Bob Burnquist is a living legend amongst skateboarding fans, his self taught switch-stance style has amazed his fans and impressed his peers alike. Bob’s innovation in the sport and his enthusiasm for it is only equalled by his drive to be truly unique in skateboarding, he has created the World’s most impressive private skatepark, in his back yard no less, and he has had a long lasting and consistently successful career that has developed and grown in popularity alongside skateboardings biggest competition, the annual summer X-Games.
Bob has been a part of the X-Games since the very start, he was there at the debut games in Newport, Rhode Island way back in 1995. He has been an integral part of the competition ever since, and he has consistently managed to push his fellow pro-skateboarders to greater and greater heights, quite literally. His reputation on the big bad monster of the X-Games, the mega ramp, has been built up through years of impressive performances at the X-Games, and then there’s the World-famous construction in his back yard, which we’ll come to a little later. But what is the pioneering Bob Burnquist doing now in 2017? Tighten up your trucks and grab a hold of your grip as we take a look at the most successful X Games medallist of all time.
Bob Burnquist’s Early Life
Roberto Dean ‘Bob’ Silva Burnquist was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on October 10th 1976. He had a Brazilian mother and an American father. Bob grew up speaking English and Portuguese and held dual American-Brazilian citizenship. He began skateboarding on the streets of Sao Paulo at the age of 11 and quickly discovered that he had plenty of natural talent on a board. He watched skateboarding videos and attempted to copy the styles of the professionals featured in them, but he was particularly impressed by one up-and-coming young pro in the United States, a skateboarder with an unusual switch-stance style named Danny Way.
Danny Way is a legendary figure in skateboarding today, but back then he was just known as an outstandingly brilliant new skateboarder with a huge natural talent, his legend was only just beginning to be built, but the switch-stance style that Danny Way was pioneering was suited to Bob Burnquist perfectly, it required great balance and razor-sharp reactions, both of which were part of Bob’s skill set. He worked on his own switch-stance style of skateboarding and developed a personal style, including a full range of tricks that were unique from those that Danny Way was performing at the time.
Bob was good enough to turn professional at the age of 14, but he was still completely unknown in the United States where the vast majority of the professional skateboarders he had been inspired by were competing. A lucky break for Bob came in April 1994 when the skateboarding magazine Thrasher sent a group of skateboarders over to Brazil for a feature on the Brazilian skateboarding scene and Bob, able to speak perfect both English and Portuguese fluently offered to act as a guide and interpreter.
Seventeen year old Bob didn’t make much of an impression on Thrasher editor Jake Phelps initially, he thought Bob was in his own words ‘a dirty skate rat’ who just followed the pros around, but then everyone got to see Bob skate. Jake later spoke about how Bob was ‘light years’ in front of what most people were doing back home, and Bob’s ‘Make it, or break some bones’ mentality was fearlessly stylish, he impressed them all and it opened the door for other opportunities in Bob’s career.
Bob appeared on an episode of ‘Bill Nye, the science guy’ later that year, the first of many TV appearances, and in May 1995 he won his first international event, the Slam City Jam in Vancouver. 1995 also brought the first summer X games that took place in Newport, Rhode Island. Bob didn’t win a medal at the first X games, but now in 2017 he does hold the distinction of being one of the very few athletes who have competed at every single X games since then, and 22 years is a long time in most sports, but it’s almost unheard of for top skaters to compete at the highest level for so long as injuries are so common, but Bob has also managed to avoid serious injury throughout his career.
Bob’s fearless mastery of the mega ramp has resulted in a few fractures throughout his career, but they don’t seem to inhibit his talent at all. In the 2015 X Games in Austin, Bob won the gold in the Skateboard Big Air category, seemingly not bothered at all by the fractured left forearm that he had picked up in training the week before. The following day that fracture didn’t bother him either, as he picked up another gold with Morgan Wade as they won the Big Air Doubles competition, in its first appearance at the X Games.
Bob Burnquist’s Professional Achievements and The X Games
Bob and the X Games have played a big part in each others success as they have grown in popularity together since the debut games in Newport back in 1995, and Bob’s achievements in the games have left at least one fellow X Games legend speechless. His first medal, a bronze, came in 1997 in San Diego, in the Vert competition, the following year he repeated the result. In 1999 he won a bronze for the best vert trick and in 2000 he won his first X Games competition, taking the gold in the best vert trick. But it was in 2001 that he made possibly the most sensational performance ever seen in the X Games.
The games were held in Philadelphia in 2001 and the vert competition was a tightly fought battle between Bob and Bucky Lasek, the two time defending champion. With only Bob’s final run to go it was all or nothing and Bob was facing an almost impossible challenge, but he pulled something special out of the bag, to not just win the gold, but to amaze fans and professionals alike. Bob’s final run was literally flawless, it included several tricks without a name, because no-one had ever seen them before.
