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This was not how I wanted to return to posting.  I was getting ready to write a post this weekend, and then I got the horrible news.  Yesterday, BMX legend and all-around awesome guy Kevin Robinson died from a stroke.

I’m gutted.  Not only am I still dealing with the  passing of Dave Mirra and more recently, Nicky Hayden (in additional to other losses), but I knew Kevin.  He was one of the first action sports athletes I met, and my brother and I followed his career diligently for the past 17 years since we saw him pull off the first no-handed flair at the 2000 Gravity Games.

In 2001, a BMX show took place near Fort Worth, and we begged my mom to take us and made posters.  Kevin Robinson was the biggest name there so my brother made a sign that said, “Texas wants to see a flair”.   I’m not sure if the photos my mom too are still around (I printed out a couple and saved the one below), but I’ll never forget my first action sports event.  Then we got Pat Miller’s autograph.  My mom saw Kevin talking to someone in the distance and actually yelled his name.  I will be eternally mortified (because my mom knows nothing about BMX and I didn’t want to bother him) and grateful.  He was super nice and even gave my brother advice on how to bunny hop.  It was one of the best days of my life.

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Throughout the years, my mom would still ask us about Kevin when we watched the X Games.  We cheered his record-breaking moments and victories and grew alarmed at his injuries.  I was sad to learn that he retired before I could see him ride again, but I had always hoped to catch him at X Games Austin.  Although that never happened, we did interact very briefly on social media a couple of times.  He liked my posts and responded to a suggestion I had for his anti-bullying program.

That brings me to one of the things I admired about him.  Kevin was a great role model and philanthropist.  He also was an advocate for traumatic brain injury research, having suffered many concussions and lost two friends (Junior Seau and Dave Mirra) to the tragic effects of chronic brain encephalitis.  My current career is in TBI research, and I’m going to keep working hard so that maybe there will be a breakthrough in how to help riders recover and how to make things safer.

My heart really goes out to his family.  His social media was often filled with praises for the various accomplishments of his kids and love for his wife.  I also feel for his BMX family, as he has mentored and inspired many riders.  He inspired me too.

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Photo from Kyle Carlson (Instagram)

At X Games Austin 2016, he led a touching tribute to Dave Mirra.  I know we’ll be paying tribute to him in a similar way, but in the meantime, we’ll have to take time to process this tragic loss.  Ride in peace, K-Rob!

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A while back, I promised more about female Iranian motocross riders Noora Naraghi and Behnaz Shafiei.  Today I’m delivering with some bonus information about women learning to surf there.  The action sports scene is going strong, and these women are not letting patriarchal rules hold them back.

In 2009, along with eight other women (including her mother), Noora Naraghi competed with the men and rode out in front for the women. She competed against her mom, seven other women, and men in the MX2 division.  Her entire family rides, and her husband is stoked about the achievements she has made.  Noora set her sights on the U.S., and in 2010, she got her AMA license (the first Iranian to do so) and competed races stateside.  She worked with top female racers Stefy Bau and Ashley Fiolek while here and has taken the new knowledge to coach more women in Iran.

By Caren Firouz/Reuters

Behnaz Shafiei‘s career is full of firsts as well.  This year, she hosted and won Iran’s first female-only race.  She has also received support from family and strangers alike.  As evident with the New York Times article my friend showed me, Behnaz is gaining a lot of attention worldwide.  She even has a commercial for Georg Jensen.  Her trip to the U.S., however, taught her the need for sponsorships and licensing to compete abroad, and she is currently raising money through a gofundme to pursue her dreams.

Going from the desert to the ocean, French surfer and filmmaker Marion Poizeau introduced the sport to Iranian women four years ago.  The idea was somewhat of a coincidence, as it was a male friend who wanted to explore the untouched surf of Iran.  He missed his flight, and Marion and the third member of their party decided to make it a girls’ trip.  The locals became interested.  When she returned in 2013, she connected with two female Iranian athletes, Mona Seraji and Shalha Yasini, thus beginning “We surf in Iran” classes.

By Marion Poizeau

Coming full circle, Noora posted on her Instagram about a surfing instructor course.  Iranian women are probably embracing other action sports, as evident with Ana Lily Amirpour’s vampire skater girl protagonist in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.  Let’s hope these women keep ripping and pushing for more freedom, just like their American counterparts.

Hello, anybody here?  I know I meant to return earlier, but life and my mind had other plans.  Blogging and photo editing just haven’t held my interest even with my favorite topics.s  However, I’ve been meaning to tie up loose ends, and I am hoping that this will generate enough momentum to continue this blog.  I’m just gonna step back from the X Games recaps and “awards” (especially since I can’t watch as easily) to cover some other aspects of action sports.  But loose ends first, you can revisit my previous X Games Austin 2016 recaps here and here.

