On Saturday 12-year-old skater Alana Smith became the first female to land a McTwist in competition, claiming a $1,000 Best Trick prize at Exposure 2012, an all-women's skateboard competition at the Clairemont Skatepark at the Mission Valley YMCA in San Diego, Calif. She got some last-minute coaching from the McTwist's namesake, who was on hand as a fan at the competition.
"Mike McGill was there giving me advice and he just told me to go higher and to really commit to bringing it around," Smith told ESPN.com. "It was the extra push I needed. It's a really crazy feeling to be upside down and spinning around and then get your wheels under you and ride it out."
Only one other female skater has ever landed the trick: Smith's role model, three-time X Games gold medalist Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins Pastrana, first landed a McTwist at a demo in 2009, and took to Facebook on Sunday to show her support for Smith, writing, "I've been hearing about and admiring Alana Smith for a while now. I knew from the first video I saw years ago she was a game changer and was going to push our sport ... I'm so excited and proud to welcome this amazing inspiring 12-year-old into The F.F.F. Club (Female Five Forty Club)!"
Smith says Saturday's competition is the first time she's ever brought the full inverted 540 degree spin around, though not for the lack of trying.
"I've been working on this trick for a long time, probably for the last year, skating every day at the Kids That Rip! Skateboard School," she told ESPN.com, referring to the facility in Mesa, Ariz. near her home in Phoenix that was her first sponsor and has been her primary training ground over the last few years. "We have a thirteen and a half foot vert ramp there and the 540 has been on my mind for almost as long as I've been skating it."
Smith is one of a dozen female skaters on the Hoopla Skateboards team, started by Cara-Beth Burnside and Mimi Knoop to help attract more girls to skateboarding. Knoop says she's been blown away by the rising level of talent she's seeing from young girls at skateparks across the country, and that Smith is among the best of them.
"It was a pretty moving moment for everybody when she landed the McTwist," Knoop told ESPN.com. "She's now the youngest girl to land it and the first to land it in competition. We're super proud of her because she's kind of making her own path in skateboarding, which is what skateboarding is all about... she's just friends with all these little boys and skates with them, trying to keep up and doing pretty well at it."
Smith has been training at the Woodward West action sports camp every chance she gets, hitting both the vert ramp and the MegaRamp, and the "little boys" who are her peers include the crop of next-generation skaters -- Tom Schaar, Mitchie Brusco, and Jono Schawn among them -- who have been bringing the average age at the X Games and on the Dew Tour way down over the last year. Smith says she'd like to have her name in that mix at major competitions within a year or two.
"Those guys are all my best friends, and my goal is to be able to compete with them at the highest level," Smith said.
She's also thrilled to see women's vert competition making a comeback: World Cup Skateboarding held women's vert and bowl competitions in August at the Rocky Mountain Rampage in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Saturday's competition was hosted by skater/filmmaker Amelia Brodka, director of the women's skateboarding documentary "Underexposed," as part of an effort to keep the momentum going. Brodka and other female skaters have been campaigning to bring women's vert competition back to the X Games, which last hosted the event in 2010.
"It's really cool to see women's competitions coming back and to get to skate with everybody and meet all these other girls out there," said Smith, who also finished second in Saturday's vert competition, behind Lizzie Armanto. "I'm stoked to see women's vert coming back and I hope it comes back to X Games, because there are a lot of girls out there who mostly skate vert and bowls, not just street."
Smith, who just turned 12 in October, said she's thrilled to be getting some attention for her 540 but has much bigger numbers on her mind. "The next big trick I've been working on is a fakie 720, and as soon as I land that I want to be working on 900s," she said.