Teen conquers D.C.'s greatest skateboard jump
Published Tuesday, May 29, 2012 2:46PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 12, 2012 2:44PM EDT
WASHINGTON — The Canadian embassy in Washington occupies a place of grand distinction, an address and location on Pennsylvania Avenue that reflects the deepest of bonds between our two countries. From the street, an imposing stone staircase rises to a broad esplanade, and off in the near-distance, the U.S. Capitol fills the horizon.
But let us return to the steps, because they have a distinction unlike any other in Washington. Just ask Brandon "Boner" Bonner, a 19-year-old resident of Fredericksburg, Virginia. He is the one and only person who has ever flown over them at truly breakneck speed and landed on his feet. Or rather, landed on his skateboard. Or ask any of the dozens of others who have tried and failed to conquer the "Twenty-One Steps," landing with bruising, bone-crunching results. Or simply look under "Most Epic Skateboarding" on YouTube. Better still, just type in "Boner Embassy 21."
"The Canadian embassy, that's definitely a big one," he says, during a morning workout on a hot, May day in Fredericksburg. He arrives at the park alone, and other skaters clear out to watch as soon as he steps on the course. He's wearing a black T-shirt, flat-brimmed baseball hat and loose black pants. "Hot summer day," says Boner. "Summer loving."
He does a few jumps, glides over a big ramp, grabs the front of his board as he lands with the grace of a kid who knows he's good, has no fear, and loves to do this more than anything else. "I was just trying to jump down some big things, get out there and skate around," he says, by way of explaining why it was awesome, amazing; absolutely crazy jumping over the embassy steps.
The first try was a bruising wipe-out, leaving his legs and hip sore for a week. "That just got my adrenalin all pumping," he says, "so I ran back up, got the thumbs up from my buddy who was watching for people down below, and I just started charging."
The second try was pure conquest. It was a Sunday afternoon, with one of his friends holding the video-cam.
"I was doing like 25 miles an hour," he says. "My friend said it was more scary watching me just coming towards it than me actually jumping it.
"And I was just thinking, go as fast as you can, go as fast as you can and make sure you pop it. I made sure!"
None of this makes officials at the embassy very happy. Over the years, the jump has become so popular, such an obsession with young skaters, that something had to be done. A gleaming silver railing now borders the esplanade with gates that are locked after hours, to keep people like Boner from possibly breaking their necks on Canadian government property.
Still they try. On any given afternoon, skaters will sneak on to the terrace and make an all-out dash for the steps before a security guard can run faster and close the gate.
Boner and his friends tried a little harder.
"We went out to this little hardware store in DC," he says, "and we bought some tools and we took that gate right down."
"And nobody stopped you?"
"Oh no," he says, "You got to love it."
The jump brought him local fame and close to 30,000 hits on YouTube. He's got a couple of sponsors in Fredericksburg and drives to skateboard competitions during the summer. His other great jump was something called the "Death Gap" but the "Embassy 21" remains his biggest and best.
"It's been tried for about 15 years now," he says with a broad, puckish grin. "People have been trying and trying. But I finally came in there and I got it."
At the skateboard park in Fredericksburg his every move is followed with more than a little envy. "That jump was crazy," says one of his buddies. "That was ridiculous. That was huge!"