The last day of X Games Austin 2016 was bittersweet.  We knew it was the last day for X Games to be in Austin (at least in the near future), and rather than ending on a high note, the weather decided to be jerky in a different way.  Despite the clear skies, the wind was too strong for Big Air.  They waited to the last minute to make the announcement so you could tell that everybody wanted to make things work.  I know people are angry about cancellations and the end of X Games’ contract with COTA, but I would rather the athletes be safe and able to do what they came out to do.

BMX Dirt

    • First runs were pretty solid for most of the guys.  Second and third runs had them taking more risks.
    • That led to TJ Ellis hurting his shoulder.  Mike “Hucker” Clark ran down the ramp to check on him.  I thought that was pretty cool since it’s a long way down and he was up not too long afterward. day4_4104
      See, Hucker did not run out of energy.
    • Kyle Baldock went HUGE but crashed out at the end.
    • The announcers kept mentioning how old Cory Nastazio is.  It was supposed to emphasize what a legend he is, but it just sounded insulting.
    • Kevin Peraza threw the sickest lawn-dart frontflip ever.

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Obviously I wasn’t expecting to go on hiatus again since I was in the middle of X Games Austin posts. It was a big snowball of work, other hobbies, politics, and yes, lack of motivation that kept me away. I’m looking to reignite the spark for blogging, and I’m gonna try to plow through these X Games posts (I may be skipping the 2017 winter events).

Just to refresh your memory, here was my previous post about the first two days of X Games Austin 2016.  Saturday was a supposed to have been a busy day, but the weather had other plans. The rain kept coming and going so events got moved to later in day or postponed until Sunday. With how frustrated I felt as a spectator, I can only imagine how much worse it was for the athletes.

Women’s Skate Street

  •  I didn’t get to catch much of women’s skate street because it started pouring shortly after the comp began.
  • Also, due to the raised stage, I couldn’t get a good view of the rails without going onto the grass (which I’m allergic to).
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  • It was cool seeing some of the women, especially Mariah Duran, help clean up the course later on in the replay.  They at least were in good spirits.
  • Later I learned that the spines on the fake cacti were actual screws.  Are they trying to make this more dangerous?!

The one upside to the rain was that while seeking shelter, I was able to meet Jamie Bestwick and get his autograph.  He really likes Austin so he was bummed that this was the last year (and he didn’t fault me for missing BMX Vert this year).

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He’s so tall and I’m so short that I wasn’t sure we’d fit in the frame. (more…)

Hello there, I’m back!  My hiatus was unplanned with some unexpected life changes and the problem with my old editing program.  However, I’ve got a new version of Paint Shop Pro, and I’m slowly trying to get back in the habit of blogging while handling increased work responsibilities.  X Games Austin has come and gone, but we still have the memories so let’s revisit them, shall we?
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I didn’t head to Austin until Friday due to work and lack of events prior to Friday afternoon, but I did catch Step Up and Flat-track on TV.  So here were some of the things I noted.

Step Up

  • I was bummed to miss out on Step Up again since this year was Matt Buyten’s last.  I’ve been following his career for more than 10 years, and he’s just an awesome guy.  Unfortunately he got knocked out pretty early.
  • Bryce Hudson has “Soap Boy” on the back of his jersey, which was adorable.
  • It was interesting to see who was close friends with whom.  The cameras kept showing Bryce and talking with Jarryd McNeil (and even giving him pointers) while Matt was chatting with Ronnie Renner a few times.
  • Matt and Ronnie’s friendship must be like a trip through the history of Step Up.  Both guys have a ton of jumps under their belts.
  • I could not believe this was Jarryd’s first X Games Step-Up competition.  He flew so high.
  • I was not a fan of the shared gold medals.  While I understood the time limits with live TV, it felt SO anticlimactic.  It would have been awesome to see how high Jarryd and Libor Podmol could have gone.  I was stoked for both winners though.

Flat-track Racing

  • I didn’t get the hype over it.  It’s just not as exciting as say, motocross.  Also I don’t know why they didn’t have women’s racing too.
  • Tough luck for last year’s winner Bryan Smith.  He crashed around the first turn and took another guy out.  I thought he could gain some ground, but once you’re out, you’re out.  The 20 laps went by super fast.
  • Redemption for Jared Mees was clearly the headline for the night.

After the weather (and my parents) threatened to make Austin a no-go, we made it and it was freakin’ hot and sunny.  The earlier rain had made Dallas cooler so I thought it would be the same.  Nope.  I got to COTA as Skateboard Vert under way, and the skaters were flying high despite the heat.

