In the world of extreme sports image can seem to be everything. From having the latest gear and biggest named sponsors to making sure your edit is slickly shot and that you’re downing the right energy drink, appearance matters – or does it?
It’s easy to judge the fat kid down the skatepark or the chavvy looking guy who looks like he’d rather neck some cider and start a fight than bust out a tail whip, but if you do you could be missing out on some real talent, which often crops up in the most unexpected places.
And actually, why shouldn’t it? Because actually action sports aren’t all about the corporate-sponsored people you see in the X Games. The life blood of these lifestyles is passion and passion doesn’t have to come in a particular package.
Check out this lot for example – if you saw them down the skatepark you might not give them a second glance. But you should…
Lights! Camera! Sparkly dress! BMX Flatland Tricks?!
If you saw a tiny Japanese girl down the local skatepark in a sequined outfit you’d probably think she was lost, but this vintage clip from 1961 shows Lilly Yokoi, aka the ‘Ballerina on the Golden Bicycle’ throwing down some ridiculous cycling skills.
Lilly handstands on the bike, performs countless rolling tricks, reverse moves and spins and removes the handle bars from her bike while riding along. Even more impressively she does the whole routine in high heels!
Raised by her circus family in New York, the diminutive Japanese cyclist became one of the highest paid performers in the world during the 60s and 70s and even toured with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Lilly was decades ahead of her time, performing tricks that would become staples in flatland BMX before the movement and some of its key riders were even born in the 1970s.
So next time you’re getting ready to head down the park, why not give yourself a real challenge?
Ditch the cargo shorts and skate trainers, slap on a pair of high heels and a glittering leotard and then see if you can do it.
There’s no denying that there are some incredibly talented mini skaters out there from the likes of eight year old Evan Doherty pulling back to back 540s to kids in nappies attempting their first ollie.
So we all know not to judge the youngest skaters around, but have you ever met an old man that could show you skate tricks you’ve never seen before?
Neal Unger is that guy. There’s a little mystery surrounding his age but according to his website he was 57 this year and the wrinkly, grey haired skater has been turning heads with his old school style.
In the clip above, from American prank show Off Their Rockers, Neal drops down to Venice Beach, California and shows off some of the tricks he invented to a crowd of initially sceptical skaters.
After just a few minutes the ageing skater has blown them away and some of the crowd reactions are truly priceless.
As a self-professed beginner Neal is also incredibly humble about inventing new tricks and continues to push himself everyday, proving that the real joy of skating is not the recognition you get but in your personal connection to the sport.
OK, this one’s a bit of a piss-take, but it’s still kinda cool. Trained by Omar Von Muller (who also trained Uggie, star of 2011’s The Artist) Jumpy the “Parkour Dog” makes the most boring walk around the block fun.
Back flipping off trees, walking on his front paws and even skateboarding, this four legged friend has tricks that would show up most humans. If you can ignore the slightly cheesy filming, some of the stuff he’s doing is seriously impressive.
The professional canine actor already has a successful career appearing in film, on television and in adverts and trainer Omar puts his achievement down to consistent practice and just having fun.
The “Fat” Kid
Top extreme sports athletes are usually in the peak of physical condition, with bodies that look more like a chiselled statue than flesh and bone, so it can seem hard to believe that people with a less than an athletic build could hope to pull off impressive stunts. But that’s where you’d be wrong.
Joshua Keith Beebe, aka No Excuses, was a Massachusetts born “tricker” who was shit hot at flips and spins. The 22-year-old mechanics student also enjoyed hang gliding, scuba diving, and skydiving apparently.
Sadly Beebe passed away this year, but the flood of tributes and the number of trickers using No Excuses as a catchphrase, are testament to how many people his life touched.
It’s sad to see how many comments there are on some of Josh’s videos hating on his size or the quality of his tricks, and how many clips of him are preceded by the word ‘fat’. Beebe’s size and the tricks he could do aren’t what mattered.
What is important was his attitude of never giving up regardless of what other people thought or said. A quality that should probably be more prevalent in action sports than it is…