I was trying to think of something scary to write about for Halloween through the lens of skateboarding. I could write about security guards or when skateparks are full of kids on plastic scooters, but they are more annoying than scary. I could write about hairy situations like the time we saw a kid with an axe at a skate spot, or when someone tried to steal my camera at a skatepark, but those situations are just rough rather than genuinely, spine-tinglingly scary. Really, the one thing that we’re all secretly scared of is that one massive slam – the ones that have long lasting effects, either physically, mentally, or perhaps because they are watched and talked about for years to come. That’s why I, perhaps unwisely, decided to research and detail some horrific slams from skateboarding’s past.
Note: If you are squeamish about skateboarding slams, or sights of physical pain or blood, you might want to skip this one.
Some of the most obvious slams that stick in my mind are the ones that got major mainstream coverage – such as Jake Brown’s legendary 2007 Mega Ramp slam from the X-Games. I’m not sure if this was worse because it wasn’t from a private Mega Ramp session, but live on TV during a huge event. In the run proceeding, Jake bombs down the roll-in, and nails a 720 over a jump box gap. As he blasts into the air for a trick on the quarter pipe at the end of the course, something goes wrong. He flies into the air… and everyone realises he hasn’t got his skateboard. Even watching it, it’s a “heart in your mouth” moment, and it gets worse. He somehow bailed outwards from the ramp, putting him a good 45 feet in the air, and not lined up to land in the transition, but basically near the bottom of the ramp.
He reported feeling like he had been hit by a car. Falling that distance is enough to kill some people, and Brown was lucky to be alive. He bruised his liver and his lung, was concussed, and fractured his wrist. It’s the kind of slam that would make you quit skateboarding. It’s the kind of slam that should leave you with lifelong injuries. For some, it’s the kind of slam that means you would never walk, let alone skate again. Jake’s survival only came about by learning from a similar (although not as huge) slam Pat Duffy had taken the year prior, which had caused Duffy to break both of his legs – he tried to fall in a way that would cause the least amount of damage. Even still, the human body is not designed to fall a height of 45 feet, and the slam is one of the gnarliest in history.
Horrible slams are not just contained to the X-Games arena though. However, they do seem to be amplified when the TV cameras are giving skateboarding the spotlight. Aaron “Jaws” Homoki took a slam on the 2018’s third (and final) season of Thrasher & Viceland’s “King Of The Road”, that makes me shudder every time I think of it. Jaws is the king of abnormally huge drops and gaps, and he was keen to prove himself as he stepped in as a special guest for Real. He aimed to get the “biggest drop” challenge done, as he early grabbed off of the roof next to the Hollywood High 16 set. But, as you’ve probably guessed… things didn’t go to plan.
As he lands the drop, he kind of compresses into a ball and his knee meets his mouth with full force, knocking his bottom teeth out. It’s one of the most uncomfortable and scary slams I’ve ever witnessed: it doesn’t have the full shock and immediate definition of a concussion or pavement faceplant, and it certainly doesn’t look that bad when you watch the footage. The worst part about it is the slow realisation that something very horrible has just happened, and seeing blood pouring out of Jaws’ mouth. This slam basically took him out of this season of KOTR for good… At least it made for good TV, eh?
I know it’s a meme and it’s kind of funny, but Garrett Hill’s “Coffee Slam” is scary not just because he fell onto tarmac and covered himself in boiling liquid (which, let’s face it, would really hurt), but because of just how pedestrian the activities leading up to it were. I often find some of the worst slams I’ve had are when I’m just cruising, or setting up for a trick, or doing something super easy and silly. True horror comes from the mundane taking a turn for the horrifying, and when Hill went to Starbucks and got coffees for the crew, he likely didn’t think the simple act of transporting those drinks back to the session would lead to pain, humiliation and an internet meme that persists to this day. It’s also worth remembering, that this particular slam was caused by the biggest spectre to haunt each and every skateboarder: the humble pebble.
