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Heroes who changed action sports

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Robby Naish, Tony Hawk, Jake Burton: they all did pioneering work in their sport and shaped an entire culture, formed a new attitude to life. Some legends still influence the scene today.


Robby Naish - still on the wave at the age of 60

He is without a doubt one of the greatest heroes the sports world has ever seen: Robby Naish. Growing up in the waves off San Diego, the American became world champion in windsurfing for the first time at the age of just 13. Naish surfs away from everyone. He went on to win 23 more world titles in windsurfing and several more in kitesurfing. Naish does pioneering work! He develops windsurfing significantly, builds shorter surfboards, invents the viewing window in the sail, footstraps and the harness. He founds his company Naish Sails and produces boards, rigs, but also kite equipment, SUP boards and foil boards. After setting a new kite surfing speed record of over 70 km/h in 2001, he retires from professional sports. He still makes the waves unsafe today, for example off the coast of Costa Rica, where he surfs the longest wave of his life: he stands the over one kilometer long water roller for two minutes. Not only surfers around the world love Robby Naish, even the waves do!


Tony Hawk - the "Birdman" continues to turn his circles

As a child, Tony Hawk has psychological problems, is underchallenged at school and is a boy with high aggression potential. For this reason, his father Frank Peter Rupert Hawk gives him his first skateboard. That's when everything starts rolling! In 1982, Hawk became a professional skateboarder at the age of 14. Two years later he is considered the world's best skater, and at 17 he buys his first house. The "Birdman" flies - and how. In total, the US American can win 11 world championship titles, is considered a pioneer of the Vert style and is undoubtedly one of the most famous skateboarders in the world today. He invents about 100 new skateboard tricks like the "Stalefish", the "Hurricane" or the "900", a turn of 900 degrees. It could hardly be more difficult. Twenty years after the end of his active career, the Californian is still making a major contribution to the spread of action sports. Not only did he launch the video game series "Tony Hawk's," but in 1992 he founded the skateboard company Birdhouse Skateboards, which still exists today. With the non-profit organization "The Skatepark Project", Hawk supports the construction of skateparks for young people in underserved communities. As a result, 600 skateparks have been built worldwide to date. Hawk recalls, "The skatepark was my second home, where I found my sense of community, where I found my friends and my sense of identity. And I've never forgotten how lucky I was to have that." Dad Frank's gift not only made a positive difference to his son, but an entire culture at once!


Jake Burton - from barn to world market leader

Without Jake Burton Carpenter, an entire culture would not have existed, and a sport and its lifestyle would never have emerged. In the 1970s, Carpenter experimented with the Snurfer, the predecessor to today's snowboard, in his barn in Vermont. The Snurfer is a wide ski without bindings that has a rope attached to the tip, which you hold onto to glide through the snow. Carpenter finds this too clumsy, so he keeps tinkering. His will and enthusiasm paid off: In 1977, he founded the company Burton Snowboards, which, after initial difficulties, became the world market leader for snowboard products. It is thanks to Burton's commitment that snowboarders are allowed to ride in more and more ski resorts. In the beginning, snowboarders were not welcome there.. With the establishment of snowboard schools and competitions, the pioneer ensures further growth. In 1998 in Nagano, snowboarding is an Olympic sport for the first time. Jake Burton Carpenter once told the New York Times: "Life is not about having a pulse. It's about friends, experiences, living. When all that goes away, it's no longer life." In 2019, Jake Burton Carpenter dies of cancer. But his legend lives on.


David Belle - jump into the hearts of fans

It all started in the forests of northern France. Raymond Belle, who fought as a child soldier in Vietnam, shows his son David how to move quickly and efficiently in thickets. When the Belle family moves to the small Paris suburb of Lisses in the 1980s, David adapts the method of playful chase to the conditions of the city. Walls, house walls, stairs, fences, wastebaskets or ping-pong tables - David uses all that is available and perfects his methods. The result is Parkour, probably the most artistic form of locomotion. David Belle is considered its founder and developer. For the Frenchman, Parkour is active meditation that strengthens focus. In 2005, he founded the Parkour Worldwide Association (PAWA), whose support he gave up after only one year. Belle studies acting and also uses his skills in his profession. As a stuntman and actor, he is part of major film productions such as "The Purple Rivers 2", "Transporter - The Mission" or Luc Besson's action film "Brick Mansions". Belle has also appeared in commercials for Nike, Canon and Nissan. Only recently he embodied the main character in the post-apocalyptic video game "Dying Light 2". From time to time, Belle still ventures into parkour away from the virtual world. For how much longer? "My body alone decides that. When it says that's enough, then I stop," says the 49-year-old.


