The boys of Skateboard Big Air
In recent years, Skateboard Big Air has been driven by a youth movement, with a new generation of teenage skaters proving they not only have what it takes to compete against long-standing pros over twice their age, but they also have what it takes to win.
Last year at X Games Austin, then 14-year-old Tom Schaar took home his first X Games gold medal. This year in Austin, six of the 10 skaters scheduled to compete in Big Air are under the age of 25. Schaar, Mitchie Brusco, Trey Wood, and Jono Schwan are still teenagers. At least Brusco and Schwan, both now 18, can finally sign their own release waivers.
Day in the life of Tom Schaar
Tom Schaar, 15, will be returning to X Games in Austin this June as the defending gold medalist in Skateboard Big Air. He'll also be competing in Skateboard Park and the debut of Big Air Doubles. We followed Schaar around for a day at his Cardiff, California, home to see what it's like being a normal teenager who also happens to be an X Games gold medalist.
These youngsters have been grabbing the spotlight for years already. In 2011, Brusco, then 14, was the youngest athlete at X Games that year. The 5-foot, 1-inch, 95-pound skater was the smallest in the field and landed a Melon 900 in Big Air practice. In 2012, Wood, Schaar, and Schwan were 11, 12, and 15 years old, respectively, at their first X Games. Schaar made the Big Air final that year.
In Austin last year, the gold medalists' average age across the six skateboard disciplines was 19.6, the youngest in X Games history. That was driven by 14-year-old Schaar, the youngest X Games Big Air gold medalist. Before Schaar's victory, the youngest winner in Big Air history was Elliott Sloan, who was 25 when he won at X Games Los Angeles in 2013.
So who are these teenage phenoms and what will they be bringing to the MegaRamp in Austin this June?
First, there's Brusco, who's grown from that diminutive kid four years ago to a 6-foot, 140-pound 18-year-old. He lives on his own now -- he moved out of his parents' house last fall and rents a small apartment in Encinitas, California. Raised in a home with four siblings, he says the best thing is coming home to a quiet place and finding peanut butter in the jar. His new hobby is skydiving. He's already jumping solo, and he's hoping to have his class A license before X Games so he can go jump with other skydivers, including fellow X Games athlete Bob Burnquist.
Then there's Schwan, who started the SK8 Strong Foundation at age 13. The foundation "promotes a healthy environment at skate parks and provides opportunities to amateur athletes to improve their skills and make healthy choices." It also hosts activities and events, including the Rocky Mountain Rampage in Colorado. Schwan calls doing work for the foundation a full-time job that doesn't pay anything.
Wood, 14, will be the youngest skater in the field in Austin for the second year in a row. He's gained 10 pounds and three inches of height, but he's still just 105 pounds, which may work against him on the quarterpipe (though it didn't bother Schaar in 2014). Wood placed a solid 5th in 2014, at his second X Games appearance.
But all eyes will be on the defending Big Air gold medalist: Schaar, now 15. He had the biggest growth spurt of the group over the past year, growing five inches to 5-foot, 6-inches tall. He also gained 15 pounds and is now 110. He's a freshman at a public high school in Southern California. While the majority of skaters at X Games have specialized in a single discipline, Schaar will go for medals in at least three events in Austin: Big Air, Big Air Doubles, and Park.
Plus, Schaar will be coming into Austin fresh off a recent win. In May, he won the pro division at the 10th Vans Pool Party contest, held in Orange, California. He took home the $28,000 cash prize, beating out skateboard legends like Pedro Barros, Bucky Lasek, Alex Perelson, and others.
"I've had to train a lot harder," says Schaar. "I need to improve on what I did last year."