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What is a Halfpipe?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 30 March 2014
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A halfpipe is a constructed surface used in extreme sports that require defying gravity, such as skateboarding, snowboarding, and BMX freestyle. The basic design of a halfpipe consists of two concave ramps face to face, with a flat transition between them and a deck, or flat area, at the top of each ramp. Ever present in the Winter Olympics and the X-Games, the halfpipe is the arena where extreme sports athletes compete.

Most often, a halfpipe is constructed of wood, though occasionally and not preferably, sheet metal is used. In the case of snowboarding, the halfpipe may need to be dug and then filled and packed with snow, while BMX freestyle can be performed on either a constructed or dug and graded halfpipe. The height of the halfpipe walls and the distance between the ascension of the ramps varies. The flat area between the two concave ramps of the halfpipe allows athletes to momentarily regain balance while maintaining speed before ascending the opposite ramp to gain “air” for their next trick. During bigger sporting competitions, the deck on either side is large enough to accommodate spectators.

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The tricks performed on the halfpipe vary with the sport. In skateboarding, halfpipe skating is the vert style that became popular with the first X-Games. Skateboarding and snowboarding have many similarities in their aerial tricks, like grabs and spins, though in skateboarding, the feet can leave the board, whereas in snowboarding, the feet are strapped on. BMX freestyle tricks encompass their own style. Tricks performed on the halfpipe are limited only by the equipment and the rider’s abilities, though the basic aerial tricks specific to each sport must be mastered by all professionals.

Many parks and recreational facilities have halfpipes on site. Some extreme sports enthusiasts who do not have facilities nearby have constructed halfpipes in their backyard for personal use. This can be done on whatever scale your space allows and requires only basic plans and materials combined with some construction know-how.

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