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Big-Air Event Tests the Best

August 05, 2004|Sean Mortimer | Special to The Times

"I try to be ready for the burns because you slide for a long time," 2001 X Games gold-medal skateboard champion Bob Burnquist says, explaining his preparation for not landing in the new event Skateboard Big Air. "I'm fully armored when I go out there."

Possibly the best vert skater in the world, Burnquist admits that dropping in on ramps several stories high and being launched like one of Tiger Woods' golf balls over a 50-foot gap is a weird thing to get used to after ruling 12-foot U-shaped ramps for more than half his life.

"It's faster than anything else I've skated. There are all these new things you've got to figure out," he said.

The scary part isn't the launching, it's the landing.

"When you land, the speed really kicks in -- then it's about relaxing even more," he said.

Even a controlled fall is dangerous -- think sliding down a water park ride without the water. And that's if no tiny screw head is sticking out of the ramp.

Burnquist averages half a roll of duct tape a session, taping his undershirt to his boxers, his hip pads to his kneepads and his kneepads to his shin guards so nothing can be pulled loose.

Shorts, gloves and shoes last only a few sessions until friction burns irreparable holes.

After the first few bails, duct tape repairs are made while making his way to the top again.

The injury potential freezes some world-class skaters. One pro stood at the top of the roll-in, fully padded, ready to go, paused, and then took the stairs down.

"It was probably a smart decision on his part," Burnquist said. "You have to be comfortable with it."

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