Video footage of longboarder Ryan Vitale colliding with a deer during practice runs at this weekend's appropriately named Buffalo Bill Downhill Bloodspill in Golden, Colo., went viral Monday, partly because of the incredible footage of the crash itself and partly because of the dramatic reaction of Mike Paproski, a local skater who happened to be wearing a GoPro camera on his helmet as he narrowly averted the mayhem unfolding in front of him.
Both Vitale and the deer were miraculously intact after the crash; Paproski has become a minor Internet celebrity. ESPN.com caught up with him for the story behind his incredible POV footage.
ESPN.com: Can you walk us through the moments leading up to this crash to put it into context?
Paproski: The Buffalo Bill Downhill Bloodspill is an annual race on a local course here in Colorado, and it's a pretty rad course. The road is pretty straight at the beginning for about a mile, pretty much just rip-and-grip riding where you don't have to slow down at all. Then there's a portion, right after where the deer gets hurt, that's a big right-hand U-turn called "The Gooch." That's a big, scary spot: I think about that spot from the very top until I get there, because it's the first technical spot on the course where you really have to ride technically, put the brakes on and turn. So as I'm preparing myself for it, I notice a bunch of pro riders coming up behind me. I'd been tucking for quite a while and I was going pretty fast, probably 35 mph, but I knew Louie Pilloni and some other big-time pros were coming up on me and I didn't want to be the guy who takes out one of the pros. So I slowed down a little, then all of a sudden I see four deer crossing the road right in front of this big pack of people.
What was going through your mind as that scene unfolded in front of you?
It was instant chaos. Three of the four deer made it all the way across the road, but as the fourth was trying to get across one guy slid his board and scared him back into the road right in front of me and Ryan. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I was pretty sure I was crashing. I couldn't believe I managed to avoid the tangle myself, much less get a good video angle on it.
You know your "Holy s---, that was so f-----' radical!" reaction is going to go down as one of the all-time great YouTube moments, right?
Once I got to the turn and realized I had already blown the turn -- I didn't slow down in time -- I just totally put the brakes on, stopped and screamed. My first thought was that I wanted to make sure somebody was checking to make sure he was OK, and my second was, well, you know
The rest of the day people were doubting it had happened the way it did, because there were only a few people who actually saw it, but once we saw the video it was pretty easy to override all that, and the next day I was a superstar at the race -- instant celebrity status in the skating world -- and everybody recognized the horns [on his helmet] from the video.
At what point did you realize exactly what you had on video? Were you able to check it out right away? It wasn't until about 8 that night that we were able to really look at it, edit it and put it up, because I don't have all the cool camera parts that allow you to look at the video right away. I spend all my money on skateboarding and don't have money for all the cool stuff! But once we knew what we had we put it up directly because everybody had to see it. We sat here watching it over and over again for, like, four hours, and everybody who sees it starts cursing, so now I don't feel so bad for cursing in the moment.
I have to ask: Are there "deer crossing" warning signs on the Lookout Mountain road? I don't even know, but it's the mountains and it's Colorado I've lived here my whole life and I know when you're in the mountains, you're going to see stuff like that -- you know, animals crossing the road. So it's one of those natural hazards, but you're still not expecting it to happen right in front of you when you're skateboarding into a big scary turn!
What do you make of the response to the video and all the media attention you're getting today? Unf------believable. I don't know what to say, but I'm super excited. I love skateboarding and I love catching stuff on film, and I'm just stoked that I got to share this with everybody.
Have you had a chance to talk with Ryan Vitale after the crash? No, because he was laid up all day the next day, and we were right back in race mode, but we heard through the grapevine that he was OK. I hope I get to meet him soon and buy him a beer, because he has Chuck Norris status in my opinion. The deer has Chuck Norris status, too. It was dazed for a minute and then just got up and ran away. You can actually see it running off at the very end of the video.