Commentary

THESE ATHLETES LEAVE THEIR MARK IN THE MOST CURIOUS OF WAYS

Updated: July 10, 2012, 2:20 PM ET
By SCOTT DESIMON

RONNIE RENNER

MOTO X FREESTYLE, STEP UP, BIG AIR

AGE 26

BASE LONG BEACH, CALIF.

NOTED IN JULY, JUST IN TIME FOR X, RONNIE DIALED IN THE BIG DADDY OF MOTO X TRICKS, THE BACK FLIP.

Roll over P. Diddy, tell MC Hammer the news: Ronnie Renner is in the house. He may be a freestyle MXer by profession, but Renner is a break-dancer by passion. When the father of two boys (Racer and Rider) launches into his "who's your daddy?" dance at the end of a routine-bouncing off his bike on top of the nearest jump-he's the maestro of moves. "I just goof off," says Renner, fourth in freestyle and step up at the '02 X Games. "You gotta have a gimmick. I don't try to be a tough guy, I don't try to be a cowboy and I don't do kung fu. I just dance."

CAINE GAYLE

SKATEBOARD PARK

AGE 29

BASE SAN DIEGO

NOTED CAINE IS SUCH A GEARHEAD THAT HE PUTS CAR GRAPHICS ON HIS SKATEBOARD. HE'S ALSO A SHOE-MASHER, RIPPING THROUGH A NEW PAIR EVERY TWO OR THREE DAYS OF HEAVY SKATE ROTATION.

Honda Civics are sensible cars, and Gayle is a sensible guy. But mix the two, and the result is a controlled explosion. Four years ago, Gayle bought a '92 Civic and upgraded with a 210-horse prelude engine and black sparco racing seats. His stealthy street racer now stops the watch at 14 seconds in the timed quarter at the Carlsbad Raceway (and tops a buck-fifty on the open freeway). "It's not as fast as you think," says the bronze medal winner in park at the '01 X Games. Gayle drives the Honda mostly for around-town errands, resisting the urge to punch the gas. "It's not like I drive crazy or anything," he says. "I just like that feeling of knowing that my car has power and stuff." Now that's sensible.

DALLAS FRIDAY

WAKEBOARDING

AGE 16

BASE ORLANDO

NOTED DALLAS WAS NAMED FLORIDA'S FITTEST FEMALE IN 2002 BY FLORIDA SPORTS MAGAZINE.

Friday may be a pull-up fiend (she can do 30 the hard way), but the ex-gymnast defines herself by how far she pushes the acrobatic limits of her sport. The challenge consumes her waking hours, and more. "I started riding in 1999 and couldn't spin," says Friday, who is unbeaten in 2003. "I dreamed about a wrap blind 360 and nailed it the next day." Her trick card includes three moves no other woman lands, including the batwing, in which she launches off the wake, lays out flat, then grabs her board. "I know how excited I get when I land a new trick," she says. "It motivates me." Her next thrill? Becoming the first woman to land a 720. Keep dreaming, Dallas.

KELLY SLATER

SURFING

AGE 31

BASES COCOA BEACH, FLA.; LOS ANGELES

NOTED THE FIRST PUBLISHED PHOTOS OF THE SURF PRODIGY, AGE 4, SHOWED SLATER FISHING. HIS NAME WAS SPELLED "KEVIN SALTER."

What does the six-time world surf champ do when the ocean has no motion? Goes fishing, of course. Slater, who will ride for the East team in the X Games Surf event, got hooked on angling as a kid in cocoa beach, where his father ran a tackle shop. "I spent most days in the store playing with the shrimp," he says. Today, surf comps take Slater to the gnarliest fishing holes on the planet, and he usually has a rod handy. "Madagascar and New Guinea are the best," he says. "You never know what you're gonna get, but usually it's big." Not that Slater's dying to add piscine trophies to his ASP hardware: "I just like to catch 'em and eat 'em."

JAMIE BESTWICK

BIKE STUNT VERT

AGE 32

BASE STATE COLLEGE, PA. NOTED JAMIE QUIT HIS JOB AS AN AEROSPACE ENGINEER IN 1999 AND MOVED FROM ENGLAND TO THE U.S. TO RIDE BMX FULL-TIME.

Bestwick has always wanted to be a jedi knight. As a kid, he had all the Star Wars books, records and toys-but not the foresight to keep any of it. "I just played with the stuff," Bestwick says. He's since acquired enough Star Wars merch to choke a wookiee: sand people, helmets, light sabers, even a talking Yoda doll. "I'd love to have a stormtrooper outfit," he says, "but the hobby's getting out of hand." Bestwick collects X Games memorabilia, too, although injuries have kept him out of the hunt the past two years. Next on his must-have list: a gold medal to match his 2000 prize. May the force be with him.