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Bob Burnquist Interview

From just starting out in Brazil to the X-Games

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Bob Burnquist Closeup

Bob Burnquist Skateboarding at the last day of Thailand's X Games Cup in Bangkok, March, 27, 2005

ESPN Photo / Alvin Yong
Bob Burnquist has been a pro skater for over 10 years. He's competed in every X Games, he's famous for pulling off the natural loop, and he's held in general esteem as one of the planets best skateboarders. I was able to talk with Bob Burnquist about his start in skateboarding, some great moments, and where he sees himself going from here:

Steve Cave: Tell me a little bit about your start in skateboarding. When did you first feel like you made it?

Bob Burnquist: I grew up in Brazil, so I’m a Brazilian American. I skated several contests down there as an Am, and I started doing good. To me that’s all I really wanted to do. Contests started to come around, like local contests and stuff and I started doing good in those, and I never really thought I would get to the professional level. I just wanted to keep going.

When I first got approached by a small company in Brazil to get sponsored, it was just to get some free clothes or whatever. I was like, to me I made it! I mean wow man, this is insane! I’m skateboarding and I’m getting free stuff, and then I started getting free boards, and all of a sudden you start getting hooked up, and you don’t have to worry about talking to your parents and asking for a new board and asking for stuff, so I had made it right then, you know? There I am, getting free stuff. But then as time goes by you start to grow and mature and you realize, “I have to make a decision here.” Skateboarding might not last forever -- professionally only a few people make money doing it, and in Brazil it was unheard of, so I had to make a decision of moving out and trying it, taking a shot at the US, chance it and try and make it happen over here. So I made that trip and this was about July of 1994, and basically fell in love with the way skateboarding was ingrained. I would just have my skateboard 24 – 7, everywhere I went, public transportation, I started living it and that’s when I was like, “Wow, I do not want to go back to Brazil, this is the way I want to live skateboarding-wise.” I started getting sponsored and I started making 800 bucks a month, and I was like, “This is insane!” I would never have had that chance in Brazil.

I would say 95. That was a big push and a big point moving forward. And after that things just started happening. With that event I qualified for the X Games, and it was the FIRST X-Games, it was the “Extreme Games” back then. I mean when they told me I qualified I was like, “Allright. Whatever.” (LAUGHS) I ended up going to the event and I was like, “I wish I didn’t qualify for THIS!” It was really horrible, and everyone knows, it was a weird thing, the portrayal of what they thought we were about, but it happened, and now X-Games 10 years and all the exposure that we’ve gotten from it, the evolution, all that stuff. That one contest started a lot of tings, and I’ve since participated for every single X-Games, I’ve qualified for every single one – probably only a couple of other athletes have been in all of ‘em. So it was a big deal. But I go have fun with it. It’s a mix – my lifestyle is mixed. It’s business, personal, fun, and not fun.

Steve Cave: That makes sense. What times would you say are the “not fun” times?

Bob Burnquist: Oh the not fun times are when you are in an airplane for 20 hours and then you show up, like I did this demo in South Africa and I missed my flight so I had to go back the next day, so now I’m getting in on the day of the demo, so I’m all tired and jetlagged and I have to get into the hotel and grab my stuff to go to the ramp, and skate. Those are the times where you can get hurt! Because your body is not, I mean you’re fit and you can do it, but you’re not ready. You know, traveling just takes a toll on you. Those are the times that it it’s not fun. But then I get on my board and I see all the people are stoked all around and they’re like, “Yeah!” and you get so stoked that you got there, you’re never really in South Africa so they’ve never seen you live, and they get excited so you kind of get that energy back, and it’s not fun to motivate to do it because it’s the last thing you want to do, but once you’re doing it, because it is skateboarding, once I get on my board I just kind of, “Ok just let me have some fun with this and have a good time with it!”

Steve Cave: What do you do to prepare for a competition?

Bob Burnquist: I’ve progressed a lot. I have asthma, I grew up with asthma –

Steve Cave: Oh wow! I didn’t know that.

Interview continues on page 2...

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