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I spoke too soon about life not kicking me in the butt.  I still haven’t even watch all the X Games Oslo recaps I found, and now we’re less than a week away from Summer X.  Hopefully going to Austin will recharge me.  I’m also working on a writing plan in order to get back to regularly scheduled updates.  Unfortunately the photo editing program I’ve been using for years is no longer compatible with my current computer so there will still be some delay until I figure out whether my back-up program is enough.

In case you need to reacquaint yourself with action from this past winter, here are the links to my daily recaps: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  I will be finished with adding all the non-X Aspen shots to my Flickr album so check it, along with my Youtube clips.  Now onto my picks for the best moments!

Best Female Athlete – Spencer O’Brien (Snowboard)
This gold has been a long-time coming for Spencer O’Brien.  She rode smoothly throughout the Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle finals and had both technical tricks and big spins.

Best Male Athlete – Fabian Bösch (Ski)
Really all the competitors in Ski Big Air deserve mad props for delivering on a night that caused other events to be cut short.  Fabian Bosch didn’t let rookie jitters or the snow keep him from throwing down a triple.

Newcomer to Watch – tie between Kelly Sildaru (Ski) and Darcy Sharpe (Snowboard)
Obviously I have to mention Kelly Sildaru for killing it in Women’s Ski Slopestyle at the ripe young age of 13.  However, I also need to recognize Darcy Sharpe for throwing down the method as the first trick of Snowboard Big Air.  He knows what’s important, and he’s gonna go far. 

Most Dramatic Finals – Men’s Ski Superpipe
This had all the makings for a movie.  All eyes were on Gus Kenworthy, who achieved a personal best and led a good portion of the finals.  One last skier remained, Kevin Rolland, and he threw down a stellar run worthy of first.  Kevin himself seemed surprised, and to cap things off, his coach ran all the way down the massive halfpipe to congratulate him.

Best Trick – Joe Parsons’ Parsby flip
I saw this in person, and I still have trouble believe that it happened.  Pure nuttiness is what it was.  Just click here and see you for yourself.

Picture Perfect Moment – The road to gold isn’t always a breeze.
 photo wxg16-1_zpss9zsnepw.jpg
By Brent Lewis. From The Denver Post
The athletes often appear fearless and capable of everything.  Matt Ladley’s expression shows that isn’t always the case.  You can’t blame him with how bad the conditions were.  It’s a good reminder that all these amazing folks are still human.

Best Moment Outside of Competition – Colten Moore reads Catching the Sky at a local bookstore.
I thought it was really cool for the Aspen community to meet one of its biggest stars, especially someone who’s most definitely not from town like Colten.  Although I was planning to get the book, listening to him talk about it made me want to read it even more.
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Most Educational Moment – Intel provides data on Big Air tricks
This was a nice treat for people who couldn’t watch in person (I was kind of jealous actually).  By providing information on spins and height, fans get a little more insight into how scoring works and friends who happen to be on the couch with us can get a little more snowboarding 101.

Greatest Comeback – Maddie Bowman (Ski)
After spending the off season in surgery, Maddie Bowman had only been in the pipe for a month before she grabbed her fourth X Games gold.  Moreover, she became the first woman to throw down a switch 900, a trick she only learned two days ago. 

Most Inspirational – Gus Kenworthy (Ski)
To all the critics who wondered why Gus Kenworthy needed to come out, his silver medals in Slopestyle and Superpipe are proof that it is important.  You could see that he’s been unburdened, finally able to express himself.  He also took the time to interact with fans after Slopestyle and on-line.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Lindsey Jacobellis (Snowboard)
 photo wxg16-2_zpsyfqch0xs.jpg By Peter Foley. From First Tracks!!
Lindsey Jacobellis has been a name I’ve associated with gold since I started watching boardercross.  Her victory (by 0.041 seconds) makes her the most winningest female athlete in X history with ten victories.  Even though she has had some hard times, she always pushes througha true inspiration for girls everywhereand she looks like she isn’t slowing down any time soon. 

Congratulations again to all the winners!  As with my experience in Austin, I have even more respect for what these athletes do.  It was so hard to just see them sometimes, and you don’t get a sense of how big everything is until you’re right next to it.

day2-dad0336 Hey, this bench looks familiar.

Aspen was a ton of fun, but I’m not sure I’ll be back next year just due to costs and the possibility of getting snowed in again.  I wanna take time to plug the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, one of the places I visited during my extended stay.  What they do is really cool, and we have to remember that we have to protect the mountains.

Alright we’ve reached the end of my day-to-day recaps of X Games Aspen. I’m going to do my eXponential Awards review, and then we can finally move onto Oslo (and hopefully life won’t kick me in the butt again).  Sunday had non-stop snow again.  Visibility wasn’t as bad as Saturday, but the athletes still struggled and my mom refused to come out even during the day.
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I took this on the shuttle ride to Buttermilk since I’d never seen this much snow, not even when I lived in northern Japan.

