So last weekend I was down in LA for a wedding, and I ended up catching some of an amateur skate event with a friend, where there were some solid skaters, not street league level, but good nonetheless. Not sure why, but it got me thinking about what made me like skateboarding to begin with. It all has to go back to my first skateboard mancrush in Rodney Mullen. The guy has invented more street skating tricks than Tony Hawk, but he’s rarely talked about in the same light as the Hawk-man. The darkslide wouldn’ve never been invented, manuals may not have caught on, the underflip, and the all the impossible move may never have come around if not for him! Not sure why the video below says best of 2011, since all this footage is before 2004, and I distinctly remember when some of these clips came out back in the VHS skate video days, so some of it easily goes back to the mid-90’s, but as you can see, he was a huge innovator in a sport full of innovators.
Tag Archives: skateboarding
No, I’m not talking about my favorite EA basketball video game, NBA Street. I’m talking about skateboarding! I work for Quiksilver at their headquarters in Huntington Beach California if you didn’t know. Naturally I’m plugged into the action sports industry happenings. This year, Rob Dyrdek’s dream came to fruition with the new Street League, and I really wasn’t sure how it would play out when I first heard about it. He pulled together DC Shoes (a company owned by Quiksilver) and Monster to sponsor his skateboarding Street League. Growing up I was much more into snowboarding, skateboarding, wakeboarding, and eventually surfing to a lesser extent over the ball and stick sports, but the appeal went away when my free time dwindled. I was never a huge fan of how you couldn’t really declare a winner or call someone “the best” for any of these sports since it’s subjective to whose style you like, but Rob created a league that comes very close to finding a true winner. I do watch some of the X-games, but only for the good events, like the street skate, and find myself more into the contests they show on FuelTV than the X-games ones. To this day, I have so much respect for the pounding that these guys take just to get this good. In my opinion skateboarding is by far the hardest of the action sports to learn, and is probably why I love watching the street skating contests. This contest series really does embody all that is street skating. Last night the first leg of the Street League competition was aired on ESPN, and after watching it, I knew I had to write why you should be watching it too. Skateboarding is probably the most popular non ball and stick sport, and Rob Dyrdek is taking it to a whole new level showcasing the best of the best.
Rob’s vision was like nothing we’ve seen from the skateboarding world. He threw out the old style/formats for contests where you can go where ever you want on the street course to make a run that suits your abilities, and instead he made it so the skaters would have seven trick attempts for a specified obstacle in the skate park. Dyrdek basically threw out the whole timed run type of contest, which already made it a better platform for a skating event, since nobody is timed when they are street skating, unless a security guard calls the cops. Last night they had four obstacles set up where each skater was given seven tries to do tricks on that obstacle. This brings out some strategy within the contest. If you go for a big trick and don’t land it, you get zero points. If you do an “easy” trick, you don’t get that many points, but it’s much better than bailing. Nyjah Huston ended up winning the event, and I was happy for the 15 year old. He has a silky smooth style that makes everything look effortless. Plus being from Norcal (Davis), always made me root for him a little more or maybe I just get mesmerized by the flowing dreadlocks. If you don’t know who I’m talking about you can check out clips of him ripping hard here and here. Anyways, this contest came down to the wire, and Nyjah laid it on the line throwing down HUGE tricks that the judges rewarded him with high scores to take over first place, and ultimately winning the contest for him. He had a habit of finishing second in nearly every contest I’ve watched him in, so it was great to see him get his first win, and the $150K check to go along with it.
The genius part of this whole league is how Rob made it have the feel of ball and stick sports game. Each trick is scored live before the next guy goes, so you can see the names jumping up and down the leader board with the real time scoring after each contestant goes, so the scoring looks kinda like a basketball game where you can’t win on the first couple obstacles, but you can definitely lose if you fall too much. What makes it feel like a sporting event? The simple fact that all these contest are going to be held in arenas in front of a crowd oohing and ahhhing over the tricks. Supposedly nearly all of them have been sold out. It’s a big step up from the X-games in terms of declaring a true winner, and I think it will help the sport grow/conform for the viewers. It might not ever be as big as the major sports, but it could give the NHL a run for their money!
