It didn’t take long — 25 seconds to be exact — for professional snowboarder Shaun White to bring a two-decades-old skateboarding trick to the masses.
After securing his second Olympic gold medal in February, White made global headlines when he pulled the highly anticipated Double McTwist 1260 during his final run.
Like White, the McTwist, a 540-degree spin while grabbing the board, has its roots in North County. White, a Carlsbad native, is also a professional skateboarder who grew up skating at Ecke YMCA skatepark in Encinitas with the likes of McTwist originator Mike McGill.
“It definitely feels good when somebody like Shaun White gives you props for your trick,” said McGill, who landed the first McTwist at a Swedish summer camp in 1984. “I made the trick and I still couldn’t believe how he was going to do two (spins) because you are going blind twice.”
McGill, then a 20-year-old from Florida, helped usher in a new aerial dimension to vert skating by inventing the dynamic maneuver on a halfpipe at the summer camp.
“I knew if I was going to do it — I thought about it for a while — that I was going to have to get out of the halfpipe two or three feet,” said McGill, who owns and operates McGill’s Skate Shop in Encinitas. “It’s a trick you just can’t do low.”
Immediately, fellow Powell Peralta team riders Rodney Mullen and Lance Mountain, who were also in Sweden, went to work. Mountain broke out a single shot camera, while Mullen named the trick, McGill said.
A few months later, when McGill made his way out to San Diego for a contest at Del Mar Skatepark, word had spread and McGill didn’t disappoint. Inspired by the 540 airs of California roller skater Fred Blood, McGill performed his signature move at the contest.
By this time, McGill was adding an inverted twist to the maneuver.
“People were really jazzed,” McGill said. “I was just going to do it in my run and not tell anybody to see what the reaction was because it was such an odd, different trick.”
Unlike Spuds MacKenzie and Max Headroom, the McTwist is a 1980s fad that has aged well. The trick is so legendary that until recently no female skater had landed it.
“You can’t just try it and bail easy,” said McGill who still competes in Masters competitions. “You have to actually do the trick three-quarters of the way to bail. If you stop doing the trick halfway up, you’ll fall on your back or your head.”
In November, however, Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins, of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, shattered the 25-year barrier by becoming the first female skater to land the McTwist.
After years of visualizing and practicing the maneuver, Hawkins, 20, nailed the McTwist in Paris, France, during the Tony Hawk Show at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Quicksilver brand.
“It was awesome,” said Hawkins adding that she hopes the accomplishment will motivate other girls to push women’s skateboarding to new heights. A mentor to Hawkins, seven-time X Games medalist Bucky Lasek said the trick requires a strong mental prowess.
“It’s all mindset, it has nothing to do with gender,” said Lasek who resides in Rancho Santa Fe. From the get-go the McTwist feels unorthodox because you’re throwing your feet above your head.
“At the beginning of the first spin, you feel like your committing suicide,” Lasek said.
Without a net
Now that White has stomped the Double McTwist, which consists of two flips and three and a half spins, on a snowboard, it begs the question of whether the trick is possible by skateboarders on the quarterpipe of the big air ramp known as the MegaRamp.
“I think those guys are probably thinking about it right now,” McGill said with a smile.
MegaRamps are behemoth structures that consist of a roll-in, a gap jump and a quarter pipe. They are used in Big Air events around the world.
The large-format ramp enables skateboarders to reach higher speeds and amplitude more akin to what snowboarders are able to achieve on a snow halfpipe compared to a traditional skateboard vert ramp. X Games gold medal winner Jake Brown is no stranger to this increased amplitude. In the 2007 X Games, Brown fell 40 feet after he miscalculated a McTwist on his takeoff from the quarterpipe of the MegaRamp. Two years later, the Oceanside-based skater returned to claim gold after airing a 20-foot-high McTwist above the quarterpipe.
Because of the increased hang time and transition of the MegaRamp, Lasek said he believed a move like the Double McTwist would “definitely” be possible.
“I’m not saying it would be easy, but it would be easier,” Lasek said. “If you were comfortable on the MegaRamp, it would be easier for you to do it on the MegaRamp then a normal vert ramp.”
Currently, skateboarding pro Bob Burnquist has completed a 720-degree spin on the MegaRamp. The 900, a McTwist with an additional 360, remains the most rotations performed by a skateboarder on a normal vert ramp.
Hawkins, the first female to skate the MegaRamp, brings up one crucial difference between practicing tricks on the big air ramp compared to a snowboard halfpipe: foam.
While White learned the Double McTwist from snow into a foam pit, that same safety net does not exist for skateboarders launching off the MegaRamp’s quarterpipe, she said.
“I don’t know if anyone would ever commit to actually hucking that,” Hawkins said.