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Friday, September 17, 2010
The Bob Burnquist interview

By Adam Salo
ESPN Action Sports

After capping an already eventful summer with an X Games gold medal in the Big Air Rail Jam, Bob Burnquist certainly deserved to take it easy. But that's just not his style. Over Labor Day weekend, on Saturday September 4th, 2010, Burnquist landed the first ever MegaRamp 900 on a skateboard. Not only that, he did it rolling backwards. The cab 900, performed taking off fakie and landing fakie, had never been pulled by a skater on vert ramp let alone on the monstrous quarterpipe of the MegaRamp. Burnquist proved once again that he's in a league of his own.

Bob blasts a switch frontside air mid-run during X Games 16.

Tell me about the Mega cab 900? Walk me through it a little.
My whole goal was to do it that week and I wanted it to be done by the end of summer so it worked out perfect. The 900 itself, I've wanted to do ever since I saw Tony [Hawk] do it. I never thought of myself as a spinning skater in my vert skating; I was always more on the tech side. And then I started skating MegaRamp and getting higher in the air with a little more awareness on my spins and from there, I'd just throw it out here and there, trying it. I think I started spinning in 2004 or 2003 at Woodward with one of the foam pits. I remember trying it with Sandro [Dias].

I was all, "Dude, you should try this. The foam's right there." So he started trying it. We were all trying it and then, shortly after that he made it on vert. And Sandro pursued that and you can see how he had it down. I kinda of decided I wasn't really going to go for that. I had so many other tricks I wanted to pursue. I look at what everyone else is doing and usually decide I want to do something completely different. So since other people started doing it, that pushed me away from the trick a little bit. But I would try here and there because I wanted it for me.

I started spending a lot of time on Mega and realized how much time I had in the air for spins I just went, "Man, this is possible." So I started spinning like crazy, learned 540s, learned 720s and Indy 360s and 720s forward to fakie. And then I finally learned indy cab 720s fakie to forward good recently. It took a long time to figure out the speed. Coming from the manual pad was too slow, jumping the gap was really fast to go fakie and cab it. And then I found the in between which was to hit the rail and give it a little pump; that was the perfect speed.

Once I got that, I started doing cab 720s a bunch. I think that was the key for Tony to do his 900s; he had mute 720s non-stop. So once I had my 720s down I felt like I was right where I needed to be. So I was trying forward to forward over and over for the Flip video, "Extremely Sorry." I was trying it so much. I would come back from trips and contests and just go right into trying it over and over.

I was trying it and trying it the regular way, Indy backside 900 and it wasn't working out. It got me a little depressed. I kept thinking, "I've got the 720, I can spin the 900 but I can't land it. What is my problem?" And then I realized, maybe I'm getting stuck on doing it this one way. So I started spinning frontside and that opened the door. I woke up this one week and decided I was going to do my workout program and just try to spin 900s every possible way until I could figure out one that worked for me. I was over the disillusionment of the regular backside indy 900 so I stopped trying that one. I came pretty close on the frontside one but it really hurt me a couple of times. So then I was, like I got one more and that was the cab 900. I was trying them one day and I came really close and felt like I was going to make it but it was already getting dark and I only had someone filming it from one angle. So once I was that close, I made all the calls and set up the session for the next day. And I woke up that day knowing that was the day. There was no other day. By the time I went to sleep I'd have to have landed a 900.

Bob twists an indy 360 in his own backyard.

You landed it super clean. It honestly, from the footage, looked like you'd done it before.
That was the thing, I barely expended any energy. The fakie to fakie was the one I could control the spin the best. I knew that if I over-rotated, I'd over-rotate to my knees and not slam to my back. So that worked and I rode away with almost no effort and I just couldn't believe it.

Was anyone else in on the session that day?
I called people to shoot the angles. It felt almost blank, what was going on all around me; all I cared about was landing it. There were a couple of Brazilians in town. I told them, "Alright guys, tomorrow I'm just gonna keep the golf cart going non-stop. I might not wait," because usually you wait with the golf cart at the landing for two or three people to go before you motor back to the take off spot. I just let them know that this was my priority.

Has anyone else really tried 900s on the Mega apart from you? Anyone come close?
I think Danny [Way] had tried it for his DC video part. He told me they're really scary but that he felt like Mega was the way to do it. Jake [Brown] tried them beginning a couple of summers back; at the end of his runs he'd just try to spin them and that was pretty amazing.

Having landed it once, does the cab 900 seem like a trick you may be able to start getting consistent with?
You know what? I could. But it has to be the same type of setting. With the format of the X Games and going off the 70-footer roll-in, that's a whole other reality. But maybe I can get another type of 900 down and grab differently, like the backside 900 to really get consistency because that seems like the most consistent. If there is a Best Trick situation or a jam where we can jump and do it off the 70-footer and off the 50-footer, I'd probably be able to do it again. It really depends on the size of the quarterpipe ... everything depends.

