Teen Lands First Wheelchair Double Backflip

Aug 31, 2010
Outside Magazine

On August 26, Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham became the first person in a wheelchair to land a double backflip. The 18-year old, who was born with Spina Bifida, had been dreaming about the double since he landed his first single backflip in 2006, becoming a YouTube sensation. With a little help from Nitro Circus, Fotheringham got access to a foam pit and a giant ramp with a 35-foot gap so he could practice. Then he pulled the stunt off at Woodward skate camp in Pennsylvania—on a 5-foot ramp. (See video above.)

Outside caught up with the Las Vegas resident to get the details.

That was insane.
I’m so stoked right now. I still have problems sleeping.

How did you get the speed to pull it off?
We had a bungee cord we pulled back like 40 feet. I grabbed onto it then it sucked me toward the ramp. It was the scariest thing ever.

The ramp in the video looks tiny.
I was only getting 10 or 11 feet of air when I would go for the double. I tried it 15 times with Nitro Circus on their Australian tour but I never landed it. It’s a trick that I’m not too friendly with because it hasn’t been treating me very nicely.

Coach me. How do you do that?
Put the foam pit to good use. A helmet is a given. With this trick, I added a neck brace. The best advice to land a double flip is to be calm. Even though it’s very scary and the most uncommon thing ever, you just have to calm down, know what you’re doing, pull back, then watch for your landing. You’ll see the ground go by once, then you gotta tell it goodbye, then you gotta go around again.

Is that the scariest trick you’ve done?
So far it is because there are two points in that trick where you can get really messed up—two points where you’re risking your head. I’ve also been working on a front flip. I’m gonna have to say that one’s scarier than the back flip. In the front flip, you’re trying to get around without your head digging into the ground.

What’s with the Skittles?
In Australia, their Skittles have different flavors. I was really diggin’ them and I ate two packs one night and I had a third I was about to eat but then Chad Kagy--the pro BMXer who just won the gold medal at the X Games for big air—took it away from me. He said, “No, Wheelz, I’m saving it for tomorrow, you’re eating too many.” So he called me before I met up with him at Woodward this last week and said he had a gift for me. When we met up, he handed me a pound of Skittles. So I said, “You know what? When I land my double backflip, I’m going to make it rain Skittles.” I spent $36 worth of Skittles, but it was totally worth it.

Fotheringham, who has appeared in demonstrations at the last three X-Games, hopes to compete one day on the X Games mega ramp in a new category: WCMX. Wheelchair motocross. Watch his Nitro Circus backflip, and his original backflip from 2006 below.

--Erin Beresini

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