Never in my life have I ever seen anyone fall this hard before. This guy fell 52 feet to the ground. Watch his shoes...
Already leading last night's X Games 13 Skateboard Big Air event going into his fifth and final jump, Encinitas' Jake Brown went for broke. The Australian native rolled down the 80-foot ramp, then spun two revolutions across a 70-foot gap.
Soaring up the 27-foot quarterpipe after landing, Brown attempted what's called a 540 McTwist, a twisting, turning trick with 1½ revolutions.
What followed was one of the most frightening falls in X Games history. The 5-foot-6 Brown lost his board, his momentum carrying him away from the quarterpipe ramp. Flailing and kicking his arms and legs like a tumbling cat, Brown dropped an estimated 45 feet to the flat wooden deck, landing so violently on his legs that one of his shoes flew across the floor.
For two minutes, Brown lay motionless on the deck.
“I seriously thought he was dead, broke his back or broke both legs,” said fellow skater Pierre-Luc Gagnon of Carlsbad. “That was the gnarliest slam I've ever seen in my life.”
Eight minutes after the fall, Brown stood up, then wobbled off the floor, waving to the crowd. Brown was taken to an undisclosed hospital for observation. Minutes after the deck was cleared, Vista's Bob Burnquist took the night's final run, landed a difficult trick, scored 96.55 points and took first place from Brown. Brown placed second with a 95.33 run. Gagnon took third.
Afterward, skaters were stunned and thankful that Brown walked away from a fall that silenced the Staples Center crowd.
“That's the most terrifying thing I've seen in my life, in the history of skateboarding,” said skater Jason Ellis, who rushed immediately to Brown's side. “His eyes were open and he wasn't breathing. I thought he was . . . dead.”
Ellis said that when Brown regained consciousness, he didn't know what happened.
“As soon as he was up, he goes, 'Do I have another ride?' 'What'd I do?' 'Did I try the 720?' ” said Ellis.
“You made the 720,” Ellis told him.
“What'd I do on the quarter?” Brown asked.
“Nothing, dude,” Gagnon told Brown. “You did nothing on the quarterpipe.”
Had Brown not walked away, Burnquist said he would have passed on his final run, giving Brown the victory.
“There's a part of me that would have liked to let Jake win,” said Burnquist, who was the heavy favorite because he had last year's Big Air ramp moved to his 12-acre home. “But it is a competition. He would have wanted me to go out and do my best. Not give up.”
After realizing Brown had survived a frightening crash, Burnquist said he broke down and wept.
“It is bittersweet,” Burnquist said. “He walked away hurt. It's a roller coaster of energy. Harsh.”
Ellis said he doesn't want to enter the event next year after witnessing Brown's accident.
“This contest,” he said, “you can die.”
The most serious injury suffered during a recent action sports event left bicycle motocross (BMX) rider Stephen Murray of Corona paralyzed from the neck down. Competing at the Dew Action Sports Tour on June 22 in Baltimore, Murray attempted a double back flip on dirt, a trick he has pulled off numerous times. He landed the trick in 2001 to win X Games gold.
This time, he landed on his neck.
Last night, Skateboard Big Air was staged inside for the first time. It was held outside in the parking lot at Staples Center the past three years and there were no serious injuries. Ironically, one reason it was moved indoors was to eliminate the wind and make the event safer.
“I like it a lot more (indoors),” said Newport Beach's Ryan Jetton, 25, before Brown's fall. “Any time you get the stadium element, it's huge. I grew up skating, surfing and snowboarding. But what these guys do is leaps and bounds beyond anything I could imagine.
“This is ridiculous. It just blows me away.”
Regarding the skaters' skills, Philipp Schau of Germany said, “Amazing, insane.”
Last night, skaters and spectators were just thankful one of the stars escaped serious injury.
As Brown was whisked away, down a Staples Center corridor in a wheelchair, he acknowledged his peers by waving his right hand.
“See you back at the hotel,” Gagnon called to him. “I'm buying rounds, shots of Patron.”