Commentary

FOR EVERY ACTION

Updated: July 10, 2012, 3:37 PM ET
By Micah Abrams

IF ALL GOES WELL, FOUR-TIME X GAMES GOLD MEDALIST BOB BURNQUIST WILL PACK 18 TRICKS INTO HIS SKATEBOARD VERT RUN. THAT'S A LOT TO THINK ABOUT IN 45 SECONDS

1 MIND TRICKS Burnquist begins by drawing the ramp on paper and skating it in his mind. Last year's X Games ramp featured streetstyle obstacles such as handrails. This year the layout (pictured) is more traditional, but with added flash. Next he plots out each trick, one to 18: "If my numbers are clustered on the ramp, that means I'm sticking to only one section. I want my tricks staggered across the ramp. Then I take that run to the ramp and see if it's possible."

2 FIRST IMPRESSIONS "At the X Games there's no prelim, so I don't have to worry about making the final," Burnquist says. "To gain confidence, my first run isn't as complicated as my second and third runs, where I add all the technical tricks. Then it's all or nothing."

3 ROCKET BOOSTER After dropping in, Burnquist usually begins his run with a huge backside 540. "Once I make that, everything else is boom, boom, boom," he says. But starting off big saps a lot of energy, so Burnquist begins with an air trick and ends with a super technical lip maneuver. In the middle? "I always include a switch kickflip," he says, "because no one else does it."

4 IMPROV NIGHT Burnquist pays particular attention to his foot placement as he lands tricks. "It's a lot of dancing, a little samba thing us Brazilians do," he says. And when something goes wrong? "I have to be able to improvise. I have a Plan A, but also a Plan B, Plan C and Plan D."

5 COMBO ORDER Burnquist tries to avoid doing setup, or simple, tricks before complicated ones. "Instead of setting up a combo, I make my whole run a combo. I might throw one setup trick before a five- or six-wall combo."

6 SWITCH A FLIP If Burnquist has one major advantage over competitors, it's his mastery of switch skating- skating in the stance opposite his natural one. "Luckily, I tried it early on," he says. "I'm way more comfortable with it than anyone else." But he admits that his tricks often confuse judges. "Sometimes that goes against me, but I'd rather they be confused. That means they're excited."

7 END SCENE Lately, Burnquist has been ending his runs with a trick he only recently mastered: a switch backside tail slide to revert (essentially, a tail slide on the coping). "I tend to pick a wild card on my last wall, because by then there's so much excitement, I might just land it." Risky, because a fall can mean the difference between first place and 10th. "You have to believe, and you have to be positive. There are no gold medals in the pessimistic world."

Micah Abrams

Writer, Action Sports
Micah Abrams has covered action sports online, in print, and on television for over 15 years. He is the screenwriter for the annual Warren Miller ski and snowboard movie, and his work has appeared on ESPN.com, NBC's Olympic broadcasts, and in Powder Magazine.