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How do you do a back flip in a wheelchair?

Hardcore Sitting
Aaron Fotheringham balances his wheelchair on the lip of a bowl.
Aaron Fotheringham balances his wheelchair on the lip of a bowl.
Photo courtesy Aaron Fotheringham

Aaron Fotheringham, the creator of hardcore sitting, was born with spina bifida in 1991 in Las Vegas, Nev. Spina bifida is a condition in which the spine never fully closes during the first months of pregnancy. The results vary from case to case, and for Aaron, it meant he needed a wheelchair full time by the age of 8, after several surgical attempts to correct his condition.

About this time, Aaron watched his older brother Brian perform tricks on his bicycle at a BMX park. Brian suggested that Aaron try "dropping in" with the wheelchair. The idea made him nervous, but Aaron gave it a shot. Because nobody had ever tried doing BMX and skateboard tricks from a wheelchair, Aaron was self-taught from the beginning. He took advice and ideas from other skaters and bikers to create his own version of popular tricks, like grinding and 180 degree aerial turns.

He got a special wheelchair from the custom company Colours in Motion, which allowed for a smoother and sturdier ride. Over the years, that chair has been modified to suit Aaron's unusual needs -- adding a shock system as well as special metal bars to beef up the suspension and protect the shocks.

Aaron's extreme sitting safety precautions are similar to what you'd see in BMX or skateboarding. He wears elbow pads, gloves and a full-face helmet, and so far has only broken his elbow once and gotten the standard bumps and bruises. He's been competing alongside BMX bikers since 2005 and has more than 10 corporate sponsors. He won the trophy at the BMX Intermediate Vegas AmJam 2005 Finals and spends about 30 to 40 hours per week practicing the sport he invented.

Aaron received a fair amount of attention for his achievements, but everything changed on July 13, 2006, when he became the first person to complete a back flip in a wheelchair.