Call It A Comeback Tas Pappas is back from the brink of destruction.
In 1996 Tas Pappas was on top of skateboarding. He was doing seven-foot kickflip Indys, getting heavy rotation in magazines and videos, and placing in the top three of every contest he entered. So when he stood above Tony Hawk on the winners platform of the 1996 Hard Rock Cafe world championships clutching two first-place trophies (for winning the final and for accumulating the most points overall for the year) and a check for 11,000 dollars, and sporting a huge grin on his 21-year-old face there was no way he could have predicted how the next two years would unfold.
As 1997 came to pass, Tas watched his career spiral toward what looked like eminent destruction. After a dramatic falling out with then-sponsor Platinum skateboards, breaking his back, snapping the PCL ligaments in both his knees, and nearly losing his sight, the older of the two Pappas brothers had all but disappeared from vert skateboarding’s spotlight. Broken physically, Tas finished a dismal 44th overall in World Cup Skateboarding’s 1997 vert rankings and only a slightly improved 39th in 1998.
Sworn to battle back from his injuries, Tas enlisted the help of a physical trainer and new sponsors, and in the process of regaining his position, Melbourne’s most-famous name learned that the only thing more important than keeping himself physically healthy was surrounding himself with friends and companies who had his best interests in mind.
Finally, after two years of rehabilitation and rebuilding, Tas has reemerged from obscurity. In May of this year, he placed 22nd in Vancouver’s Slam City Jam. In June he took eighth in the Milwaukee Triple Crown and eighth at San Diego’s X-Games. In July 1999, Tas finished seventh in Northampton, second in Münster, and second in Prague. Comeback nearly complete.
Now 24 and living in San Marcos, California, Tas seems determined to pick up where he left off three long years ago. Between unpacking from Europe and heading up the road to the Oceanside X-Trials, Tas stopped by TransWorld and answered some questions about riding the roller coaster called professional skateboarding.
Do you think it’s possible to have a skateboard career if you stay in Australia your whole life?
No. You’ve got to do the world tour; you’ve got to come to America, it’s a must.
Three years ago you won the World Cup overall vert ranking, then you just sort of disappeared. What happened?
Soon after that winning the Triple Crown I tore the PCL ligaments in both my knees, and I smashed my eyeball in and had to get my eye taken out of my head to get a plastic shade put in there.
What happened to your eye?
I fell on some stairs, and the eye got pushed into my head. I had a bone fracture in the eye orbit, my eye flew out the back of the eyesocket and got stuck, so I saw doubles. They said it would take three years to heal, but I started skating after a year and a half. Then I went to a trainer about getting all fixed up. He noticed I had a broken lower back, so I had to take more time off to get everything fixed.
You had a broken lower back, and you didn’t know it?
Yeah. It slipped forward. It was at a stage-four-at the sixth stage you’re crippled. He’s trained a lot of people who are coming back from injuries like broken backs, and he was surprised that I was skating. I had lower back pain, but I didn’t think it was that bad.
Would it have advanced to a stage-six eventually?
If I would have never got in shape, I could have easily crippled myself. Right now I’ve just got to stay in shape. It was injuries that kept me out, and because I was injured for so long, people started to think I was out of it. They just didn’t know it was injuries.
Do you think it’s harder for a vert skater to come back?
No. It just depends on the person, not whether you’re a vert skater or a street skater; it’s just how much you want it. It’s just as hard for anyone.
How did you feeel when Tony did that 900 at the X-Games?
I was happy for him.
You’ve worked on it, too, right?
A lot of people have worked on it.
Would you have liked to pull it first?
Well yeah, but it’s good for Tony because he’s been trying it for like nine years or something.
He said he’s been trying it for thirteen years.
Thirteen years! Ya see, I’ve only been trying it for one year.
Do you think you can do it?
How close are you?
I roll them to the flat bottom every time. I was saving it for the X-Games, but they wouldn’t let me into the hardest trick. So I don’t know what’s up with that, but congratulations to Tony-he did it.
What are you working on now, what’s your focus?
My focus is just to be a skateboarder and to keep doing it as long as I can. The injuries stopped me for a while, but I just want to keep doing it because it’s what I love.
Do you consider yourself in comeback mode right now?
No. Comeback mode for me was getting over my injuries so I could skate. Right now I’m just skating and having fun, and whatever happens, happens.