How different is the MegaRamp setup you have at your house from the Big Air set up we see at X Games?
It's the same. The only difference is the angle of the roll-in which doesn't really matter once you get to the gap. When it comes to the ramp itself, all the specs are the same. X Games might be a little faster because it's brand new but for the most part all the angles are the same. So I'd just have to find out a perfect situation to be able to do it if I were to do it in a contest situation. That fakie to fakie 900 is no something that I pursued for contests. I'm into working on new tricks and capturing them for video parts. If it happens that I can do it in contest, great.

When you're working on a 900 or any trick of serious difficulty, do you try multiple tricks at once in a session or do you hone in on that one trick?
In a normal session I try all kinds of things but when I'm in a filming deadline situation and know I've got to come up with a video part, I don't say, "I'm gonna learn this trick and that trick." I just know I'm gonna skate and I've got to do something cool; that's the beginning of my whole process. And then I start trying something I've never seen or start adapting and try something out for a while. I go back and forth between three tricks or maybe two. I don't like getting stuck on one thing. I don't like bailing, bailing, bailing so I'll try something else after a few tries.

With the 900 in the bag, are the other tricks you're working on at the moment you have yet to unveil?
Before I landed this trick I worked on a few things that I filmed and am just sitting on for the next project. Maybe now that this is done I'll spend some time on the manual pad and work on some tech manuals or get more tech on the rail. It's whatever really because all this stuff is right here in my yard; I can do whatever I want.

Does skating Mega inform other aspects of your skating or is it too foreign and removed from traditional street and vert skating for it to aide in the process of progression in other aspects of your skating?
Oh yeah man! I'm a much better skateboarder now than I was without the Mega. I mean just speed-wise I attack things faster. I'm relaxed more in situations where before it might have been hairy. I'll go skate parks differently because I'm okay with the speed and the height. When I skate vert now it feels like a miniramp to me. On Mega when it comes to going that fast. When you're bailing everything hurts. In the air it feels light and heavenly but reality checks in when you go down. I have a relaxed approach to my skating now because of Mega where the speed is just there and you have time in the air. When I go skate street and parks and even vert now it takes me maybe a half hour to get into the groove because my reflexes have to be quicker and, in some ways, I have to be more agile. It's all different but it's all skateboarding.

Having had your hand in virtually every aspect of skating from pools, to parks to street to MegaRamp and beyond, what aspects of skating get you the most excited and motivated these days?
For myself, these days it's Mega. The feeling of doing a cab 900 or an indy 540 at 20 feet is something you can't get anywhere else. But I'm always tooling around on my backyard vert bowl and skating bowls and parks. That's why I go to the ProTec Pool Party every year. The feeling of carving corners and grinding that coping is something you can't get anywhere else.

When he's not innovating on MegaRamp, Burnquist unwinds playing music.

What skaters are you excited by right now?
I love seeing Bucky do his thing; he's always been one of my favorites with that smooth approach. It's amazing to see Bucky do his thing. And then, it's funny I get psyched watching Guy Mariano's part from the Lakai video; that's one of my favorite parts to watch. And then seeing my teammates Luan Oliveira and Rodrigo TX, the street guys getting tech and even [Geoff] Rowley, I love Rowley's approach. You watch that and you can take it to ramps and the Mega. I can relate to all aspects of skating and it gets me psyched. And, then again, as soon as you say that I always have to go Danny [Way] because of everything he's done. I always go Danny. But then new guys I think of Alex Perelson and Pedro Barros. Pedro is super young but his attack and the way he blasts is all out. And I think Alex is one of the ones doing something fresh, new and different. His approach reminds me of myself from when I was coming up. He's not that good of a contest strategist, he's just a good skateboarder. Sometimes it works for him and sometimes it doesn't. That's how it was for me. I had to work for a long time to build that strategy. But the way Alex has out-of-the-blue thoughts on lines and tricks and that's really cool to see.

At this point, with the video in your rearview mirror and contest season winding down, what have you got on your plate these days?
I know man. It's been non-stop. But hey, it's great because in this kind of a year with the economy the way it is, to be able to do this and skate for a living, it's pretty awesome. But with so many contests this year from the next one to the next one, you've got to constantly focus on your body. This year, more than ever I've been trying to focus on what I do when I'm not skating so that I'm strong enough. I have asthma as well so I have t constantly work on my endurance. But I'm just going to continue to do what I've been doing and keep my body in check so that I can skate as long as I possibly can. I just want to keep filming, skating contests and keep creating. There's one more big idea for this year; hopefully it turns out. But if it doesn't I'll keep it on the back burner for next year. I can't really stand still. I never could.