A few weeks ago I saw a slam on Insta of Lizzie Armanto falling horrendously trying a pole jam. It is literally the one thing I was ever scared of doing when I first learnt pole jams. The pole jam she’s skating is in a skatepark, and continues into a flatbar directly after. She flies off the pole jam, hits her knees off the flatbar, and then falls into a scorpion-like posture as her face hits the floor. Armanto even uploaded a screencap at the exact moment her face impacts the concrete and the facial expression she’s pulling is so relatable that I got a phantom pain from past slams just looking at it. There’s a lot of talk about how skateparks don’t offer “real” terrain for skateboarders to enhance their skills properly, but you can see videos like this and realise that it doesn’t matter where you skate: eventually you’re gonna eat shit in a truly horrible way.
The first horrific slam I remember ever being exposed to was Arto Saari’s San Dieguito Feeble Grind Handrail slam from Flip Sorry. The Feeble Grind was a warm up for a Switch Boardslide he wanted to do for the video. Geoff Rowley recounts that the handrail had holes in it, and through pure bad luck Arto’s kingpin got stuck in one of the holes, throwing him down the stairs upside down. Saari went into a seizure the minute he hit the ground, his eyes rolled back in his head and he started to wriggle around on the floor. He threw up everywhere and for 30 minutes he apparently couldn’t see anything.
I remember seeing the animated retelling of this slam in Flip Sorry and it’s literally the thing that comes to mind any time I even consider trying a handrail. It probably put me off stairs and handrails for life. Because it literally happened when he was warming up for something else, no one got it on film, and not seeing it happen somehow makes it scarier: the only proof of it is the word of mouth stories about it, and through using your own imagination to recreate this slam in your mind, it makes it so much worse.
As for myself? I can’t honestly list any slams that I would describe as even close to the others I’ve written about here. There is only one big slam I’ve had in my life so far, and it still shakes me to this day.
It was back in Summer of 2013, and I was still living in Coventry. My memory of the session is hazy, but I know for sure that Tom Sly and Stan Byrne were both there, because they both helped me after I slammed. I dropped in on the deep end at Holbrooks Bowls, carved round a corner, hit a Backside Slash on the coping and planned to pump another corner and come back for a Frontside Air. As I pumped the corner, I must have leaned too far in and caught my wheel, because my board abruptly turned and came to a dead stop, and people told me I flew off, landed on my back, and cracked the back of my skull on the concrete.
I actually don’t remember the run leading up to the slam. I only know what I did because Tom Sly filmed it and showed me. The next thing I know, Cov BMX legend Phil Bridge is carrying me out of the bowl, and people are gathered around asking if I’m OK. My vision was super fucked, and I had trouble balancing. Apparently I was knocked out for about 10 seconds.
Against my better judgement, I decided to drive home. Tom and Stan, worried for my well being, decided to help – I actually asked Stan to drive my car but he didn’t have a license so that was super risky. What we did was have Stan act as a co-pilot for me whilst I drove, making sure I was still lucid and able to control the car, and Tom would follow in his car in case we needed him to tow us or drive me. Looking back it was completely stupid. I clearly had a concussion and was in no condition to drive.
Later that day, whilst at home, I eventually started to throw up everywhere. I felt worse, so my other half got my mum and dad to come round and drive me to the hospital. I had an X-ray and waited for hours whilst I puked up some more and had nurses tell me I should wear a helmet when I skate. I was lucky in that, apart from feeling like shit, there was no permanent damage to my skull or brain. Mentally, it knocked my confidence on a skateboard massively, and perhaps exacerbated my anxieties around health and wellbeing.
So, why have I just made you sit through a bunch of guff about falling off skateboards in horrific ways? Because it’s Halloween, and you should be scared at Halloween? I mean, why do we watch horror movies? Why do we tell ghost stories? It’s because that feeling of fear, and overcoming that fear, is addictive. It’s why we skate. The feeling of staying on a skateboard and landing tricks, and not slamming on your face, makes us feel alive. I believe the risk of falling off, the fear of slamming, and the achievement we feel when we overcome the fear and land something, is what makes skateboarding so exciting, fun and amazing. Happy Halloween!
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