Men’s Ski Slopestyle

  • Jossi Wells got a well-earned gold.  Like Spencer, he’s been at X for a while, but this is his first win here.
  • I think Jossi is younger than me, but they kept making him sound like an old man because he’s married with a dog.  His family actually brought the dog out.
  • I loved the little touches Bobby Brown put in his runs.  He did okay, and it seemed like he was ready to just head out.  However, he did stop to say “hi” to people and thank me when I complimented him.
  • Joss Christensen skied with a broken hand.  He usually uses poles so not having them was a little weird, according to him.  The awkwardness showed.
  • Our Olympians had a really rough time overall.  Then Gus Kenworthy put together a sick run on his third and final attempt.
  • For all the hate Gus got for coming out in a such a public way, he has helped freeskiing.  Not just with making it a more accepting place, but he’s brought in new fans.  He knows that responsibility comes with visibility because he took the time to greet fans and take photos.
    day4-dad0374 Gus was stoked on the flag.  Mission accomplished.
  • Also, for the bad rep that “fangirls” often get, they were super nice and encouraged me to get up to the front with them at the end so that Gus could see my rainbow flag.  Gus’ mom saw it first and gave me a thumbs up.  I’m glad he has such a supportive family (especially since I had kind of an awkward conversation with my parents about why I brought the rainbow flag).

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Saturday in Aspen was when the weather started to go south.  The early morning brought rain, which thankfully let up in time to go see Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle.  However, the slick conditions combined with overcast skies proved to be very tricky.

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle

  • The course was super fast so everybody was messing up their first attempts.  Except Eric Willet and Sebastian Toutant, who threw down a banger of a run that would get him silver.
  • Darcy Sharpe and Sage Kotsenburg had the best rail section, but unfortunately they couldn’t land all their jumps.
  • Mark McMorris had some strategy going into his second run: taking some speed checks so he could stay in control.  It paid off because that second run was solid gold.
  • Apparently Darcy’s mom had a dream that he and his sister (freeskier Cassie Sharpe) got X Games invites before they actually got them.  She went ahead and booked a flight and hotel that morning, and she almost regretted it because of the cost.  His impression of her was adorable.
  • Newcomer Mons Røisland had some bobbles, but his huge jumps on his last run allowed him to sneak past Eric into third.
  • Mark’s third run was his victory lap, and he ended with a solid method.

After slopestyle, my parents and I went back to town.  I had read in the paper that Colten Moore was doing reading and signing of his new book, Catching the Sky, at Explore Booksellers and wanted to see him.  Ironically, he did an event in Dallas in February too, but Aspen was way more convenient for me.  His friend (manager?) said I should go to both, haha. I got him to sign my Texas flag and a copy of Catching the Sky.
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I’m really sorry for lagging on these updates.  Life has been throwing curveballs ever since I got back from Aspen; I wasn’t even able to watch all the replays before ESPN took them down.  In any case, Friday was the most jam-packed day so I hope to be back to posting more regularly.

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Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle

  • The bummer about seeing Slopestyle in person is that you only get a view of the money booter, and if you’re not press or VIP, you’re way in the back.  Also annoying kids on the ski lift above us liked to purposely shake snow off their boards onto our heads.
  • Despite this, I enjoyed the atmosphere.  Everyone rode well.
  • Hayley Langland’s rail game was on point.
  • Spencer O’Brien got a well-deserved gold.
  • Later in the afternoon, I wound up meeting Christy Prior at the Lifeproof booth, and she said it was a really great day to ride.
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I know I’m late on these, but I hope they’ll get you amped about X Games Oslo.  Being stuck in Aspen for a couple of days after the X Games was great… until I got back home.  I haven’t had much time to sit down and consider how these posts would differ from my Tumblr updates.  It’s going to mostly be the same, but I hope you stick around for the photos and some additional facts that I remember.

To preface this adventure, I’d like to give you some perspective.  If you’ve followed freestyle snowmobiling at Winter X, then you know about the Moore brothers.  They’re from Krum, which is an hour from where I am.  If you remember all those remarks about how they’re not used to the cold or the altitude, you can apply those to them.  North Texas gets snow a couple times a year, and it’s super flat.  Therefore I arrived in Aspen with some trepidation but much excitement.
day1-dad7637  Aspen Airport knew what was going on.

It turns out that Aspen in the day felt like Dallas without the wind chill.  The altitude proved to be a bigger issue.  That combined with my bad health and lack of sleep led to a headache that put me out of commission for most of Thursday.  However, I was able to participate in the Skype group chats with Sage Kotsenburg and Tom Wallisch.  Here’s what I learned (asterisks were answers to my questions): (more…)