Skateboarding is all about big moves, big risks and big air. But one thing you will notice about some of the extreme sport's newest big stars is that they're not very big at all. In fact, they're 9 years old.
Occasionally 9-year-old twins Nic and Tristan Puehse behave like your average kids, but of course your average kids are not backed by some of the world's most recognizable companies, including Sony, Gatorade and Nike.
Nic and Tristan aren't sure why all these companies sponsor them. The "why" has everything to do with the booming sport of skateboarding and the booming $5 billion business of skateboarding. One market research firm estimates about 12 million American teens now skateboard; that's more than play baseball.
"Skateboarding is huge," said Ed Riggins, the publisher of Thrasher magazine. "I mean, you can't see an ad on TV or a lot of print media that is advertising any kind of a product whatsoever that doesn't have skateboarding connected to it somehow."
Thrasher magazine is the Bible of skateboarding, and Riggins has been deep into the sport for 26 years.
"It is probably as big as I've sever seen it," he said, "especially all the clothing that's influenced by it and the shoe market. The byproducts of it are huge."
And what does a huge company like Nike, which sponsors athletes like Tiger Woods, have to gain from 9-year-old twins? A lot, said Riggins.
"You're at the skate park for a little while, and if you can tell who the best guys are, and if they're sponsored, you're curious … who they are sponsored by?"
The twins' father Mike Puehse remembers when his sons started skateboarding.
"From day one [Tristan and Nic] jumped off 2-foot blocks, and I remember very vividly kids around the skateboard park … standing around them watching them and laughing at them," he said. "Some of [the kids] were making fun of them."
Puehse said his sons were "totally undeterred" and admits they got the last laugh.
"I think they've gotten a lot of respect from fellow skateboarders mostly because they know that they stick well and they try hard and are trying to get as good as they can," he said.
As the twins became more and more into skateboarding, Puehse had to teach himself everything about the sport.
"When somebody mentioned that we needed to get trucks for a board, I said to myself, 'Why do I need to get a truck? We can put the boards in the trunk of the car,'" he recalled. "So that is pretty how much illiterate I was in skateboarding."
Trucks are what attach the wheels to the board … Puehse now knows that.
The twins are sponsored by "tracker trucks," and their father has more than a little to do with that. He built a 20-foot half-pipe in their backyard. He has taken them to about 70 competitions, and the twins owe a lot of their newfound fame to their father. Mike posted a video on YouTube that has more than 3 million hits … and counting.
"The No. 1 reason I started videotaping was just for posterity's sake," Mike said. "As they kept getting better and better I learned a little bit of video editing, I put together some videos and sent them to potential companies to see if they might be interested in sponsorships."