SANTA MONICA, California — On Thursday, X Games skateboarder Jake Brown landed the world's first 720-degree spin on a Mega Ramp, then fell from the equivalent of a five-story building. On Tuesday, the affable Australian hobbled into the MTV News studios, a mere five days after he almost died.
Somewhere in between, Wikipedia updated his page with the nickname "Unbreakable" — and if you don't understand why, you must be the only one on your block who hasn't seen the jaw-dropping viral video. (You can find footage of Jake Brown's crash at EXPN.com.)
"People like to see pain," grinned Brown in one of his first post-crash interviews, insisting he isn't bothered by the millions of people fueling the "watch, groan, forward the link" phenomenon. "It's probably pretty funny — with the shoes flying off and everything. I'd watch it, if it was someone else."
Although the second half of the clip might make some think otherwise, the 32-year-old Brown is actually one of the world's best skaters. During some 20 years on a board, he's taken honors all over the world — including a silver medal on the night of the fall seen 'round the world.
Luckily, it didn't have to be awarded posthumously. "I had plenty of time to think about what was going to happen as I was falling 45 feet," Brown remembered, attempting to explain what it was like. "I knew I would be wrecked, but I tried to put myself in a situation where I would be as least wrecked as possible."
As he kicked his legs midair and watched the skateboard sail away, Brown's thoughts turned to Pat Duffy, a fellow skater who recently broke his leg during a fall. "He was in the same situation, and I think [having seen] him being in that situation might have saved me," Brown said of his friend. "I saw the footage of him. ... He landed just on his legs, and took the whole brunt of the thing to his legs. He shattered his tibial plateau. ... I was thinking of him as I was going down, and I was like, 'You've got to take [the hit] to more than just one spot.' So I turned around my feet, back and then head to disperse the slam to more than one part. Luckily enough ... well, I still broke my arm, but it's not that bad."
Besides his bandaged right arm, Brown is only slightly worse for the wear. "This knee is just starting to hurt, so I probably have to get that checked out," he said, pointing to his right leg. "I've got a fractured wrist here; they did surgery. This [other] one's sprained. I had a contusion to my lung and a bruised liver, a fractured vertebrae, and just crazy whiplash to my neck and back — and a mild concussion."
He's also speaking a little bit slower than usual these days. "Vicodin, OxyContin, whatever," he said of his prescribed pill regimen, offering a feeble grin. "Whatever I can get my hands on."
"Some of the falls we take on a daily basis — for a person who doesn't know how to fall — they'd be done," insisted skating legend Danny Way, who not only invented the Mega Ramp that resulted in Brown's fall, but was also one of the first people to speak with him after his eight-minute blackout.
"I said, 'Good job, dude, you did what you wanted to do!' " Way remembered of the moment he congratulated his friend on the 720. "He was sitting on the golf cart out back before he went to the hospital. ... He was smoking a cigarette and his hands were shaking — he could barely get the thing in his mouth. But he was cracking jokes."
In most sports, injured players go out on a stretcher and — if they're lucky — give the fans a thumbs-up. After his eight lost minutes, however, Brown insisted on getting up and walking off the floor of Los Angeles' Staples Center.
"I just wanted to stand up and make sure my body was working," Brown smiled. "I was pretty much still knocked out, so I can't remember [how the audience reacted]. ... I guess they were probably applauding."
They certainly were, and so were the other X Games athletes at the venue, leading to the unofficial trophy he now carries everywhere. "This cane has been handed down through generations of hurt athletes," he said with pride, holding up the black walking stick covered in stickers and topped with a golden handle shaped like a nude woman. "Danny Way actually passed this on, and [skateboard pioneer] Dave Duncan's put his dagger touch to it. And this is a mermaid; she's kinda hot.
"You hope not to get this passed to you," he said, clutching the handle. "But if you do, it's a good thing to have."
"He got more than 2 million hits on YouTube in the first couple days," Duncan said of the clip, which attracted so many non-skating fans that it may have rendered Brown the most recognizable skater this side of Tony Hawk. "It's this huge phenomenon, worldwide, that somebody did this and walked away from it."
"People are definitely stoked to shake the dude's hand that was knocked out," Brown said of his newfound fame. "It's like I fought Mike Tyson or something."
Boxers, however, typically take several months off between fights; Brown hopes to be back on his board by the end of the month. "I'll give myself a couple weeks," he revealed. "I was thinking sooner, but I really want to try and be pretty healthy. ... I just need to play it by ear."
Maybe he is "Unbreakable" after all, but Brown insisted that he's no superhero. "I haven't got a cape, and no X-ray vision," he laughed.
Flashing a smile with a few missing teeth, he admitted that at least one person in his life isn't so convinced that he's superhuman. "My mom watched the clip," he said. "She called me to make sure that I wasn't dead."