There’s nothing normal about the athletes of the X Games. A normal person does not look at a ramp seven stories tall and think, “I should definitely ride down that.” A normal person does not willfully hang upside-down from a motorcycle. Last weekend in Austin, ESPN’s most recent edition of their action sports festival united the best skaters, riders, and drivers the world has to offer, and they’ll be the first to tell you that they’re wired a bit differently.
So, how do you even work up the courage to start going big? When and where does an action sports career begin? I asked nine X Games athletes how they broke in to their respective fields.
Alana Smith, age 14
Women’s Skateboard Street
“I was skating in my driveway, and I started doing tricks. I didn’t even know what I was doing. I looked it up, and I realized that they were actual tricks. I started going to Kids That Rip school, and started getting into the classes and everything. The teachers were saying to my parents that I was progressing way faster than any of the other kids… I think from there, my parents were like, ‘Let’s just put everything into this if she really wants to do it.'”
Tom Schaar, age 15
Skateboard Big Air
“I always kind of struggled with Big Air in the beginning. I was really scared of it. After the first time I made the gap, I realized, ‘Oh, this is so fun, I just want to keep skating it.’ And then you start doing harder and harder tricks, going higher and higher, and I kind of realized I didn’t suck at it… I mean, I landed the 1080. That was my big trick, I guess.”
Morgan Wade, age 31
BMX Big Air
“When I was in college in 2002, I went to a contest in Florida called Roots Jam. I came back from that contest with a second-place win in the pro class and a decent-sized check. That was kind of the turning point for me, where I was like, ‘Oh wait, I’m actually pretty good at this.’ Then, after about a year of doing comps, I came home from a long weekend… I had about 10 to 15 grand in checks and an invite to the 2003 X Games. That was the point where I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to take a break from school and continue with this.’ That was my light bulb moment.”