Interview by Johnny Lytle

It’s important to consider this video before you read further. The main thing Aaron and I had in common the day we met was that we both dreamed to see or achieve success on a Mega Ramp on a regular wheel-base wheelchair. Since this interview took place, I tried to contact Danny Way, Bob Burnquist, or anyone with a Mega Ramp. They either didn’t return calls or said they could not take on the liability. (Of course, this has all now changed.) Ironically, we had failed to think of Travis Pastrana, but the beautiful thing is, Travis Pastrana did not fail to think of Aaron. After finding some videos of Aaron on YouTube, Travis contacted Aaron and invited him to his Nitro Circus training facility in Temecula, CA where Aaron and I arrived to “take a look” at the ramp. Aaron not only nailed it on this ramp on the very first day, but on the very first drop into a backflip, forever changing the meaning of life on a wheelchair, (if he had not done that already). Now Aaron is a fixture in the Nitro Circus and has successfully landed both backflip and front flips over the Giganta Ramp in front of thousands of viewers.

Aaron is one of the coolest, bravest, and sincere people of our time. Aaron and I recorded this interview in his kitchen in Las Vegas the first day we met and I am deeply, deeply honored to call him my friend. Watch out for my second interview coming soon. Since this one, so much has happened…

—Johnny Lytle

The First Trip over the Giganta Ramp

Backflip included. People cried. Photos: Johnny Lytle

Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham

Yo… so a long-awaited meeting with Aaron here, the real-life personification of my 25-year-old drawings. That’s a big hallelujah there. Some quick stuff, age today: 16.

Where were you born? Las Vegas.

Current Sponsors? Ogio, Schwalbe, Oakley, SixSixOne, Osiris, BONES WHEELS, Bones Swiss, DT Swiss. And Mom and Dad. Yeah.

What’s your first memory of life? The oldest thing I remember is this one time I was in my wheelchair. I was like 3 or something. My parents didn’t let me go on a hike with my brothers, sisters, and cousins. So I was just sitting there pouting in my little red wheelchair, like looking down this trail that I wasn’t allowed to go down. That’s my youngest memory I remember.

What’s the oldest possession you have? I never throw anything away, I’m a packrat. That’s the hardest question I ever had. I like this interview. Dang… my oldest possession, where do you come up with this?

I’m a skateboarder. Which is good. But my oldest possession, I honestly don’t know. My bed feels like it’s fifty years old, all these springs and whatnot.

Well, think about it and get back to me. OK, I’ll think about that.

What is your most embarrassing moment? (Pause and laughter … Motion to stop recording) Umm well, I don’t remember where it was, but someone was asking me how I do all these tricks and I fell over backward talking to them. I went all the way back. Pretty bad. Dang, these questions. Crazy.

We can roll with that answer if you want. Yeah, I’ll probably come up with something at dinner.

Handiplant

What’s your pet peeve? I hate it when someone snakes me at the park.

What’s your favorite band? Oh, there’s a local band here called Battle Born and they’re awesome. I hang out with them. But besides them… As I lay dying is good. Street Light Manifesto, yeah, some ska. Oh, Pennywise is definitely my favorite band. NoFx is sick.

Do you get a lot of letters from kids? Not really kids or anything, it’s mainly just people wanting me to do an event.

Well, where are the kids? I get some feedback. People are asking me how I do my tricks, or oh man, you’re inspirational, you’re awesome. I guess I do get more than I think. I’ve had people that want to take me to visit fresh vets, injured soldiers. That would be cool to do.

I see you have BONES Skate Park Formulas for your front wheels there. I love em. They’re so hard, you get so much speed.

How’s the relationship with Mike Box? First of all, he was there for me before anyone, before I did the flip or any real cool tricks. He was there supporting me and giving me chairs and he was the nicest guy I’ve ever met. No wheelchair company has ever said… Destroy our chair. Normally, insurance is like, you destroyed the chair too fast. But then Mike says, “Go ahead, break it, I’ll build you a new one.” I’m always scared to tell him, “I broke the chair”, but he’s always way cool about it. He’s like, “Then when are you coming to fix it?” It’s a personal challenge to break the chair, ya know, cause he’s built it so strong. It’s almost impossible to break.

Wheelz sets his eyes on his first mega ramp at the ASR Show in San Diego. Photo: Johnny Lytle

Are you working on any chair prototypes? This pretty much is a prototype cause no one else has this frame.

So when all hell breaks loose with this chair, you gotta ship it down to CA? Normally, we drive down to California to do it.

But if you break it, you can’t ride? You gotta get two of these in rotation. That’s what we try to do but I destroy them too fast before we can get another one built. I don’t know what we do, dude. It’s just a process.

So who else has been really helpful? Fox Shox has given us the suspension to put on here. We started off with a 480 lb spring and I didn’t realize it was too strong until I tested it. So I launched off this ledge and bam, it all went to my back, pulled a few muscles and hurt my lung. We talked to them and they nicely shipped me some new shocks. And then Schwalbe has been awesome. Since I’ve switched to these tires, I’ve never popped a tire. It’s so rare. If I did, it would be time to change the tires.

Travis and Wheelz.

They feel really solid. Yeah, these can go up to 145 lbs., so I keep them there. On the inside, there’s this kevlar layer of thorn-proof so I can roll through the glass. People are always like, “Oh no, you just rolled through glass”, but it’s all good, they’re the ones that have to watch out.

