When skateboarder Tom Schaar first stared down the great tongue of a vert ramp, he lurched forward and sent his tiny body tumbling down.
"He was 6," recalled Schaar's mother, Regan, chuckling over the phone from Ocean City, where her 13-year-old son will compete in this weekend's Dew Tour.
That day, seven years ago, Baltimore native Bucky Lasek was in Orange County, Calif., overseeing his skateboarding camp. Schaar was one of the participants who had to show the ability to roll down the ramp before joining the camp — a practice typically done on a board.
"He didn't know how to do that," Regan Schaar said. "And so he went over, curled himself up and fell to the bottom. Bucky was like, 'All right! He can be in the camp!'"
Since then, Schaar has become a bit of a prodigy, entrancing the world by twirling thrice airborne to become the only human ever to land the coveted 1080 last March at the age of 12. This weekend his mentor, Lasek, will be one of his competitors.
Schaar returns to the Dew Tour where he made his pro debut in 2011. Last year, after 1080-ing his way in Asia to become the youngest X Games gold medalist ever, he unleashed the 1080 again to win the Mega 2.0, not included in this year's event list.
He'll skate against Lasek and others in the Skateboard Vert semifinals Thursday and then again in the Skateboard Bowl semifinals Friday.
"It's crazy because I've looked up to [Lasek] for helping me," said Schaar, who is entering the eighth grade Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach, Calif. "I've always looked up to him growing up and now that I'm competing against him, it's just unreal."
Before Schaar was picking up tips from Lasek, he was shadowing his older brother, John. When John would go skate with the kids in the family's Malibu neighborhood or attend events at the California Amateur Skate League, Schaar would follow, a sprightly 4-year-old propping himself on the board by his knees.
Soon, faces from the industry would be telling his parents there was potential.
"People would say to us, 'Hey, he's pretty good,' and we'd say, 'Oh, whatever,'" said Regan Schaar, laughing.
"And then, all the sudden, he was about 7, and something happened," she said. "He just got good. I don't know what it was."
Today, the boy with a mop of sandy-colored locks and braces says he didn't fully comprehend what he was watching in 2006 when Shaun White tried and failed 21 times to complete the 1080 at the Summer X Games.
The day Schaar completed the 1080, his father drove him to the MegaRamp built at Woodward West in Tehachapi, Calif., simply to practice. With the 900 (2.5 revolutions) under his belt, Schaar told himself he would do the 1080.
It took him just five attempts.
"Being so young, you don't have the limitations in your brain," said Rob Brink, a former staff writer at Skateboard Mag. "You don't have the fear. You don't have an idea of what is and isn't possible. You're just a kid and you're living on the playground. You just go."
There was no way for Schaar and his family to expect what came next after he landed the 1080 around 4:11 p.m. that day.
"When the 1080 happened," Regan Schaar said, "I didn't really realize how much things were gonna change."
While adapting to the media frenzy — which included an appearance on "Ellen" — and to a life of traveling, Regan Schaar wanted her son to remain within normalcy.
"He had to still stay a kid," she said.
That's part of the reason why Schaar is not home-schooled.
"I'm a normal kid when I'm not traveling," he said.
Schaar still has the picture of himself and Lasek from the camp seven years ago, which he tweeted out in December on Lasek's 40th birthday.
"I never thought I was gonna be like this," Schaar said. "Now that I'm actually here in contests and skating against people I've looked up to my whole life, it's crazy."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun