There are two kinds of people in life: ones who love a hero, and those of us who can’t help but cheer for the villain.
Heroes are often chisel-jawed doers of good, unbreakable, free from temptation – modern day knights in shining armour. Villains, on the other hand, are the people we simply love to hate.
They’re the dudes with the punk rock hair cut, and the bad attitude to match. The more we boo, the more they love it.
1) Shaun White
Few people in any action sport, let alone just snowboarding have had so many articles written about them that start with the words “Love him or hate him…" as Shaun White.
To many in snowboarding, The Flying Tomato is the ultimate villain. There can be no doubt that White is supremely talented, having dominated half-pipe snowboarding for a entire decade, taken on all comers in Slope style snowboarding, and even had a spell dominating the world of skateboarding.
But, despite this success, or maybe because of it, the world just loves to boo poor of Shaun. But, just like every good villain, El Blanco doesn’t let it phase him, In fact, it appears to just inspire him to fly even higher, and all while dressed head-to-toe in his trademark black, just like every good baddy should.
2) Brian Deegan
Picture the scene: It’s the late 1990’s and a young Travis Pastrana – the golden boy of doing incredible thing on motorbikes – breaks onto the scene. We love Trav'. You love Trav'. Everybody loves Trav'. At the time, he was the Luke Skywalker of action sports.
And, of course, every Luke Skywalker needs a Darth Vader. Enter Brian Deegan.
Stomping onto the scene at the same time, Deegan was the punk rock equivalent to Pastrana’s all-American wholesomeness. The smash-mouth, oil smeared, metal loving equivalent, who could not only mix it with the very best, but do it all faster, higher, better and gnarlier.
But it’s completely unfair to think that Deegan is just a potty-mouthed pretender. He was the first ever motor Cross rider to land a 360 in competition, and is the most decorated rider in X Games history – his trophy cabinet wheezing under the weight of ten medals, three of which are gold.
In his time, he’s gone on to found the Metal Mulisha [sic], a team of rag-tag, but super talented riders who don’t quite fit in to the otherwise flag-saluting world of motor cross. Just like Deegan himself, they are sickeningly talented, completely counter-culture, and the perfect villains.
3) Gabriel Medina
Not unlike Shaun White, Gabriel Medina is one of those action sports stars that truly divides opinion. The Brazilian surfer is insanely talented, and worshiped as some sort of God in his home country. However, step away form the beaches of the Copa Cabana and it’s a different story.
Non-Portuguese speaking surf fans can’t help but hate the 2014 ASP World Champion. For most, it’s the fact that the Brazilian is quite unabashed about celebrating every times he does something good on a board.
“Why not be pleased with yourself" you may, quite understandable, wonder. Well, in surfing this kind of behaviour is seen as claiming you’re great, and that’s not cool among the wave riding folk of this world.
On top of this oh-so frowned upon stuff, Medina also has no objection to trash-talking. The Brazilian is no stranger to calling out judges and even other pros when results don’t go his way, as seen in the above interview following a World Surf league contest when rival Glen Hall bested the Brazilian. You’ll get no shaka’s for that, bra!
4) Laird Hamilton
Still in the waves, we turn our attention to one Laird Hamilton. The California born, Malibu living chap is a bit of a surf legend, who’s made a career out of riding absolute monster waves.
In fact, when Hamilton took on the infamous Teahopo’o wave in August 2000, he was credited as mastering the “heaviest wave ever ridden" – an honour that's still yet to be bested to this day. But, it’s Hamilton’s association with big waves that sees him make this list of Action Sports villains.
For much of his career, Hamilton was loved by everybody, but there’s no villain like a fallen hero, and that’s exactly what he became. When Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira took on a monstrous wave in Portugal back in 2013, she suffered a wipe-out that left her nursing a broken ankle in hospital. Most of the surfing world queued up to pay their sympathies, but not Hamilton. He concocted an outburst that cast him from then on as a villain among the waves.
“Maya Gabeira doesn’t have the skills to be in these kinds of conditions" he said, as she was hobbling out of hospital, adding “She shouldn’t have been in this kind of surf.".
Normally, when Laird speaks, the world listens. However, on this occasions, the surfing world turned their back on the big man, earning him a spot on this line up of super villains.
5) The Z-Boys
“Wait! Hang on just one gosh-darned minute. You don’t mean the Z-Boys! They’re Heroes" we hear you not really cry, but silently process in your minds.
Yes, the Z-Boys, more formally known as the Zephyr Competition Team. The original skateboard team, the former surfers who took to the streets to ride the concrete, and pretty much gave birth to skateboarding as we recognise it.
The Zephyr team, made up of stone-wall legends including Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, Allen Sarlo and the late Jay Adams are heralded as heroes today. However, rewind to the mid 1970’s that they were the biggest villains on the block.
They turned up to skateboarding competitions and more than rocked the apple cart. At the time, skate comps were unrecognisable from today. They were nearer synchronised swimming than street skating, but the Z-Boys changed all that, putting many a nose out of joint.
The Z-Boys ruffled feathers further when they discovered that abandoned swimming pools, dried out by drought, made for perfect places to ride their boards as the banked walls mimicked their much loved ocean waves. Seeing these grubby kids riding around in posh neighbourhoods only served to make the public love to hate the Z-Boys even more.
But, in a plot twist worthy of Shakespeare, the Zephyr Competition Team are now globally regarded as heroes, and pioneers of skateboarding. What a comeback!