So when you’re at the park… the faster you go, is it harder to actually grab to get speed? Yeah, pretty much. When I drop in, that’s how much speed I have. Bicycles can keep crankin’ it, but me, the more I touch the wheels, it almost slows me down more.

Where is the best place to find you? The skatepark or hanging out with friends.

And it’s not always pretty. What do you expect?

Who gave you the idea to go to the skatepark? It was your brother right? Yep, my older brother, Brian. And the comp that we were at today… that was the first park I ever dropped in at.

Alright, so here’s the key question… How many times did he have to ask you? Dude, you’re the man. I think he may have tried bribing me a couple of times. It happened in one day though. He didn’t have to bribe me over time. I just went to the skatepark with him.

You never went home and slept on it and went hmmm? No, no no, it was pretty much like, OK, let’s do it.

Did you go to the skatepark with him before you did it, or was that the first time you went to the skatepark? No, I had gone before with him and just watched him. I was into the Bmx stuff. It was fun to watch and ya know, skaters are cool. And when he wanted to include me and have me try it… I never got to hang out with my big brother, I was the little brother, go away, go away. And then when he was wanting to let me, I was like, Ohhhh, Nice.

Always there to guide the way…

Is WCMX starting to stick or do you still get the Wheelchair Skateboarder thing? Is that evolving? That’s your term. Well, people don’t really know what to call it. They say, “Do you still do that extreme sitting down stuff?”

If your philosophy is that it’s more like biking, then your term is perfect. Yeah. Sometimes I’ll think of it as skating, cause I like the feel and I get some tricks from skaters. It’s just that if it’s not skating and stuff, why would you use someone else’s name? You don’t call BMX “Sitting Down Skating”.

Right. Exactly. But skating has such an influence on so many things. You’re at the skatepark. You’re not at the BMX park. Even the bikers say, “Let’s go to the skatepark.” But I get so many of my runs from skaters. I learned to carve from skaters.

So what’s after the backflip. What can we expect? Tow into a 1/4 pipe. Catch some fat air? I did that at the X-Games accidentally. They had that huge vert pipe with that 20-foot roll in going into it. It was just beautiful. So I dropped in and the first time I just wanted to carve the other side cause I’ve never aired out in my life. And so, when I went up I didn’t turn and carve in time and I had too much speed and I actually aired out the other side and I came back in.

Handiplant on the huge mega quarter in Brazil.

No way. Who filmed that? No one… No one. I gotta get a photographer to go with me places. When I go back, I’ll do it again. Sean White saw me do it and afterward, he had gone up to this one guy that was next to him and told him that what I did just blew away everything that he had ever done. I was like, “He did not say that.” The guy was trying to convince me. That was the biggest compliment I’ve had I believe. I blushed.

So you’re telling me that you dropped in and did an air out of a vert ramp and rode away. Yeah. On accident the first time.

How high above the lip you think? Just out of it. I was just happy to get out of it.

What did you do? What did you think? After I did that first one? I was asking people if I carved out and they were like, “Dude, your wheels were over the coping.”

We’re talking a 13-foot vert ramp here folks.

So I have a friend that knows Bob Burnquist. He’s got a Mega Ramp in his backyard. Yeah! They wouldn’t let me do the Mega Ramp at the X Games. I was so bummed. I wanted to jump the gap.

You wanna jump the gap…(?) Yeah, that’s my goal.

The X-Games

What kind of chair do we need to jump the gap? This chair is fine. I was next to the Mega Ramp drop in while they were doing it and I was looking over and I wanted to go down it real quick before anyone could stop me. It was right next to me. It wasn’t fair. How cool would that be?

What is your top speed though? I hold on to cars going 40. I need Bones Swiss Ceramics.

I’ll get you some of those, some Speed Cream too. You obviously know what a 4 wheel mountain bike is? Do you think that might be a safer bet to jump the Mega Ramp? Of course, it would. I had one for a bit. That’s not a wheelchair to me. No dude. It would probably be easy. That’s why I want to be the first person to jump the Mega Ramp in this and then to throw it in, I wanna handplant that 1/4.

If you clear that gap in a traditional chair, you are gonna raise major eyebrows. How cool would that be? Seeing people in wheelchairs lining up to drop in the Mega Ramp.

So we go to Bob’s and take a good look at it. That’s the place that the double backflip should happen. When I do the double backflip, I will be happy.

Have you ever rolled through dog doo? It’s been a while. I’ve done it in the past, but the thing that gets me is gum. Gum. That drives me nuts.

I drew that one once. You’re the man. You just know everything. You’re like my personal artist almost.

Future plans? Get me to Bob’s house. I’ll sign a waiver. Bob is gonna have all the safety features. Nice mats and pads.

I will be there crying. Me too. On the way down, I’ll be having tears. That’ll be the day. I’ll put that frame on my wall, like my backflip frame, with my helmet and the shirt I was wearing. I’ve worn that shirt again for good luck, but I put it away. I didn’t want that shirt to get damaged. It’s a personal trophy. I still have the water bottle that I used that week.

You are a packrat aren’t you? I have 2 dead wheelchair frames downstairs too.


Visit aaronfotheringham.com!

Wheelchairs... Mega Ramps... Huge Crowds... Ya think?

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