Feature Article

X Games Skateboarders Fly High at Miramar

X Game Skateboarders Fly High at Miramar – Tony Hawk / Andy Macdonald

Story and photos Sgt. Jason C. Huffine, 12th Marine Corps District, Public Affairs

When skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and doubles partner Andy Macdonald go vertical off a pipe, their wings are their boards. But before the X Games gold medallists touched down in San Diego, the extreme combination tried on a new pair of wings – Marine Corps F-18 Hornets. Hawk and Macdonald flew a successful back-seat mission June 17 aboard Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar in San Diego.

The flight was in coordination with ESPN and the Marine Corps Recruiting Command’s sponsorship of the Summer Extreme Games.It followed a two-day training process in which the skaters were put through the grinders of Miramar’s Aviation Physiology Department. Hawk and Macdonald underwent a medical screening, passed the hypobaric chamber, survived the helo-dunker and were thrust by the ejection seat. They were also briefed on their equipment to include their flight and “G” suits. Without this training, they would not have been able to fly. Once qualified, the pair was introduced to their pilots, Maj. Kevin Brooks and Capt. Robert Boyles of VMFA (AW) 225. In 225’s ‘Ready Room,’ Boyles briefed the athletes on the flight and whisked them away for preflight preparation. The foursome then boarded the Hornets and flew a one and a half-hour mission.

According to Brooks, the pair experienced simulated air-to-ground and air-to-air combat missions, as well as “dog-fighting” and acrobatic rolls. “When these guys skate, they pull about one “G” in their tricks,” Brooks said. “When we took Tony and Andy up flying, we put them through seven and a half, enough to make anyone ‘G-lock’ or black out. I’m sure they are tired, but they had a great time doing it.” Hawk says, when he compares flying with the Marine Corps and skating, they are a lot alike. They have the same basic elements like dedication, confidence and hard work,” he explained. “What I believe it takes for both is perseverance.” Hawk, 30, a resident of Carlsbad, Calif., and Macdonald, 24, who resides in Ocean Beach, Calif., were both excited about the flight.

“Yeah let’s do it,” Hawk said thinking back to when ESPN approached him. “I was willing to endure everything to be able to fly.” Macdonald said the experience was something he will never forget and compared to skating it was ‘totally gnarly.’ “The best part about training was the helo-dunker and chamber tank,” Macdonald said. “There was total disorientation, even when you opened your eyes and looked around. And Once I was finally in the air, I kept telling myself, ‘O.K. man, don’t get G-locked and miss the whole ride.’” When the Hornets landed, Hawk and Macdonald walked the flight line and celebrated their flight. “Tony, you can be my wing man anytime,” Macdonald said. They slapped their flight helmets together in Top Gun fashion, removed their flight suits and left to prepare for the X Games. A day later, the partners were back on their old wings, catching air above a skate park in Encinitas, Calif. More than a week later, the athletes were wearing gold at the X Games awards stage.