VISTA, Calif. — Up until the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 23, only about 15 skateboarders in the world had successfully completed the 360-degree loop ride made famous 20 years ago by Carlsbad, Calif., skating legend Tony Hawk.
Now, three more names, including the first woman, can be added to that rarified list. That Sunday, Southern California skaters Jeromy Green, Charlie Blair and Lizzie Armanto made it all the way around the wood and steel ramp without a fall at a promotional event outside Hawk's company warehouse in Vista.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hawk's achievement, an hourlong contest was hosted by NextVR, a live-streaming company where subscribers wearing virtual reality headsets at home can experience what the skaters experienced live and in color.
Hawk, 50, was on hand to host the event, support the skaters and talk about how he first achieved the loop on a ramp he designed himself, after much trial and error, in the late 1990s.
The original ramp, which Hawk designed to look like the loop in the Hot Wheels toy track, is 16 feet long with a 14-foot vertical loop height. Starting from a launch ramp, skaters travel at 13 mph as they enter the loop. Most skaters end up falling either when they're upside down or as they roll into the final finish of the loop.
The trick, Hawk told viewers, is for the skater to get enough momentum while still maintaining control to keep his or her wheels in contact with the ramp surface for the entire loop without falling.
After successfully competing the loop in 1998, Hawk designed a more compact, portable loop that traveled with his team during his 2003 Boom Boom Huckjam tour. That was the last time he attempted the stunt himself. The track has been in storage ever since, except for occasional special events like this virtual reality broadcast, where cameras were placed at eight stations along the track.
"The ability to let people experience the loop in virtual reality changes everything," Hawk said about the event in a statement. "Only about 15 people have ever completed the loop, so the chance to have a VR camera place you in the loop is incredible."
Before an in-person audience of a couple hundred spectators and an online audience thath NextVR said was its highest ever minutes-viewed-per-session broadcast, a couple dozen skaters tried their luck on the ramp.
They included Hawk's son Riley, 11-year-old Gavin Bottger of Oceanside, Calif., and 18-year-old Felipe Nunes of Brazil, who lost both legs just above the knees after a train accident when he was 6 years old.
The first skater to complete the loop Sunday to wild cheers from the local audience and a blast from a confetti cannon was Green, a 22-year-old professional skater from Jamul, Calif.
He posted a video of his loop run on his Instagram profile thanking Hawk for the opportunity and longtime support and saying "I definitely needed the squat gods for that one."
Blair is a 28-year-old pro skater from Fullerton, Calif., who said after the run in an Instagram post that he's "stoked to be a part of the club."
Armanto is a 25-year-old pro skater from Santa Monica. She became the first woman to complete the loop, although she didn't achieve her goal during the one-hour NextVR broadcast. After the cameras were turned off and the crowd dispersed, she wanted one more shot at the ramp and succeeded on her final try.
"Still doesn't feel real," she wrote on her Instagram page.