In a few days, I’ll be in Aspen, but before I jet off, I want to make my predictions.  This year’s Dew Tour surprises made it harder for me to settle on a name.  Here’s what I’m going with:

Ski Big Air – Henrik Harlaut
Men’s Ski Slopestyle – Gus Kenworthy
Women’s Ski Slopestyle – Dara Howell
Men’s Ski Superpipe – David Wise
Women’s Ski Superpipe – Maddie Bowman
Snowboard Big Air – Yuki Kadono
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Ståle Sandbech
Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle – Christy Prior
Men’s Snowboard Superpipe – Iouri Podladtchikov
Women’s Snowboard Superpipe – Chloe Kim

I won’t be doing another post until I get back, but I might just do some quick and dirty updates on my Tumblr or Twitter, depending on the internet situation.

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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.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I was having a hard time getting into the spirit until I saw a couple of posts from the X Games that gave me the warm fuzzies.

The first is a continuation of a story I shared in my last Facebook Findings post.  The X Games spoke to Jeanean Thomas and her daughter Peyton about the random act of kindness they experienced at the skatepark.  The skater who helped Peyton out has been identified as Ryan Carney, who worked at a skate shop.

Ryan Carney

By Judee Richardson Schofield/ The Cambridge Times

I did a little digging and discovered that this isn’t the first time Ryan has given back to the community.  The Cambridge Times revealed that he participated in a petition to keep the Pipes and Rails skate park open and often tries keep the parks a safe and welcoming place for everyone.  Talk about a great role model!

The X Games Facebook page also shared a video that truly delighted me.  My favorite thing about Christmas is all the different versions of The Nutcracker.  Ballet Austin’s version invites special VIPs play the role of Mother Ginger, a comedic character who has eight gingerbread children pop out of her skirts.  BMX rider Morgan Wade was one of the guest stars this year, and it’s safe to say that he brought a lot of enthusiasm to the role.

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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I’ve seen a few of posts on my Facebook feed featuring women in action sports.  A couple of them even tie into a “Feminism in Action (Sports)” post I am planning to write.  It’s really heart-warming to see female action sports athletes get exposure and my friends championing it.

One that particularly tugged at my heartstrings was a BuzzFeed Canada story that a friend shared.  Jeanean Thomas posted a letter on Twitter to the young man who helped teach her daughter how to skate.
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This is a perfect example of what feminism is.  Jeanean get mega props for letting her daughter know that she has equal  right to be at the skatepark.  The young man was a wonderful ally by going above and beyond to help out this beginner skater even though he was made fun of.  We need to be commending guys like him, not teasing him.  This is how a girl or a boy will develop skills and a new love for skateboarding.  When I was her daughter’s age, I had the same reservations about going to the skate park and thus never went due to lack of support.  As a result, I never went and grew frustrated with learning how to skate.  Maybe others aren’t as easily discouraged, but Jeanean’s daughter got a confidence boost through a kind individual extending a helping hand and not discriminating against her age, skill, and gender.

Another skating post appeared the other day.  My co-worker shared this striking photo, and I knew it had to be the work of Skateistan.
 photo 12278839_10205313294543871_1511743250074323011_n_zpsq5zpyw8h.jpg By Jake Simkin

It’s a non-profit that uses skateboarding to empower youth in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa.  It has particularly reached out to Afghani girls who cannot ride bikes or participate in sports.  I’ll be going in depth into Skateistan in a later post, but I had to share this photo along with my co-worker’s comment that it’s evidence that “people are the same all over the world”.  It’s a message of particular importance in these recent trying times.

Finally, another friend shared a “Women in the World” feature on Iranian motocross rider Behnaz Shafiei. I’ll be writing more about her and Noora Moghaddas in a later post too, but they’re badasses for essentially breaking the law to do what they love.  Feminism often involves taking risks, and women like Behanz certainly are with the hopes that there will be more equality in the future.
 photo slack-imgs-1-com_zpsp1msdvgz.jpeg Photo from The New York Times

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 Read the rest of this entry »

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.

A couple weeks ago, I attended the ConTex Kickoff Brunch.  It was mostly an introduction to the program, which aims to study mild, sports-related traumatic brain injury in patients ages 12-20 and get an idea of how TBI is being treated in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.  I was able to get some important information that I didn’t cover in a previous post about TBI in relation to action sports.

