Archive for the ‘News and Events’ Category

It is with great sadness that I halt my X Games recaps for this post.  Most of you probably have heard the news, but in case you haven’t, action sports legend Dave Mirra died yesterday from what appears to be a suicide.  When I was in Aspen, I was thinking about how I hadn’t seen much from him and how I missed his presence. Then I read what happened, and my heart has been aching for his family, his friends, and the community.

I never met Dave, but he was one of the key figures in my early years of watching the X Games and other related contests.  He was the epitome of an athlete, someone who worked hard to reach the top of the podium.  I remember those fierce showdowns with Jay Miron and Jamie Bestwick.  When he pulled the first double backflip in X Games BMX Park, I went nuts.  This was a guy who pushed the limits, the “Miracle Boy”. He took BMX to another level.

Dave was also a friendly face that helped action sports reach a broader audience.  I remember the friendly banter that happened between him, Ryan Nyquist, and Dennis McCoy in the behind-the-scenes features of various BMX tours.  Dave was always like someone who didn’t quit.  When he retired from BMX, he did rally.  After that, he trained for triathlons.    No matter what he did, he put 100% and it showed.

At the end of the day though, it’s not the number of gold medals you have or world records you set.  It’s the impact you have, and last night, I couldn’t help but tear up at all the tribute posts fellow athletes, BMX and other, and even non-action sports folks shared.  He touched so many of us.

Death is an unfortunate aspect of action sports, but Dave’s shocked us all.  It’s one thing to hear about someone having an accident while doing something they live for; it’s another to hear that they’ve taken their own life.  It’s a sobering reminder of how people who seem to have it all, who put on a smiling face, may be hurting deep inside.  I worry about the other athletes because we hardly ever hear about their troubles and because I have to wonder if the effects of brain injury played a role.  That’s something to ponder when our grief has subsided a bit.

A couple days ago, Dave posted on his Instagram: “Fight to win!  We all have a battles [sic] to fight.  Never back down.  Love you all.”.  We might not ever understand what has happened, but we have to try to reach out, to support one another, to push for answers if it can save a life, and to live.  Rest in peace, Dave Mirra.  We’ll miss you, but we’ll never forget you.

From ESPN

From ESPN

While I hate starting off the year with a downer, I also think it’s important to remember the lives our community has lost.  They would want us to move on, but let’s not forget their contributions.

On May 16, Dean Potter and Graham Hunt died in a wingsuit flight accident at Yosemite National Park.  Potter was a well-known pioneer in climbing and BASE jumping.  Hunt was an up-and-comer in the scene and Potter’s long-time flying partner.

The Nitro Circus family lost one of its own on September 28.  Erik Roner died in a skydiving accident during the opening ceremony of a celebrity golf tournament.  The ski-BASE jumper reached fans from any action sports disciplines due to his involvement with Nitro Circus.

October 1 saw another wingsuit fatality.  Johnny Strange, a BASE jumper and the youngest person to climb the seven summits, died at the age of 23.

In early December, downhill skateboarding and street luge legend Biker Sherlock took his own life.  The link I put includes info on how to donate to his family.

Lastly, Japanese motocross rider Cloud Toda died in a foam pit fire.  He overcame great odds after an accident left him paralyzed from the chest down and was practicing whips in hopes of getting into the X Games.

We will miss all of these individuals, but their spirits live on as we are reminded to seize each day.

This is not much of a picspam since I was only able to attend for a couple hours in the morning and my photos did not turn out great (apparently I’m good at vert shots but not other events).    D-Town Throwdown took place on October 17 in the middle of downtown Dallas and featured three skateboard disciplines: vert, street, and downhill.  On top of the competitions, there was a freestyle motocross demo, concerts, and live art.  There was also a mini-ramp set up for attendees to do some skating of their own.
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The downhill event took place inside a parking garage. Qualifiers ran all day and included a diversity of riders. In the end, Billy Bones took the win with his grandparents watching.
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Trying to catch a shot of racers out of the chute was a bit tricky.

