A couple friends and I took BART into the city and walked down to Pier 30/32 where the event was being held. Because the X Games were free, they drew a large crowd and we had to wait in line for about an hour before getting onto the pier. I remember my friend went up ahead in the line to check things out and then came back and almost couldn't contain himself, "I just saw a nac-nac, heelclicker, superman, and a HUGE whip!" My heart started skipping a few beats and I left him in my place in line and ran up ahead so I could see some of the action that was going down during the MX practice. I couldn't see the course from outside the venue, but I could see the riders pop up every few seconds and they would throw their gnarliest moves...I was SO excited! It was so nerve-wracking getting back in line because I didn't want to miss another trick, it was so painful to be so close but not see the action.
Once we got into the venue, we checked out the sites and we were in heaven! We were fully surrounded by all of the sports that we loved. There was a massive snowboard jump that was probably 150 feet tall and it was mind-blowing watching a few of the snowboarders practice their moves on the man-made snow in San Francisco! On the side of the huge snowboarding monstrosity-of-a-jump, there was the rock climbing wall, something my friends and I could stare at for hours since we loved to climb. Seeing the street course (it wasn't called the "Park Course" back in the day...) was pretty sweet even though the "aggressive inline skaters" were on it when we walked by (had to take the jab...no offense...). I couldn't believe how incredibly tall some of the obstacles were and really wished I had the chance to see the BMX riders tear it up on there. We also walked by the flatland area where the incredibly agile and well-balance BMXers were practicing and I was awed at the skill level of those guys! Incredible!
We made our way right up to the bleachers next to the FMX course and the twin half-pipes: one for skate and one for BMX...I'm glad both sports have learned how to cooperate and use one ramp, ha! Before we made it up into the bleachers, we walked right by Tony Hawk playing hacky-sac with about 10 kids (he had landed the 900 the night before and was just chilling with the crowd the next day). After taking our seats, we were ready to watch the OG's of freestyle motocross before they had earned their status as legends in the sport. As soon as the two-stroke engines fired up for prelims, it seemed like there was a powerful magnet that pulled all of the spectators from all of the other events that were going on at the time. Even the BMXers that were practicing on the half-pipe all camped out on the side of the ramp to watch the maddess that was going down on the dirt. The area surrounding the compact course was absolutely packed and there was a lot of energy on the pier! Even though there had been a few FMX events prior to X Games, this really was where the sport just caught on fire (in a good way) and took off.
Following are the observations of a few riders that I remember watching that day:
Larry Linkogle- It was hard not to laugh when I saw Larry roll out onto the course in his chest protector with MASSIVE spikes that had to be at least 18 inches long each (wish I could find a picture)! He got the attention he was looking for but his riding obviously didn't wow the judges...the guy got last place. I still laugh when I think of those abominable spikes he was wearing, but was thrilled to see him out there after becoming a fan of him and Deegan in the No Respect film.
Mike Cinqmars (Silver Medal)- This guy was good. I remember being impressed by his style and how solid he was on the tricks he pulled. The judges were obviously in the same mindset as me and I'm glad he was rewarded for his smooth riding and wish the guy was still in the sport. I'd love to hear about where the guy is now because I don't think anybody has really filled his shoes in the motocross world.
Kris Rourke- I'm glad I got to see this kid ride in person. His riding at X didn't match his capabilities but he did beat Twitch and Clifford Adaptante. His riding in Wrathchild was phenomenal and he's another one of those riders that has seemed to quietly fall out of the sport.
Clifford Adaptante- This guy was fun to watch, he really brought a lot of personality to the contest and rode with a lot of heart. I met the guy a handful of times at contests in later years and he was way rad. Clifford is now sponsored by the Department of Corrections and won't be riding for a while because of some stupid stupid decisions. Kids, don't smoke pot!
Jeremy Stenberg- Twitch was just a wee lad when he competed at X Games 99 but has definitely proved his worth in the sport over the years and is still a force to be reckoned with.
Brian Deegan (Bronze Medal)- Deegs was running some spikes on his chest protector as well, but they weren't as ridiculous as Larry's (his spikes were only about an inch tall). He was also running a short mohawk to show how rebellious he was. The General pulled out some sweet superman seat grabs and really muscled that bike around during the contest. He wasn't the smoothest rider on the course, but he threw it down pretty good and ended up getting a bronze for his efforts. Funny story: I was lined up on the front row during the medals ceremony and when Deegan was awarded his medal, the actual bronze medallion fell right off of the ribbon! The guy was ticked that his award was obviously not the highest quality. He couldn't get his medal to stay on the ribbon but after a few expletives, he just laughed it off.
Mike Jones- Mad Mike wanted to win the X Games. BAD! The guy rode his tail off and pulled some pretty gutsy moves to show that he had skills and the heart to win. His stork-airs were pretty impressive at the time (like a kiss of death, but he was parallel with the bike, basically standing straight up in the air) and his Miracle-Whips were insane. I saw him race the year before at the Vegas SX and he really was a crowd pleaser even then! One of the craziest parts of the day was when Mad Mike was on his last run trying to get a score good enough to put him on the box...with about 10 seconds to go, he pulled up to his mechanic and had a helmet bag placed over his head before hitting the 45 foot kicker jump for the last time, throwing an impressive whip in the process without being able to see much at all! He made 4th place, just shy of the podium, but I'll remember his "mad" antics for a long time.
Travis Pastrana- What can be said about this guy that hasn't been said already? At only 15, Travis knew exactly how to get the crowd going and he rode with his heart on his sleeve...on his RM125!!! He kept the crowd alive by railing every berm and just racing the course. The biggest trick we saw that week was his "new" Superman-Seat Grab-Indian Air! That trick scared me every time he pulled it, it really was the craziest thing being done on a dirt bike at the time. He also had the cliffhanger, the rodeo (one-handed heel-clicker), and the lazy-boy: tricks he invented that were not being done by anybody else. During his 1st run in the finals, he got a little squirly in a turn before the biggest ramp jump and lost all of his speed. Instead of circling around again to get enough speed for the jump (on his 125), he just pinned the throttle and basically seat-bounced the huge jump and still tricked it!
I wish I could go back and re-live that day in 1999...even though those moto tricks back then are elementary compared to the suicidal tricks the riders must now do to even have the chance to qualify for an event! I'm so glad I was able to witness history that day and be so close to the action. Including my first dose of X in 1999, I have had the chance to attend the X Games a half-dozen times and it is thrilling every time. Many thanks to Ron Semiao and everybody else responsible for creating this incredible event and I hope that it only continues to grow and expand, long live the X Games!
***Note*** Some of the pictures included were from the 2000 X Games...there aren't a whole lot of pictures available online from the 1999 X Games. I really wish I had a camera at the time! My friend had some pictures from our seats that day, I'll have to get him to dig them up!