Tony Hawk was commentating the run, but he only managed to do so until he went hoarse from screaming with amazement at Bob’s brilliance. Bob took a score of 98 out of 100, the second best score awarded at the X Games ever and second only to Bucky’s 98.50 in the vert the previous year. It was Bob’s finest hour at the X Games, and a legendary one, and it set the tone for his performances in the games for the next decade. The Laureus World Sports Awards, often called the ‘Oscars of sport’ awarded Bob the Action Sportsperson of the Year award in 2002 on the back of his stunning X Games performance the previous year, and Bob Burnquist became the first Brazilian to ever win the award.
Matt Hoffman put the idea of the mega ramp into the minds of skaters in the early 1990’s, but it was Bob Burnquist’s childhood inspiration Danny Way that built the first, a temporary one in Aguanga, California in 2002. In 2004 the X Games incorporated a mega ramp for the first time to facilitate the Big Air competition, and it was a competition that Bob excelled at. In 2013 when Bob was winning the event at Barcelona it was his fifth consecutive title, and his gold in 2015 was that occasion when he had fractured his forearm in training the week before. Now in 2017 Bob’s medal tally in the X Games is twenty nine, more than any other X Games athlete in history. He has won fourteen gold medals, seven silvers and eight bronze medals throughout his years at the games, and it is in the Skateboard Big Air event that he has dominated the most, mainly due to that construction in his back yard I mentioned earlier.
Bob Burnquist And The Mega Ramp
Bob’s switch stance style and habit of always successfully creating and displaying new tricks had already made him a star, as well as bringing him considerable financial rewards for his success even before his spellbinding performance in 2001. In 1999 he had bought a former horse ranch complete with a sprawling plot of land in Southern California, and like everyone who loves their job, he started bringing his work home with him. He began constructing ramps on his land and soon he was thinking really big.
In September 2006, after over a year planning, designing and constructing it, he completed work on the World’s first permanent mega ramp, the ramp is situated on the 12 acres attached to the ranch and it’s dimensions are magnificent. It’s three hundred and sixty feet long, and seventy five feet high at the apex, where the run begins. That’s about the height of an eight storey building and longer than a football field. The ramp cost $280,000 to build and was only partly financed by Bob’s sponsors, but it gave Bob all the opportunities he needed to perfect his big air tricks, and it made him very popular among his fellow professionals, who were only too keen to experience it for themselves.
Now in 2017 the ramp is still only one of the World’s few permanent mega ramps, and it has been the setting for several record attempt from skaters, BMX riders and other X Games professionals. Both Mat Hoffman and Danny Way, the innovators of the mega ramp have ridden it and it’s clearly impressed them both, in 2008 Danny Way described it as ‘Unique, and terrifying’. Bob’s ‘back yard’ as I still insist on calling it as I’m unable to really comprehend how truly huge it really is, also contains a full pipe and a corkscrew, the only one in the World. It’s a testament to the drive of Bob, he’s a man who if he thinks of it, he’s probably going to try it.
What’s Bob Burnquist Doing Now in 2017 – Recent Updates
All good things must come to an end eventually, and although Bob is quick to remind fans that skaters don’t retire, because ‘In skating there’s no such thing’, at the 2017 X Games he did announce his retirement from actively competing there after 22 years. At the age of 40, and after two years without a medal, Bob is no longer at the top of the heap, unsurprising considering most of the competition are half his age or less, but Bob has plenty of other interests and projects to keep him busy if he ever does get bored of flying through the air eighty feet above his mega ramp.
Even without a skateboard Bob can fly, although he does need a helicopter or small plane, both of which he’s qualified to fly, and he does, frequently. He also enjoys other, less safe forms of airborne adventures. Parachuting is another favorite pursuit of Bob, who is clearly, if we’re being honest here, a complete adrenaline junkie. In 2006 he was attempting a 50-50 into the Grand Canyon. The first time he missed a rail, and tumbled into the canyon revolving wildly. Fortunately for Bob he righted himself and survived unscathed after deploying his parachute in time. He of course tried again without hesitation and performed the stunt perfectly the second time, all for the cameras of the TV show ‘Stunt Junkies’, who featured the thrilling trick in an episode later that year.
Bob shares more than just a long history with the X Games, the games have always aimed to be environmentally friendly. They use bio-diesel fuel and organize recycling campaigns, and it’s a responsible attitude that suits Bob Burnquists philosophy perfectly. Bob was one of the founding members of the non profit organization, the Action Sports Environmental Coalition, who raise ecological and environmental awareness to skateboarders, BMX riders and surfers. He also founded the Bob Burnquist Foundation in order to increase knowledge and provide information about the advantages of organic farming to schools and colleges.
As one of skateboardings biggest stars, and one of it’s longest lasting ones, Bob has appeared in many films and videos throughout his career, but the one that personifies him best was the guest slot he had in a TV show in 2013, in ‘Stan Lee’s SuperHumans’, because if there’s one thing I suspect that Bob Burnquist is, it’s Superhuman.
Bob lives in Vista, California with his partner Veronica and their daughter Jasmyn, 11. It’s an open secret amongst the X games community exactly where it is, but you’d find it easily if you looked long enough, it’s the one with an enormous mega ramp in the back yard.