot wider than I'd thought.
posted by bwg at 2:46 AM on August 5, 2007


It might be very difficult to design a comfortable yet functional cervical protection collar.

Read Snow Crash. There's a scene where a high-tech, sci-fi skateboarder triggers an inflatable crash vest that includes an inflatable cervical collar and face shield.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:38 PM on August 5, 2007


Well there ya go.
posted by bwg at 1:39 AM on August 6, 2007


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