There I am in the blue and green shirt.  Photo from UTSW Dept of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics

There I am in the blue and green shirt. Photo from UTSW Dept of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics

There’s between 1.6 and 3.8 million reported concussions every year.  Many experts believe that there is a significant amount of under-reporting due to lack of knowledge of symptoms (you don’t have to lose consciousness and CAT scans can be negative) and a strong desire to not get sidelined, whether you’re playing football or skating.  Much of the focus has been on football because that’s where the funding comes from and it is America’s beloved pastime.  However, you can get a concussion from any sport so it’s important to have safe practices and be aware, regardless of what you’re doing.

Women actually have an increase incidence of concussion.  Some of it is due to more reporting, and some of it is due to head size and neck strength.  Thus even if the female athletes are doing fewer spins at a lower height, the risk they face is nothing to overlook.

So what can the action sports community do? (That was a question I asked.)  Learn about concussions and its various symptoms.  Have our friends and family study them up too.  Go to your annual physicals so that you and your doctor have an idea of what is “normal” for you; that will allow them to spot something out of the ordinary that could be a long-term side effect.

Football players have the Maddocks Questions to check up on an athlete who has been hit.  I propose an action sports version:
1. What’s the name of the park?
2. What trick were you doing?
3. What’s the last trick you landed?
4. Who are you skating/riding with?
5. [for contests] Who’s in the lead?

Although there have been interesting developments in TBI research related to biomarkers (proteins that the body produces in response to a concussion) and genetics, lack of resources and funding have produced a need for better statistics on injured groups and long-term studies.  We have no idea why some people develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (degeneration of the brain) and others don’t.  Moreover, a lot of the focus remains on treatment rather than prevention.  This is why it’s important for everybody to do their part in staying safe.  Even though action sports has prided itself on pushing forward against all odds, sometimes it’s better to sit out.

This past spring, Mat Hoffman told the story of how in 1999, he tore his ACL underwent surgery without anesthesia to receive a synthetic ligament.  Because the LARS™ ligament was banned in the U.S., he had to go to Canada.  The video, illustrated by Taj Mihelic, described why there was no anesthesia and what made it so revolutionary for him.  It piqued my interest in the LARS™ ligament so I did a little digging about its history and current studies.

The Ligament Advanced Reinforcement System, or LARS™, was developed in 1992 with hopes of solving problems with synthetic ligaments in the past decade (Corin).  Those often failed or caused inflammation in the synovial membrane that lines the joints (Machotka et al. 2010).  The LARS™ ligament was made from terephthalic polyethylene polyester fibers that are twisted for increased durability.

1595 From Corin

When Mat received his LARS™ ligament, the procedure was still relatively new.  It made headlines in Australia around 2010, as more professional athletes got LARS™ ligaments and enjoyed the speedy recovery.  That’s not to say there weren’t critics. Moreover, the FDA has yet to approve it.

Reviews of clinical studies thus far lean towards positive outcomes. Batty et al. and Chen at al. have compared the efficacy of many types of synthetic ligaments, and the LARS ligament produced the lowest rate of failure. The results reinforces the idea that this could be a solution to the severe side effects experienced with its predecessors. One issue appears to be the long-term durability. A study by Tiefenboeck et al. published this year examined patients who had their ACL reconstructed with the ligament with at least a ten-year follow-up reveals that re-rupturing does occur. They do not recommend the LARS™ ligament for primary ACL reconstruction. This is, however, just one study. As more results are published and more patients are observed in the long run, a better idea of the uses and limitations of the LARS™ ligament will be known. In Mat’s case, it appears to be a great success.

References

  • Batty LM, Norsworthy CJ, Lash NJ, Wasiak J, Richmond AK, Feller JA. 2015. Synthetic devices for reconstructive surgery of the cruciate ligaments: a systematic review. Arthroscopy. 31(5):957-68.
  • Chen J, Xu J, Wang A, Zheng M. 2009 Scaffolds for tendon and ligament repair: review of the efficacy of commercial products. Expert Review of Medical Devices. 6(1):61-73.
  • Corin – “LARS™ (Medical professionals)”
  • Machotka Z, Scarborough I, Duncan W, Kumar S, Perraton L. 2010. Anterior cruciate ligament repair with LARS (ligament advanced reinforcement system): a systematic review. Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation, Therapy & Technology. 2:29.
  • Tiefenboeck TM, Thurmaier E, Tiefenboeck MM, Ostermann RC, Joestl J, Winnisch M, Schurz M, Hajdu S, Hofbauer M. 2015. Clinical and functional outcome after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction using the LARS™ system at a minimum follow-up of 10years. Knee. pii: S0968-0160(15)00131-3.

