Eight years ago, the X Games debuted a new event wherein skaters rolled down a nine-story drop-in, flew over a “death gap,” then landed on a wooden hill that led up a 27-foot quarterpipe. The Big Air event was held on the MegaRamp, which has since become a stalwart of the Games and modern skateboarding.
Today the ramp sits dissected in a warehouse in Industry, California, but will become the focal point at X Games 18 this summer in downtown Los Angeles, when master builder Brian Harper begins the mega-task of reconstructing the ramp.
“We’ve got it down to about four days,” says Harper, “but it’s a long four days.” Harper runs CA Ramp Works, the company that built and owns the MegaRamp, and will oversee the 120-odd pieces loaded onto four flatbed trucks for three 15-mile trips downtown. Then a 10-man crew will work 12-hour days to build the pieces around scaffolding installed over the last 48 hours, a job requiring three cranes, several forklifts, and a man bucket.
Though instantly recognizable and possibly the most photographed single thing in skateboarding’s 60-year history, the MegaRamp is a youngster.
“Danny [Way] dreamed this scenario up,” says Harper, recalling meetings and sketches with the legendary pro throughout the late 1990s. “And we’re all skateboarders so we all knew what felt right... with Danny’s knowledge and our experience in building, we figured it out.”
Harper completed construction in summer of 2001 at the now defunct Point X Camp near Temecula, California. Way was its first rider. Harper would go on to de- and reconstruct ramps in Mexico, Brazil, Vista, California (where the only permanent MegaRamp resides on Bob Burnquist’s 12-acre farm), China (where Way jumped the Great Wall), and finally to downtown L.A. in 2004, where guess who took gold at X Games 10.
End to end, the ramp spans 330 feet, the length of three brontosauri. Its hollow skeleton is steel, covered with birch plywood, which is covered with quarter-inch thick sheets of a composite and water-resistant material called Skatelite. The roll-in has two peaks: One 88 feet from the ground and another 15 feet lower. From there, riders roll down at about 55 mph towards one of two gaps, 50 feet and 70 feet, then -- hopefully -- touch down safely on the wide wooden landing.
Most slide off then, content with still being alive, but a few stay on and roll up the quarterpipe to take to the air, ending a spectacular feat even more spectacularly, or thoroughly breaking themselves. Pat Duffy shattered his tibia; Tony Hawk floated a beautiful backside air 15 feet over the coping. And six weeks ago, 12-year-old wunderkind Tom Schaar landed the first 1080 in skateboarding, on the Mega's quarterpipe.
Could you have one in your back yard?
“Sure,” says Harper. “For $500,000.”
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