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Unlike many of my fellow Dallasites, going to the State Fair of Texas was never a tradition of mine.  Then I discovered that Big Time Actionsports put on a BMX show every year.  This time I went on a weekend so I had to fight the crowds.  I planted myself in front of the open loop transfer with the hope of getting a sick shot, but that was easier said than done.  The position wasn’t ideal for anything else so I didn’t get many photos.  It was a great learning experience for photography (especially since my settings weren’t good either).

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Pete Brandt with Jimmy Coleman announcing and Mat Olson applauding (more…)

I nearly cried when I read Gus Kenworthy’s coming out story (I probably would have cried if I had been alone in the room).  As a queer-identifying individual, I know how difficult it can be to express that aspect of you.  Anyone who is not a straight, white cis-gendered male is going to have it rough in a lot of places, not just action sports.  Unfortunately our community lags behind in creating more acceptance.

Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post titled “Action sports need to be more gay”.  Now we have one.  Although I don’t want to take away from what Gus has done, the headlines citing him as the first gay action sports athlete erases the struggles of those who came before him.  In fact, Cheryl Maas took a stance against Russia’s anti-gay policies when she was in Sochi.  For many reasons, that didn’t make huge headlines, and the simple truth was that things haven’t changed until now.  Gus won America’s heart as part of the Men’s Ski Slopestyle podium sweep in Sochi and also as the guy who brought home some puppies (though he clarifies that it was his boyfriend at the time who did most of that), and he more than earned freeski cred by being a five-time Association of Freeskiing Professionals champion.  He fits that privileged mold with the exception of being gay.  In other words, he had a lot to lose and yet a lot of power.

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Photo by Peter Hapak/ ESPN

By sharing his story, Gus has raised awareness of the microaggressions, like using “gay” to mean something “uncool” or automatically assuming that there’s a girlfriend or even this little sketch that implies two men can only be in bed together for comedic purposes.  Those little things hurt, but they’re often hard to see when homophobia is associated with a slur-filled tirade or the Westboro Baptist Church protesting.  Now the action sports community can no longer pretend that a problem with homophobia and toxic masculinity does not exist.  Although contest organizers, sponsors, and other athletes can choose to remain silent or make a bad j, we fans will notice.

For me, I hope that the support means that there can be a safer space not just for LGBTQIA individuals, but anyone who is a minority in the action sports world.  I came into the scene because it promoted “freedom of expression” and united those of us who weren’t into the more popular sports.  I fell out of it partly due to the realization that I’d been seeing a facade.  My liberal politics have distanced me from my old motocross message board buddies; I can’t be myself around them when I’m not sure how they’ll respond to my interest in feminism or queer politics.  The day before Gus’ story broke, a photo of my drag king alter-ego with a skateboard on Instagram received a homophobic slur.  I brushed it off as some immature teenager or self-loathing adult with nothing better to do, but whey should we let anyone get away with such hateful actions?  To be a community, we have to help one another.

And that’s what I will be watching for.  We’ve taken the first step by listening to Gus’ story and Tweeting out our support.  Being an ally is more than that.   I’m still learning and constantly checking my privilege (because even if I identify with the LGBTQIA spectrum, my queerness is not always apparent or as big of a difference as my being female in a male-dominated world).  We’ve got to work together, and I have hope that a bunch of action sports fans will find the courage to be themselves.  Because that is what I feel like I can do even more now.  I don’t know if I’m making it to Aspen for Winter X this year, but if I do, you bet I’m gonna be waving a giant rainbow flag.

Boy do I have a lot of X Games content to share.  I’m really eager to get to them, but with yesterday being “Go Skate Day”,  I remembered that I hadn’t gone around to writing about the Jeff Phillips Tribute at 4DWN from last month.  Unfortunately, it was when Texas was being pounded by rain so I missed the little bit of vert that happened.  There was still some great action indoors from the locals.  My camera set-up wasn’t ideal, and I learned that shooting street/park is a completely different ordeal.  However, a nice gentleman gave me some tips on how to follow a skater and catch the right moment.

