I was 13 when I completed my first, real bunnyhop. Prior to that, I was lifting the front end of my bike off curbs and makeshift plywood/2x4 kick ramps - just dropping off the end of things. However, when I learned how to bunnyhop, I felt that distinct sensation of becoming airborne by my own strength and form.
Strained face, stringy arms… lifting the front end as high as possible, while the rear end trailed - just inches into the air… we were bunnyhopping.
"Dude, how high am I getting?"
"Like this…" as my friend, Robin, flattened his palm parallel with the ground approximately 8 inches high. "…tell me how high I'm getting."
He, in return, bunnyhops and I gestured to him the same 8-inch high mark sign of approval.
Within a few weeks, Robin and I were bunnyhopping up curbs and over small obstacles - sticks in the road, parking curbs; each other. My little brother, David, was always the one we told to lay down while we took turns hopping over him - he would giggle every time we cleared him - he was only 7 at the time. He would also lay on the edge of the lawn - which we told him to - in the event one of us falls, it would be into my parent's soft, dried, crab grass.
We learned how to "tuck", which allowed us the get the rear end of higher when we pulled up. We were surpassing the 8-inch height and soon, the 1ft high bunnyhop was part of us.
One day, my friend, Moises, asked us if we could bunnyhop the Santa Cruz High quad stage.
"How high is it?" I asked.
"Like, here." and he proceeds to place his hand in the classic parallel position - this time to the height of his bike frame top tube.
"Can you do it?"
"Yeah… we all can." The group of older kids with Moises nodded proudly, some of them leaning smugly with their elbows against the handlebars.
Bunnyhopping up something is a little easier than bunnyhopping over something. However, the SC quad stage was daunting nonetheless. The hypothetical mishaps swirled like ice cubes in our punchbowl of fear: What if you clip the front end and you flip over forward? What if you clip the rear end and you destroy your rim? What if you don't make it at all and just crash into it? What if you slip the pedals and scrape your shins into a bloody mess?
There were many things that could go wrong, but the pressure of excelling to the level of those older kids was weighing heavy on us. It was not a choice, but a requirement. Getting up onto the Santa Cruz High stage would place us into the elite; the act would gain us the respect from the older kids and we would earn the distinguished title of "BMX'ers"
We approached it it over and over again, getting our bodies into position as if we were going to hop - yet abruptly stopping inches before, skidding our rear tire and placing our feet on the ground, leaning over our handlebars and staring at the height of it, silently pausing in fear and defiance to the challenge.
I'm not sure which one of us made it up first. I do remember not clearing it quite well enough, and my rear wheel bonked the edge; but I did make it up, clumsily. In a very short time, we were bunnyhopping up it with boastful confidence. Within a year, we were getting up on picnic tables and other things much higher than that cement slab in the back of the high school.
In the summer of 1989, my little brother's friend asked if I could bunnyhop the Santa Cruz High stage. Smugly leaning with my elbows against the handlebars, I answered, "Yeah, we all can…"