Tom Schaar and Bob Burnquist put on quite a show in the 2014 Skateboard Big Air Final. Schaar, just 14 years old at the time, won the gold, beating five-time defending Big Air champ Bob Burnquist buy one point, 88–87. The teenage Big Air specialist insists that luck and a mindset centered on having fun were his keys to success last year, but title defense is a monster that young Schaar is meeting for the first time this weekend.
To prevail this time around, Schaar may need the 1080 that made him famous in the skateboarding world. Schaar landed the first ever 1080 in X Games in 2012, but is weary about breaking it out this weekend. He talked with SI.com about those plans, his idols in the skateboarding world and more.
SI.com: What have been some of your favorite locations at X Games?
Tom Schaar: Some of my favorite locations at X Games were the stops on the international tour [in 2013], Munich and Barcelona. Beyond the skating, it was awesome just to be a tourist and check out the cities.
You’ve found much more success in Big Air than Vert. What’s the difference in those competitions for you personally?
TS: I don’t practice vert nearly as much as I do [on the mega ramp]. Vert is really fun, but I kind of get bored of it; it’s just back and forth. It’s safer that way, to learn tricks on vert and then take them to other places, but I like to focus more of my energy on big air. I can do way more with any one trick on the mega ramp, and that’s what I prefer.
You said that you don’t plan to break out the 1080 at X Games. Are you sticking to that?
TS: If I’m really in need of a big trick for a massive score, it’s there to be pulled out. But I don’t know. It’s been awhile since I’ve landed that in competition. I don’t even know if it’d be there for me in one try. But I would give it a shot if it were all or nothing.
What’s it like playing the role of both high school student and professional skateboarder?
TS: They are totally opposite worlds. When I’m skating, I’m not thinking about studying or homework. I’m just riding and having fun. The weirdest thing about it is probably that I have two separate sets of friends, my school friends and pro skater friends. Can’t say which I prefer, but the skateboarding definitely helps at school as well.
Who do you look up to in the skateboarding world?
TS: The guys at X Games that I look up to are Bucky Lasek and Bob Burnquist. I’ve grown up with them, and they’ve taught me things that I need to know. Not just things about skating, but publicity wise, how to handle all that. It’s awesome that I get to ride with them and compete against them. It’s still a little weird.
What did they teach you about title defense?
TS: They haven’t taught me anything about title defense. I didn’t ask. I’m just going to go out and have fun. That’s pretty much how I won last year.