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Half Pipes and Aggressive Ramps 101

Many Extreme Sports Athletes Ride On Half Pipes

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Half Pipes and Aggressive Ramps 101

Half Pipe

Photo © David Maczkowiack, iStockphoto.com

Half pipes are the foundation for aggressive inline skating activities and vert roller skating on quads. They have inspired a complete family of related and supportive structures like spines, boxes and grind rails that can be used individually or in combination by inline skaters and other extreme sports enthusiasts. They can be found in public indoor and outdoor skateparks all over the world. Some thrill-seekers even take advantage of the many available ramp plans or manufacturer's kits and learn how to build ramps in their own back yards.

Half Pipe History

In the early 1970s empty in-ground swimming pools were used by skateboarders who rode up and down the sides of the shell to simulate surfing on the ocean. Around 1975, skateboarding teens in northern California started going to Arizona to take advantage of a federal public works project and skate in some empty 24 foot diameter water pipes. These pipes were designed to divert water from the Colorado River to the city of Phoenix, but they worked better than pools for launching aggressive tricks and stunts. Eventually, Tom Stewart and his brother Mike, an architect, decided to build their own wood frame half pipe in the front yard of Tom's home in Encinitas using the specs of the original Arizona pipes.

Half Pipe

A half pipe is a ramp structure that is used in extreme sports like inline skating, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing and freestyle BMX. The structure can made of wood, concrete, metal, earth, or snow - depending on which extreme sport will use the ramp. Half pipes still look a lot like the cross-section view of a section of pipe cut in half that they originated from. Two concave ramps (quarter pipes) also make a half pipe.

Today, the half pipe has copings and decks on opposite sides of a flat, ground level connecting surface that is necessary to regain balance and add set-up time for tricks. Many of the airborne inline skating and skateboarding tricks would not be possible without these oversized half pipe ramps.

Performing On Half Pipes

A skilled athlete can perform in a half pipe for an extended period of time by pumping to attain extreme speeds with relatively little effort. Performance in a half pipe has been rapidly increasing over recent years. The known limit on a rotating stunt in a half pipe is 1440 degrees for an experienced, top-level skater, but rotation is usually restricted in big events to put more emphasis on technique and creativity.

The character of a half pipe is based on four dimensions, and these dimensions can affect a skater's performance in a few ways:

  • The transition radius
  • The height of the ramp structure
  • The degree of flat bottom
  • The width of the half pipe

When a ramp has extra width, longer slides and grinds are possible. Ramps near or below 3 feet in height are used by beginners and advanced skaters who need them for spin and flip stunts. The flat bottom is only useful to allow trick and stunt recovery time. Extra width on the half pipe supports longer slides and grinds.

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