In 2012, Tom Schaar became the youngest gold medalist in X Games history, landing the first-ever 1080 in X Games skateboarding off of the jaw-dropping Mega Ramp at X Games Shanghai. Fast forward two years and Schaar has established himself as one of the top competitors in Skateboarding Big Air alongside heroes he once admired from the T.V. in his living room.
Oh, and by the way, Schaar will be a sophomore in high school this fall.
The 14-year-old skateboarding prodigy that started stacking X Games hardware at the age of 12 is one of the favorites heading into this year's Big Air competition at the new Austin, Texas, venue. Big Air is one of the newest and most high-consequence disciplines in the X Games, consisting of a near-vertical drop-in ramp into a gap jump of up to 70 feet, followed by a massive quarterpipe. A misstep at any point could be catastrophic, yet athletes like Schaar are able to land on their boards after three aerial rotations. To say this event is a heart-stopper is the understatement of the year.
Schaar will be competing against the likes of Bob Burnquist and Bucky Lasek, skaters who began their X Games careers before Schaar was even born. Maybe the fear gene has yet to develop in the teenager, but Schaar comes off as incredibly confident and composed for a young competitor—factors that, combined with his talent, make him the next big thing in skateboarding.
GrindTV.com spoke with Schaar to hear about his Mega Ramp beginnings, skating with his heroes, and expectations for this year's X Games. Here is what the young talent had to say.
When did you start skating Big Air? Who got you into it?
I was 9 the first time I skated Big Air. It was with Bob Burnquist on his ramp. Bob talked me through how to drop in, which I did and instantly fell, tumbling down the ramp. That was it; I didn't skate Mega again until I was 11. I only worked on the quarterpipe for a year after and then started jumping the gap and it started to be fun.
Momentum and speed are pretty key, it seems like; how do you compensate for your lack of size in Big Air?
I pump really hard. Also, I have less mass going through the air.
How do you get pumped up to drop into a Big Air ramp?
It's fun, but I still really need to focus on what I'm doing all the time.
Traditionally, skaters move from the vert ramp into Big Air. Why did you decide to jump right into Big Air?
Well, I've actually been skating vert since I was 6. Then I started skating Mini-Mega and eventually worked up the nerve to hit Mega. It took me a few years to like Mega.
What do your friends at school think about your skateboard success?
I keep it low key. Some know what I do, but I'm not sure what the others think.
What’s the coolest part of X Games?
Meeting and watching all of the best action-sports athletes in one place. It's cool when someone makes history and does something never done before.
Besides Big Air, what are you most excited for this year at X Games and its new venue?
I've also been invited to compete in the skateboard vert contest, so that's always fun. Besides my two events, I want to check out the music lineup, and I haven't been to Austin yet but it looks like a fun city, so maybe find a good BBQ place.
What’s it like skating against people you grew up watching on T.V.?
I still can't believe I compete against guys I watched on T.V. and YouTube. I'm very grateful because they're all so supportive.
Is there anyone in particular that you’re like, "Whoa, I can’t believe I’m actually skating against this guy?"
I still take a reality check when I realize I'm in a contest with Bucky Lasek, Bob Burnquist, and PLG [Pierre-Luc Gagnon].
The person I watched most when I was younger was Tony Hawk, and even though I don't compete against him, when I skate with him it doesn't seem real. Recently he asked me to film a doubles trick with him for his video, "Sync." He asked me to do a 720 over him, and Tony is tall, so I had to go higher than ever before or I'd hit him. I had to really go for it and was nervous, but luckily I landed the trick.
Besides a gold medal in Big Air, what other goals do you have for your skateboard career?
A gold in Big Air would be insane, but I know everyone has that goal too, so I have to work hard. To get medal for vert would be awesome, though, as that's where I started.
Eventually I hope to be invited to skate park at the X Games, and the ultimate goal would be to see skating in the Olympics and be a part of it. More than any medals, though, it's about having fun and doing my part to push skateboarding forward.
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