Layne Beachley - from surfing to coaching

As a child, Layne Beachley has dreams of making a career in the stock market. After a two-week internship, however, she realizes what a shark tank she's in. She prefers to throw herself into the waves off the Australian coast and becomes a professional surfer at the age of 16. She becomes world champion seven times, making her the most successful pro surfer in the world. The Australian founded the "Aim for the Stars Foundation" and wants to support young female surfers with her organization. "Traveling halfway around the world was a challenge without any guarantee of prize money. I feel blessed to be in a position today to give back to the new generation," says the 50-year-old. Today, Beachley rarely gets on her board; the sport has left its mark. She prefers to devote herself to her new passion, coaching. She gives courses in "self-empowerment": releasing fear, finding courage and bringing back the fun - Layne Beachley knows all about that!


Bob Burnquist - still on fire for the board

Bob Burnquist was born to skateboard and will probably take it to his grave: "I won't stop skating until I die." The Brazilian native discovered skateboarding for himself at age 11 and has been flying over the world's biggest ramps ever since. One of them is in his backyard, "Dreamland" he christened it. From time to time, he opens his skate paradise to fans. They still adore Burnquist, who was the first person to land a "Fakie 900. The 46-year-old skateboarding pro has won 30 medals at the X Games in his career. This makes him the most successful X-Games athlete of all time.

Which younger action athletes have what it takes to become legends?

These three up-and-coming talents are shaking up the action sports scene:


Kriss Kyle - the sky is not the limit

Already at the age of 10 Kriss Kyle started with BMX and from the beginning it has been his dream to become a professional. The 31-year-old Briton has long since achieved this. Today, he is one of the most creative park riders on the scene and is always generating head-shaking excitement with new ideas. Those who have already heard of Kaleidoscope Kyle's latest project will make you wonder what the limits are for this man. Finally Kyle takes off, more precisely to a skatepark bowl in 610 meters height, hanging from a huge hot air balloon. The only stipulation: "Don't look down!" In case of emergency, Kyle has to wear an emergency parachute. The result is both insane and unbelievable. We are curious to see what Kyle will conjure up next from his helmet. The Scotsman is sure to rock for even longer!


Leo Baker - role model for the LGTBQ community

Raised in a foster family - his father died early, his mother was a drug addict - Leo Baker finds his home early in skateboarding. Only there can he be the way he wants to be. In puberty he finally realizes that he was born in the wrong body. At that time Leo is still called Lacey and wins under this name almost everything there is to win in the skateboarding world. With the numerous successes, Baker is in the first place in the world rankings and even becomes the world champion in 2006. Baker is celebrated by fans and sponsors, the career seems pre-programmed. But in silence, Leo struggles with his identity. Privately, he has already come out as trans, dropped his name Lacey and changed his pronouns from she/her to he/him. But under pressure from sponsors who want to profit from one of the best female skateboarders to date, he still takes part in contests as a woman. The fear of losing sponsors and having to hang up his dream of becoming a skate pro was too great. In 2019, Leo Baker manages to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where skateboarding will be held as its own discipline for the first time. But with the prospect of skating for the women's team, he decides not to compete. As a non-binary person, Baker doesn't want to have to submit to a gender he doesn't identify with. After the athletic outing, many sponsors turn away. The US American can no longer afford the life as a skateboarding pro and henceforth works as a graphic designer. Skateboarding - actually a sport that stands for individuality and boundless freedom. But Leo Baker has had other, painful experiences. The Netflix documentary "Stay on board!" tells of this impressively and sensitively. Baker is proof that sports are about more than just success and competitions.

Today, Leo is happier than ever, completely without competitions. But instead with his own skateboard brand Glue, which advocates for queer people. Leo Baker also appears as a character in Tony Hawk's new video game. Meanwhile, the 31-year-old has become an icon of the LGBTQ community and the face of Nike's Equality campaign. Miley Cyrus is celebrating him in 2019 with an appearance in her music video for Mother's Daughter. Staying true to himself, authentic and steadfast - Baker has proven that and that is exactly why he is a hero to many.


Anna Gasser - to the top of the world in just three years

Anna Gasser proves that it's never too late to start something new. The Austrian gymnast was an active gymnast until the age of 15, when she lost interest in the gym. After three years without sports, she realizes that something is missing. Her cousin shows her snowboard videos, Gasser is totally flashed. At the end of 2010 she stands on a snowboard for the first time, a few days later she decides to turn pro. Three years later, she becomes a shooting star overnight. She is the first woman to stand the "Double Creek 900", a double backflip with two and a half helical turns. Since then, Anna Gasser has been shaking up the snowboard scene in freestyle. Two times gold at the Winter Olympics, two times gold at World Championships, four times winner at the X-Games, a total of six overall World Cup victories. Many are good, but Gasser is more blatant! Gasser also brings the "Cab Triple Underflip 1260," a triple backflip with a half turn, to the slopes. Then a setback: in 2019 she seriously injures her ankle and has to take a break for ten weeks. Just one month after this break, she manages another record jump. At a video shoot, she stands the "Cab Double Cork 1260" - three and a half turns, two of which are overhead. Absolutely dizzying. "It's worth taking a risk if you have a passion," says the Carinthian. Thanks to Anna Gasser, a new era in snowboarding has dawned. With her, women now show the same daring tricks as men. Now she is no longer just smiled at, she is marveled at.

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