Local skateboarder is 2nd youngest to take X Games gold
Incoming high school freshman Tom Schaar has some “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” stories that will probably trump most of his peers.
The 14-year-old skateboarder started his summer break in June by becoming the second youngest gold medal winner in X Games history, throwing down a 900 in the last round at X Games Austin in the big air competition and beating a childhood hero, skateboarder Bob Burnquist.
Tom followed up his gold medal revolution with national and international skating competitions and camps, looked up to the NBA’s Kevin Durant at the ESPYs (“He’s really tall,” Tom marveled), and cruised the orange carpet at The Kids’ Choice Sports Awards.
Tom, who lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, is a recent graduate of Earl Warren Middle School and will attend San Dieguito High School Academy in the fall.
He started skating at age 5, teaching himself at skateparks in Los Angeles. By the time he was 8, his family had installed a wooden miniramp in the backyard for him to work on his tricks.
“My brother and I skated all the time, all day long,” Tom said.
A new miniramp is in the backyard of his family’s new home in Cardiff, and many days a week you can find Tom riding at the Encinitas YMCA. He’s very much looking forward to the new skatepark opening at the Encinitas Community Park close to his home later this year.
While Tom mostly skated for fun, he started taking the sport more seriously a few years ago when he realized his skills were historic — epic, even.
In 2012, Tom became the only person ever to land a 1080, at age 12. The stunt involves three full revolutions in the big, open air and a perfect landing — Tom landed it on MegaRamp at Woodward West in Tehachapi.
Tom pulled out the trick again at 2012 X Games Asia to become the youngest-ever International X Games champion.
Recognition for Tom grew, and he is now sponsored by Red Bull, DC Shoes and Element Skateboards. Last week, Sony Action Cameras added him as one of its athletes.
Since his first X Games competition in 2012, Tom has competed in six X Games all over the world — Brazil, Barcelona, Munich and the U.S. venues of Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.
Barcelona was his favorite city to skate, although Brazil was admittedly cool — the vert ramp set up in front of the stunning, giant Iguaçu Falls was taller than Niagara Falls, as high as 270 feet, stretching 1.7 miles with more than 275 drops.
This year’s X Games Austin was held in front of a huge crowd at Circuit of the Americas, a Formula 1 racetrack venue. Tom said he tries not to think about the number of people watching him skate, and he doesn’t get nervous.
Practicing to tackle a ramp in competition isn’t the easiest thing to do.
“It’s hard to prepare for because there’s so many different lines. You have to figure out all the different curves; it’s kind of like surfing,” Tom said.
In the big air competition, Tom did a 720 (two full mid-air rotations) over the gap and landed “weird” and a 900 in the quarter-pipe, spinning backward in the air and grabbing mute (grabbing the board with his front arm).
“I’m not sure which trick won it. The 900 was harder, but the 720 was better because I landed weird and I don’t think anyone thought I was going to make it,” Tom said.
Beating Burnquist was a feat that he never expected.
“I’ve looked up to him ever since I started skating,” Tom said. “The craziest thing is that I got to skate at his house (Burnquist lives in Vista). Most people go to his house to practice for X Games, and it’s really cool skating with him and all the other guys. It’s crazy to be able to skate against him in X Games.”
Does mom Regan get nervous watching her son flying high through the air?
“I don’t get scared,” Regan said. “It’s not like he’s never been on a big ramp before, I’m mostly nervous that he’ll do his best. He’s very safe.”
Tom has recorded “just” a broken shoulder, two broken arms and one broken ankle — which is not too bad, considering his hobby.
“Tricks like the 900 are scary tricks, so you have to be really careful” about practicing, Schaar said. “I go about it really slow and work spins and get used to it; it’s a long process.”
After the X Games in June, Schaar went on to compete at the Dew Tour in Ocean City, Md., placing second in the bowl event. From there, he spent a week and a half at Camp Woodward, an enormous skate camp in Pennsylvania, and then went on to place fourth at the Vans Van Doren Invitational Skate Competition in Vancouver, British Columbia.
He got back to California in time to hit the ESPYs on July 16 in Los Angeles and go with a pack of friends to the Kids’ Choice Sports Awards the next day. He said seeing David Beckham was a highlight.
Despite the sponsor perks, his X Games gold medal (which doubles as a belt buckle) and international travels and attention, Tom is just your average 14-year-old going on 15. He still has braces and no hint of ego.
He’s just a guy who wants to have fun on his board —and handle high school.
“This year I just have to split skating and school. I just started surfing — it’s really fun,” Tom said.
“I haven’t thought about my skating goals this year because the season’s over with the summer. I enjoy playing around with it.”