We’ve reached the end. . . reluctantly. I have some great memories of being at the X Games, and I got to re-live some of it by watching all the replays.  In case you missed any of my recaps, here are the links: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Also, if you want to see more photos, mosey on over to my Flickr.

Best Female Athlete – Alexis Sablone (Skateboard)
Nobody was more on point in the Women’s Skateboard Street contest than Alexis Sablone. She took risks and it paid off with her solid skating.

Best Male Athlete – Daniel Sandoval (BMX)
What a weekend it was for Daniel Sandoval. First he blasted through the Park course to win gold, and then he came in Dirt as an alternate, overcoming nerves to lead the pack for a good portion of the finals.

Newcomer to Watch – Mykel Larrin (BMX)
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Another BMXer who had a great time was Mykel Larrin. After a good performance in Vert, he came into Big Air as an alternate and walked away with silver, and this was his second X Games.

Most Dramatic Finals – tie between RallyCar Racing and Stadium Super Trucks
I couldn’t decide between all the events, but eventually I narrowed it down to one that was fantastic in person (despite the elements) and one that made me excited at home.  There’s the joke that “with age comes the cage”, but both Rally and Stadium Super Trucks have produced more carnage than any race I’ve seen.

Best Trick – Thomas Pages’ Bike Flip (Moto X)
Although this was another tough category, I had to give it Thomas Pages. He shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff on a dirt bike, and yet he rode away in this debut event.

Picture Perfect Moment – Shaded view of BMX Vert  photo josh20duplechian_zpswjs2risw.jpg
By Joshua Duplechian/ESPN. From xgames.espn.go.com
I thought it would be unfair to select one of my photos so I picked my favorite from another photographer. I’m still a little biased since this was my parasol. Nevertheless, it was quite an impressive shot to get from the middle of a crowd, and he was nice to not disturb me (red hat) and my parents (camo hat and tan hat).

My favorite from my own is the one of Bob Burnquist doing his one-footed switch ollie over the MegaRamp gap. You can see clearly the commitment, as well as the difficulty.

Best Moment Outside Competition – Travis Pastrana rides a mechanical bull XG2015 09
Getting to see Travis Pastrana take on the mechanical bull made standing in the sun totally worth it. He did it twice too since he didn’t want to be shown up by a couple of little kids.

Most Educational Moment – Burt Jenner teaches us about acceptance and pronouns
I was irked by the fact that X Games asked Burt Jenner about Caitlyn in the middle of the Stadium Super Trucks; that was probably the last thing on his mind. However, Burt demonstrated a lot of grace and showed that it’s okay to mess up pronouns as long as you apologize and try your best. I think the X Games commentators could have learned a lot from this instance.

Greatest Comeback – Maria Forsberg (Moto X)
Having a baby is a tough job. That’s not something I would have realized until I saw several of my peers juggle pregnancy and raising a kid with their daily lives. Therefore, I have to give Maria Forsberg props for coming out of retirement and then placing 5th in Women’s Enduro X final.

Most Inspirational – Colton Satterfield lands the double flair and gives a moving speech in BMX Big Air
Watching Colton make history and land the double flair on his final attempt, the last run of the night, was such a magical moment. Then he took it a step further and talked about how last year’s gold made him realize that he had the power to inspire others, and that’s what he came out to do this year. His conversation with Jack Mitrani on X Games Extra was making me tear up because it exemplified what drew me into action sports.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Bob Burnquist (Skateboard) XG2015 Big Air Doubles04
How have I gone so long without giving the winningest X Games athlete this award? I guess it’s because Bob Burnquist is still going strong. He added too Big Air gold medals to his collection while dealing with a broken arm. Nothing has held him down and nothing can, and more than anyone, he truly deserves his honor.

Congratulations again to all the winners and really props to all the athletes! I have a new-found appreciation for how hard they work. Get well soon to everyone who got banged up. Thanks to everyone who signed autographs and stopped for photos; y’all truly made the experience even more special. That’s all for now. See you in Aspen (virtually— not sure I can brave the cold just yet… maybe one day).

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