Two Mesa boys are causing a quite stir in the action sports world as critics question if the two are big enough, old enough and experienced enough to compete.
While not even teenagers, grade-schoolers Jagger Eaton and Trey Wood are among some of the best skateboarders in the world and will compete in the 2012 X Games in Los Angeles later this month in the MegaRamp Big Air competition.
Age 11 and under 5-feet-tall, Jagger will be the youngest competitor to ever compete in the event.
“We want to be judged on our skill, not our age,” Jagger said.
Trey, who also is 11, added: “People see us as little babies, but I see it as we can do it, so why not.”
They may not be babies now, but the two weren’t much older than that when they began skating; both were about 5, their parents said.
“They had a great head-start, a great coach and they’ve put in the hours,” said Geoff Eaton, Jagger’s father. “It’s a testament to what we can do with young skateboarders if we get them in early.”
The invitation alone means the two are among the top riders in the world, but it wasn’t that long ago that they were looking up to those same skateboarders.
“They’re competing against people they’ve always looked up to,” said Stacy Wood, Trey’s mother. “They’re up against people they used to see and ask to sign their boards.”
To prepare for the games, Trey, Jagger and Jett Eaton, Jagger’s older brother, have been training on the Westwood MegaRamp in California for over a year.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, a MegaRamp consists of a roll-in structure with a gap jump into a vert ramp, which is essentially a half-pipe that consists of a flat bottom that slopes up to vertical walls.
“It’s hard to find riders for this ramp,” Geoff Eaton said. “There are some professional skaters who won’t ride it. It takes an exceptional skater with exceptional board control, a lot of heart and a lot of guts. They have trouble finding 18 riders.”
While both boys are nervous for the competition — the roll-in is a lot steeper than the one they are used to — both boys know that all it takes is one time to be comfortable.
“We just have to get over our fears, just make it through the first time and then we’ll be fine,” Jagger said.
The two have more time on the MegaRamp than most of their competitors, Geoff Eaton said. Only three or four professional skaters have more practice time on the MegaRamp.
“I’m very confident in their ability to ride safely,” Geoff Eaton said. “If I wasn’t 100 percent confident of their ability to ride safely, I wouldn’t let them ride.”
Riding safely is a major concern, a reasonable one.
Jagger’s 13-year-old brother, Jett Eaton, was also invited to the X Games this year. About a month ago, the day after he received his invitation letter, Jett fell during a run on the MegaRamp and lost consciousness.
“They had to air-evac him out,” Shelly Eaton said, her eyes searching the gym until she found him playing with his brother. “He couldn’t stop seizing.
“To see him over here jumping and playing, being perfectly normal is a miracle,” she said. “He’s done with this level of competition for awhile, possibly forever, but he still has a good attitude.”
Both boys’ parents have encouraged their skateboarding, but neither family thought the boys would excel so quickly at such a young age.
“They wanted me to play basketball,” Trey said with a shrug.
“Honestly, we expected him to play a team sport,” said Stacy Wood, Trey’s mother.
But Trey had different plans.
“I love it because it’s a mind game; it teaches you like respect and stuff,” Trey said. “And there are an unstoppable amount of tricks.”
Jagger and Jett started skating when their father bought them boards as a present. It didn’t start as anything serious, but the brothers showed an aptitude for it, Geoff Eaton said.
The Eaton family has long since owned the Desert Devils Gym in Mesa. Geoff turned a small room into a little skate park for his boys, he said. Several families asked if they were offering skateboarding classes. Sensing a demand, they started the “little league of skateboarding.”
“Basically, skate parks are not meant for little kids,” Eaton said. “Older crowds expect others to know what they’re doing and little kids don’t always know.”
Adapting a similar learning structure as the gymnastics curriculum and with a safe environment, students at Kids That Rip advance at their own pace with a step-by-step curriculum, Eaton said. “I’m proud of both of them for different reasons,” Shelly Eaton said of her sons. “Jagger is more of a street skater and the MegaRamp is something out of his comfort zone. Jett, this is his thing, and I’m so proud of him for still keeping a good attitude and being happy for his brother. I’m just glad they found something they love, something they are passionate about.”
Trey and Jagger, who say they expect to have a decades-long career ahead of them, don’t expect to win in Los Angeles. But they already won, just by getting the chance to go.
“The goal isn’t to compete and win,” Geoff Eaton said. “The goal is to experience the X Games, to breathe in the incredible experience.”
The Big Air elimination round will begin at 6 p.m. June 28, with the final round at 6 p.m. June 29.
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