"I'm Brazilian. I grew up there, and my diet's totally different. I moved here [the United States] and had to conform a little bit and change the way I ate," Burnquist says over the phone from his spread in Vista, California, which includes a huge skate ramp and his family's farm, Burnquist Organics. "It's an interesting world, and it's totally possible to eat good. You just have to want to. Most people don't really care, but you gotta get 'em aware that their body is very important. By eating bad, their health is bad, and they can't think right. It's all a vicious circle."
Burnquist knows all about vicious circles. Attached to his 126-foot-wide backyard half-pipe is a loop -- a loop that Burnquist skates through clockwise. A few years ago, he was the first person to complete the loop switch-stance (or, for nonskaters, backward).
Burnquist says it's his diet and other healthy practices that give him the ability to cheat serious bodily harm while attempting insane tricks. "It's all about eating good," he explains. "It's all about stretching. And it's all about confidence and no hesitation."
It's also about being damned good. Burnquist burst onto the professional skateboarding scene in 1995 by dominating a contest in Vancouver, British Columbia. His runs were so technical and involved so much switch-stance skateboarding -- the equivalent of a batter switch-hitting home runs -- that there was much debate among skaters about which direction he really skated. His innovative performance won the contest, attracted sponsorship and endorsement deals and breathed life into vert ramp skating, which seemed to be dying slowly even as street skating grew exponentially.
When he steps onto the Vertical Uprising ramp at the Kansas Speedway's finish line this Saturday, Burnquist and his fellow skaters and BMX riders won't be in competition mode. "There's a different mind-set," he says. "It'll be like a backyard session, but a little bit more thought-out."
For this backyard session, though, the skater will be flanked by hordes of carcass-smoking barbecuers competing in Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue Cookoff. And he'll be circled by stock cars preparing for the ARCA Kansas Lottery $200 Grand race. So the event will have a distinct flavor of Americana that Burnquist doesn't really care for. To make matters worse, the ramp will likely be covered with ads for Vertical Uprising's sponsor, Slim Jim Beef Jerky.
Burnquist admits that he wasn't aware of the beef jerky sponsorship until he had already signed up for the event. "But you know what? I'll go right into the lion's den and show them the light," he says. "I'm not so crazy about barbecue, and I'm not so crazy about race cars because of the amount of gas and the oil. But I'm not so crazy about a lot of things, but that doesn't mean I'll stay in my cave. I don't really need to go out there and preach, you know, 'Don't do Slim Jim.' I'll just go out there, and I'll skate and be myself."