words :: Ben Osborne.
If you run the gamut of ski and snowboard tricks, most of them seem to make no sense. Take the roast beef, the crippler, and the screaming semen (probably the most non-sensical) to name a few. Most people don’t really know the roots of the names, and that’s probably O.K.
But, some hold a more important place in history—like the mute grab. Another name you’ve probably never thought of, a name that you may have never even questioned. But, the trick has deep roots.
Originally popularized in skateboarding but now used in surfing, snowboarding, and skiing, it’s one of the most common tricks in each sport. And it turns out, we’ve been calling it the wrong thing all along, and Tony Hawk himself is taking the reigns on renaming the trick.
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For nearly 40 years, we’ve shamelessly referred to this trick as the “mute” air/grab. Here is the backstory: around 1981, a deaf skater and Colton skatepark local named Chris Weddle was a prominent amateur on the competition circuit. The “Indy” air had just been created & named so somebody proposed that grabbing with the front hand should be known as the “Tracker” air. Others countered that Chris was the first to do, so it should be named after him. They referred to him as the “quiet, mute guy.” So it became known as the mute air, and we all went along with it in our naive youth. In recent years a few people have reached out to Chris (who still skates) about this trick and the name it was given. He has been very gracious in his response but it is obvious that a different name would have honored his legacy, as he is deaf but not lacking speech. I asked him last year as I was diving into trick origins and he said he would have rather named it the “deaf” or “Weddle” grab if given the choice. His exact quote to me was “I am deaf, not mute.” So as we embark on the upcoming @tonyhawkthegame demo release, some of you might notice a trick name change: The Weddle Grab. It’s going to be challenging to break the habit of saying the old name but I think Chris deserves the recognition. Thanks to @darrick_delao for being a great advocate to the deaf community in action sports, and for being the catalyst in this renaming process. I told Chris tecently and his reply was “I’m so stoked!” And then he shot this photo in celebration yesterday. 📷: @yousta_storytellers_club
According to Hawk, the trick was first done by a prominent amateur skateboarder named Chris Weddle around 1981. It was around the time people were first starting to do grabs on their skateboards, and the Indy grab had just been named.
When people started to grab the front of the board, some argued it should be called the ‘tracker’ air, while others believed it should be named after Weddle—so, in what Hawk describes as his “naive youth”, him and the skateboard community dubbed it the “Mute’ air, an insensitive reference to the fact that Weddle is hearing impaired, and isn’t much of a talker.
Fast forward forty years, and it’s clear that “Mute” is not the way to honour a man who invented a revolutionary trick—so Hawk is taking it upon himself and renaming the trick the Weddle Grab in the upcoming re-release of his iconic video game, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
In the age of cancel culture, stories like this are a bright spot—Weddle, who still skates, get’s the respect he deserves, and we all just got a history lesson. Not bad for a Thursday morning. —ML