Most 16-year-olds on a Thursday afternoon would be playing video games with friends, checking out their Facebook or MySpace pages, or watching videos on Youtube. Not Nyjah Huston. He’s competing in the X Games.

Sponsored by the skateboard company Element, Huston started skating when he was just 5 years old and began competing in the X Games when he was 11 in an event called Skateboard Street. He has earned silver medals for the years 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The X Games started in 1995 as a motley collection of youth action sports broadcast on ESPN (Entertainment Sports Programming Network) as the Extreme Games. The games premiered with events the uninitiated had never imagined would draw huge crowds such as street luge, skateboarding, bicycle motocross (BMX), freestyle motocross (FMX), sky surfing, and bungee jumping. The three winners in each event receive Olympics-like medals. ESPN spent $10 million on the 1995 Extreme Games and later shortened the title to the X Games.

Just two years after it started, fans clamored for more. ESPN split the X into summer and winter versions and experimented with events in the snow. The name officially became the Winter X games or Winter X for short.

James Stewart, 23, another African American competitor, is a professional motocross rider with San Manuel Yamaha. Stewart debuted in the X Games in 2009, competing in Moto X best whip, where the idea is to just whip the motorcycle and Super X, another Moto X racing event.

According to the Urban Dictionary, a moto whip “is a maneuver performed on a motocross cycle, usually during supercross or motocross racing, in which the rider brings the rear of the motorcycle abruptly around to either side. This is performed while the machine is airborne off a jump.”
In 2009, Stewart received a silver medal in best whip.

X Games 17 begins today in Downtown L.A. and on ESPN, with events happening all day until Sunday. Tickets for the games are $5 at local Ticketmaster locations and at the Staples Center box offices. The ticket allows admission to X-fest, which includes music performances, interactive skate/BMX parks, athlete appearances, demos and such. It is free to the public.