The ‘Leap of Faith’ Was Skateboarding’s Definitive Avant-Garde Moment
January 19, 2018 - skateboarding
Twenty-one years ago, a male on a skateboard fell down a 17-foot dump during a schoolyard in San Diego and altered a universe forever.
Known as a “Leap of Faith,” a try was featured on a skateboard association Zero’s seminal 1997 video Thrill of It All, and immediately done a sport’s story books. Overnight, a man behind it, Jamie Thomas, a 22-year-old from Dothan, Alabama, became an attention celebrity. Two years later, he was immortalized as a impression in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, a supplement to that featured a turn with a opening named after his famous impact during Point Loma High School. Back in genuine life, other skaters began entertainment during a plcae anticipating to best him. Some formula are now online, including footage of Richard King, who pennyless his leg after plummeting like a stone to a concrete.
In comparison, Thomas’s attempt is masterful. As he approaches a handrail separating him from intensity oblivion, he crouches and quietly executes an ollie melon. Then he descends. For what feels like eternity—actually entirely over a second—he hangs in a ether, floating on 4 wheels. An aura of peace surrounds him. Everything is wordless entirely for a sound of photographer Grant Brittain’s camera. It’s all going perfectly. But as Thomas nears a tarmac there’s something amiss; his feet are an in. or so too tighten to a center of his board. On any other day, such a tiny blunder would be inconsequential. But during this height, a impact is magnified a thousand-fold. As he lands, his house snaps, and his physique folds like a tin can. Yet as he falls, he still maintains an atmosphere of grace, acrobatics onto his shoulder and shifting out of support with finesse. In a background, onlookers start to cheer. A fable is made.
In 2005, a propagandize built an conveyor on a site, ensuring that no one would ever chuck themselves down a dump again. Unlike a famous El Toro step set, or a Carlsbad gap, with that large skaters done names for themselves by doing bigger and gnarlier tricks than those who came before them, no one will ever chuck themselves down a Leap of Faith again. The mark belongs entirely to Jamie Thomas.
The story behind a eventuality has entirely extended a status. At a time, Thomas was holding a risk with his career as good as his body. Since 1995, he’d been sponsored by a legendary Toy Machine skateboards. While there, he’d destined videos, acted as group manager, and warranted a desired final territory in one of a decade’s best transformation videos, Welcome to Hell. Then, in 1997, he gave adult all to start his possess brand, Zero. Thrill of It All was his entrance into a business, and Zero’s success complacent on him. Whether he satisfied it during a time or not, a Leap of Faith was during once a arrangement of ability as good as a broadside stunt. Photos of a dive—emblazoned with “JAMIE THOMAS RIDES FOR ZERO”—appeared as a full-page ad in Transworld Skateboarding. Zero was really many on a map.
Commercial concerns aside, a eventuality seemed preordained. In a 2013 interview with King Shit magazine, Thomas removed that before to creation a jump, he detected someone had created his name on a handrail. Fate works in puzzling ways.
In many respects, a Leap of Faith was also a essence of an rising form of travel skating that total dexterity, mortal risk, and spectacle. At a time, a fortify was evolving, and people were still finding what their play and bodies could achieve. Thomas’s wipeout was therefore critical in dual ways. Firstly, it charted a extent of opening jumping—no one has verifiably skated a dump that large since. And secondly, it solidified an era—already burgeoning given a days of Frankie Hill and a Gonz—in that travel skaters focused on large tricks on large things. For during slightest a decade, skating (and dressing) like Jamie Thomas became one of skateboarding’s many widespread styles.
In 1998, for instance, Birdhouse expelled The End, a video braggadocio a immature Andrew Reynolds frontside flipping a 13-step set of stairs, and Heath Kirchart boardsliding El Toro dressed like Michael Jackson. That same year, Jeremy Wray done history by clearing an 18-foot opening between dual 40-foot H2O towers in Rowland Heights, California—another one-off. Fast-forward to 2002, and Flip’s equally iconic Sorry video offering Geoff Rowley’s “gnarliest” moments, as good as Ali Boulala’s unsuccessful try during clearing a 14.5-foot Lyon 25 (a attainment that would go achieved until Jaws nailed it in Oct 2015).
This character entirely became some-more distinguished during a early 2000s, a bang epoch for daredevil travel skating. It was during this time that skateboarding began to truly exam a boundaries, and large skaters done a name for themselves formed on their eagerness to jump down ever-larger staircases and handrails. The list of critical tricks from this time duration is long, and nonetheless not one of these creates is as legendary Thomas’s fall. And, since of how skateboarding is consumed now—immediately, and entirely on Instagram—it seems doubtful that any destiny pretence could have a mystique and expectation indispensable to make a identical impact.
In new years, skateboarding has arguably grown over a epoch of Big Shit. Skaters, maybe carrying found a roof of what they can physically withstand, have mostly stopped competition for ever-bigger drops. Instead they’re bringing increasingly difficult tricks—the 90s-era technical flips and spins that fell out of conform during a change from uninformed to hesh—to a large spots of yesterday. The slaying of dangerous landmarks is alive and well, it’s entirely that 2017’s Thrasher Skater of a Year did a frontside curved grind in a same place where a lipslide was once mind-blowing.
Thomas’s change stays indisputable, nonetheless it still seems as if skateboarding has unsuccessful to grasp a Leap of Faith’s fashionable significance. Skate videos might entirely exist merely to illustrate talent and foster brands, though Thomas’s exploits in San Diego were so matchless that they are estimable of a care entirely indifferent for cultured objects. Skateboarders are lustful of observant that their hobby is not a competition though an art, so it maybe shouldn’t be too startling that a closest comparison to Thomas’s Leap is not an jaunty attainment though a square from a Met Museum’s collection —Yves Klein’s 1960 photomontage,Leap into a Void.
A French judo master, Klein’s work focused on representing a unrepresentable, severe Western beliefs of pseudo art. As a child, he began portrayal surfaces in monochrome blocks as an try to clear a “pure freedom” of “existential space”—a place in between life and death. Later, this use grown into his signature shade of blue. Leap into a Void, depicting a artist clearly swan diving from a wall, was an prolongation of this project. Composed of dual superimposed images (Klein was held by friends who were afterwards edited out), it was primarily distributed in a journal alongside a direct that to paint space one contingency “go there by his possess means, by an autonomous, particular force.” But notwithstanding carrying a picturesque coming of a photo, what it depicts did not occur.
In many respects, a Leap of Faith is identical to Klein’s artwork. On a really apparent level, both etch group jumping from good tallness and both have a same word in their titles. Moreover, both have speedy people to make leaps of their own. In Thomas’s case, he pushed skateboarding to dangerous new heights; in Klein’s case, he enticed his assembly into desiring his trompe l’oeil. But maybe a many impressive likeness is a approach in that Thomas’s burst resembles a French artist’s recommendation to determined painters. In those iconic shutting moments from Thrill of It All, Thomas is figuratively delineating space by his possess force, charting a unrepresentable measure around his physique and movement. And some-more importantly, as he flies by a air, he is held between life and death, dangling in a blank of nonexistence—the ultimate Kleinean motif.
Follow Huw Nesbitt on Twitter.