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How do you do a back flip in a wheelchair?


The Wheelchair Back Flip
Aaron Fotheringham does a hand plant.
Aaron Fotheringham does a hand plant.
Photo courtesy Aaron Fotheringham

After mastering the basic tricks of the sport he invented, Aaron set his sights on a feat that had never been attempted -- a wheelchair back flip. He'd been prodded by friends and fellow skaters to try the flip, so he started practicing. If you're wondering how someone practices doing a wheelchair back flip, you're not alone. When practicing any difficult BMX trick, foam cushions are where you begin. This seemed like a logical place for Aaron to start as well.

After about 50 to 60 tries using cushions, Aaron moved on to the "rezi," a harder plastic surface on top of the cushions. After that, the only step left was to try it out on the hard concrete ramp of the skate park. It took Aaron roughly 15 unsuccessful attempts before he landed a full back flip. Earlier attempts ranged from coming up short and smacking his helmet on the ground to overrotating and landing on his back. Finally, at about 9 p.m. on July 13, 2006, in front of a small crowd of fellow skaters, Aaron landed the world's first wheelchair back flip.

Aaron says that the key to the trick is building and maintaining the right speed necessary to complete the move without overrotation. He's now mastered the trick and performs it in competitions and exhibitions all over the world. In October 2008, "Guinness Book of World Records" certified Aaron as the sole inventor and performer of the wheelchair back flip [source: Ammerman].

In the future, Aaron plans to develop his sport as he continues to inspire people the world over. He wants to help legitimize hardcore sitting, much like the early pioneers of skateboarding and BMX did before him. His ultimate goal, of course, is the X Games, where he hopes to compete one day. He also has his sights set on some more extreme wheelchair tricks -- the first aerial 1080-degree turn and maybe even a double back flip. He'd also like to develop a hardcore sitting video game and to continue to work with children with spina bifida and other conditions that require a wheelchair.

But for a young man who says that spina bifida has been a "great opportunity," he's shown that life in a wheelchair can be anything but confining.