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Despite the weather, lots of people came out to honor Jeff’s memory and support the Suicide and Crisis Center. For more photos from this year’s event and the one from 2013, check out my Flickr album.

I stumbled across a video featuring the founders of Bureo Skateboarders, and I thought sharing their missions would be the perfect Earth Day post.

Surf and skate enthusiasts Ben R. Kneppers, David M. Stover, and Kevin J. Ahearn combined their business and engineering backgrounds to form Bureo and Net Positiva, a fishnet collection and recycling program in Chile.  Net Positiva helped reduce pollution from discarded nets, which are then turned into plastic pellets for their signature skateboard, the Minnow.

The boards are available in skate shops in several states, Chile, Switzerland, and Japan. You can also get them on-line. Although the Minnow costs more than your typical skateboard, the infographic from Bureo’s site shows the great impact it has.
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As you can see, Bureo Skateboards has worked to reduce plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions—not to mention helped the forests by having an alternative to wooden decks.  Protecting our planet is priceless.

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is currently hosting a special exhibit called 2theXtreme: MathAlive!  It combines math, science, and engineering with action sports, design, and pop culture.  In other words, quoting the MathAlive! site, it “answer[s] the age-old question: ‘Will I ever use all this math they’re teaching us?'”  Last month, I got to check it as part of the museum’s adult-only Social Science event, which also featured a BMX demo.

Even though MathAlive! is designed for a younger audience, it still contains some fun hands-on activities and educational tidbits for adults.  Unfortunately we’re too big to enjoy the rock climbing wall and comfortably sit on the stationary bike (I have short legs and it was still awkward for me).  Several of the games seemed easy, but they still required some thinking.  This is a math exhibit after all!

My favorite part of the exhibit was the skateboard design challenge.  You selected board length, truck placement, and wheel size in order to create the ideal board for an ollie.  While it could have used a better explanation as to why a design failed, it was a cool way to look at a math problem.  My second favorite module was the 360-degree camera if only because I got this little souvenir:

Scattered throughout the exhibit were videos of people who use math, which range from engineers to video game designers to skateboarders.

I appreciated the diversity, particularly with the female scientists and engineers shown.  Women in math and science rarely get any face time, which negatively impacts girls thinking of getting into STEM fields. so I’m glad the exhibit is doing its part to promote equality.

The boardercross game should have been fun and easy, but the board was really rickety.  I didn’t utilize the rails because I wanted to emulate the real snowboarding experience.  Unfortunately I crashed too much in trying to get my balance.  Although it’s been over a decade since I stepped foot on a board, I can’t imagine my balance being that bad (I dance and still occasionally skateboard).  That was probably the most disappointing aspect of the exhibit for me.  Nevertheless the exhibit contained more ups than downs; just remember that it’s for kids and during regular hours, you’ll probably have to fight them to give each section a try.

Because I had to buy separate tickets for MathAlive!, I spent a lot of time there and didn’t get to see other aspects of Social Science.  I did catch the second freestyle BMX demo by BMX Pros Trick Team.  The riders have my admiration because not only did some of them come from doing demos all day at the State Fair, but they had to deal with low light and a moderately energetic (and somewhat inebriated) crowd.  Nevertheless, they still pulled out some of the big tricks.

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I tried to take photos, but it was too dark.

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The State Fair of Texas is a 127-year-old tradition in Dallas.  In more recent years, Big Time Actionsports has come out to do BMX demos.  The guys perform three shows a day, six days a week for three weeks plus one additional weekend.  I finally was able to make it out to the Fair this year, and I managed to bypass almost all the yummy fried food for the action (I hadn’t eaten lunch so I did make a detour).

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This past November, I got to attend Boneless One 3, the Jeff Phillips tribute. I had been looking forward to the event for month not just because this was my first chance to do action sports photography, but also because proceeds would benefit The Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas. It’s always great when you can have fun for a good cause.

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