Stoke is a simple thing, and although we may sometimes lose it, or find it waning, we often see examples of it that remind us what it’s like, and how we should be acting. Sometimes it’s an enthusiastic friend, sometimes it’s an internet video of a yellow lab running into the ocean at 25 mph. Here are a few important moments in the history of stoke.

1. 1977: Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker Invent the High Five

In the sixth inning of the L.A. Dodgers’ last regular-season game of the 1977 season, Dusty Baker hit a home run, his 30th of the season. Outfielder Glenn Burke, who was waiting on deck, ran out to congratulate Baker, raising his hand above his head. Baker, unsure what to do, slapped Burke’s hand, and the high five was born.

2. 1993: Shane McConkey Shows the World His Stoke, and Everything Else
In 1993, Shane McConkey fell early in a run during a Pro Mogul Tour event at Vail, wrecking his chances of winning-but not his chances of having fun. At the end of the run, he did a backflip, which was illegal at Vail at the time. He was disqualified, and ski patrol pulled his pass. He sneaked back up to the start of the course and did a rogue run completely naked. Vail banned him for life.


3. 1995: Rob Machado High Fives Kelly Slater During Pipe Masters

In the 1995 Pipe Masters, Rob Machado battled Kelly Slater for a world championship. In the semifinals, Machado had a good chance to win, and instead turned it into a legendary moment in surfing. As Michael Woodsmall wrote in his essay Surfing’s Most Famous High Five: “Exiting his own barrel, Machado was in prime position to take priority, potentially notching a heat-saving wave that would bring him the world title. Instead, he did what many at the time found unthinkable. He carved out a huge turn away from priority, raised his hand, and gave the Florida native a shit-eating grin and a big ol’ high five.”

4. 1999: Tony Hawk Lands the First 900

In 1999, no skater had ever landed a 900, two and a half rotations. Tony Hawk had relentlessly thrown himself at it and hoped to nail it in the 1999 X Games Vert Best Trick competition. He failed 10 times, all on camera. By that time, all his competitors-Andy Macdonald, Bob Burnquist, Bucky Lasek and Neal Hendrix-had stopped to cheer Hawk on, banging their boards on the lip of the halfpipe. On his 11th attempt, he landed it, and was mobbed by his friends, fans, and competition, who lifted him above their heads as the crowd cheered. It looked more like a scene from one of sports’ more famous events, like the World Series or the Super Bowl, but it was a moment that wasn’t about anyone winning-it was about celebrating one person who symbolized an entire sport and everyone who loved it.

5. 2009: The Onion releases a report revealing that Most College Males Admit to Regularly Getting Stoked
Really, the only news coverage about getting stoked, in the history of stoke.

6. 2010: Paul Vasquez Uploads Double Rainbow Video to YouTube

Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to see a double rainbow or two in your lifetime. It’s probable that your reaction was not even one-tenth as stoked as former MMA fighter Paul Vasquez’s was when he saw a double rainbow outside his home near Yosemite on January 8, 2010. Vasquez’s short clip of the rainbow and his reaction to it was a watershed moment in the history of stoke. While many of us enjoy natural beauty, our reactions are mere pea-shooters compared to Vasquez’s nuclear bomb of enthusiasm. We can only aspire to someday climb to his level.

7. 2011: Thumbs Up for Rock and Roll

Evan Kosevich, then six years old, finally learned to ride his bike after more than a month of trying and believing in himself. His father, Nick, pointed a video camera at him to record the occasion when he finally got the hang of it. Evan then delivered a speech worthy of a $50,000-an-hour motivational speaker, with the coherence of a six-year-old. It made him internet famous, and made thousands of us remember to both try hard, and love our bikes.

8. 2012: Aleks Gamme Finds Cheez Doodles in His Food Cache on Day 86 of Antarctic Expedition

Over the Antarctic summer of 2011/2012, Norwegian Aleksander Gamme mounted an expedition to become the first person ever to ski to the South Pole and back. He made no notes about his food caches, and ate mostly very healthy food the entire time. By day 86, he had about 20 times that feeling most of us have when we can’t stop thinking about a cheeseburger and a beer during the last two miles of a three-day backpacking trip. He digs up his food cache, and finds the Cheez Doodles he forgot he packed. The result is nothing short of transcendent.

9. 2012: Zia Terry Does Her First Ski Jump

What’s unique about 10-year-old Zia Terry’s first K40 ski jump is the nervousness that we all get to experience as we ride along on her helmet cam for 74 seconds of anticipation, and 10 seconds of rushing down the jump at the Olympic Park in Park City. And then the exultant yell when she sticks the landing.


10. 2012: A Train Pulls Into North Creek, New York

Steve Torrico loves trains more than you and I love anything. Or so you would think if you’d seen his YouTube video, “Excited Train Guy, New York!” which got more than three million views. The real story, however, is that Torrico more or less borrowed his stoke from another YouTube video. Torrico, the general manager of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, wanted to create a video to drum up interest in the SNCRR, so he created a film based on one by a guy named Mark McDonough, whose stoke for trains is real (or at least more real?), and well demonstrated in the video that inspired Torrico. It’s up to you to decide if it matters if Torrico’s video is fake.

11. 2014: Walter the Yellow Lab Gets to Go Swimming

Walter loves the water. Thankfully, he also wore a GoPro to run from the house to the beach one time, so we get to essentially ride on his back for 35 seconds and experience the best day of his life-until tomorrow, when he gets to have the best day of his life, again.

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Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.

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