How can we be sure that these are really the best 24 skaters there? Well, it’s by invite only, and there’s no way any of the top skaters would turn down the invitation to compete. There’s $1.2M in prize money, and $150K up for grabs at each venue. They also throw $5K to the skater with the best trick (highest scored trick of the night), so even if someone isn’t doing all that well, they can go for huge tricks that have a high failure rate to win that backup prize. If you missed the contest last night, don’t worry, they are going to show all three of the contests on ESPN. As an added bonus Rob and Steve Berra are doing the commentating which is much better than listening to Tony Hawk during the play by play during the X-games.
I’ve never been all that into the rollerblading revolution, probably because my choice was a skateboard growing up, and there’s a rivalry between the two sports if you didn’t know. Much like the rivalry between snowboarders and skiers. Rollerblading is looked upon as MUCH easier to learn. Anyways, for some reason I’m not impressed with this jump. I mean, you won’t see me standing in line to attempt it, but it seems like a overblown Red Bull event for one simple jump. I feel like the fall from the tower to the ramp wasn’t that big, so it makes the plunge less impressive.
Legendary professional skater Mark Gonzales, came up with this interesting design for the skateboard wheel. It once again reminds me of how great it would be to be a pro in the action sports industry. They get to have fun all day long making up weird ass crap like this! At first I thought this would be easy, but after seeing a couple of the related videos, he was by far the most talented on this contraption…
With the conclusion of the X-Games 15 on Sunday, it feels like extreme sports have reached their peak as far as a national audience goes. The X-games are the most popular nationally recognized event for the action sports industry, but it doesn’t seem to be growing or competing with America’s sports (baseball, basketball or football). It’s fun to watch these individuals go all out throwing their bodies around to pull out some amazing tricks, but I always wonder why it never quite catches on the way our “national” sports have. There are a few factors keep these sports under the radar compared to the team sports that everybody watches. It’s tough for a sport that is ultimately about style and individuality to compete with the mainstream sports. Since it is so subjective in judging, there is a feeling after many contests that there could have been a different winner. When compared to the individual sports of the Olympics, tennis, and golf, it’s easy to see why they aren’t as popular on the national level, since it’s much harder to sustain an audience that cares about all the athletes involved. Most of these action sports are played on a fun/recreational level by just as many people as team sports, so why aren’t they as popular?
Is it individual sport versus a team sport? This has to be part of it. Just like golf has Tiger and the swimming has Michael Phelps the extreme sports world has their own mainstays in the upper echelon like skateboarders Danny Way and Tony Hawk, Dirt bike and Rally car driver Travis Pastrana and Rickey Carmichael, surfing’s Kelly Slater, and BMX riders Dave Mirra and Matt Hoffman. Most casual fans that follow any of these sports can tell you how good those top three or four guys are or who the Michael Jordan of that sport is, but if probed further they probably couldn’t tell you much of anything about the rest of the field. For a team sport, you most likely know the key guys on your team, and follow them throughout a season learning more about the “new guys” as you go. It naturally makes you feel closer to a given player when you see them on a regular basis, and can get behind them on a (us vs. the league basis). There’s also the feeling of representing your city or nearby city. In the action sports industry, the only time you would hear about most of the participants in the X-Games is in videos sold at board shops, magazines, or on Fuel TV. There isn’t as much of a city affiliation except their favorite spots to rip, unless that athlete happens to come from your area. The accessibility to the action sports athletes is far less, which makes it harder for the general population to get behind these athletes since they don’t feel as connected to them. It’s just like golf, as you watch a tournament and don’t see Tiger or Phil at the top of the leader board, then you probably won’t be as interested in watching the rest of the event. Same thing goes for some of the X-Games events as the general public rarely knows any of the contestants are so why would they keep watching after they’ve seen a few of them do the most difficult new tricks already.
The clarity of an obvious winner and loser are easy in the timed events, but the scoring by judges it often turns into a popularity contest. In the X-Games new skateboarding contest this year, “The Rail Jam”, Danny Way did a switch 50-50 across the rail, and emerged as the champion. I’m not discounting anything he did, but I can’t help but think that the judges gave him that win because he had an injured knee and ankle that caused him to hobble through the contest. There were a couple of other tricks that I (a former skateboarder) personally deemed much more difficult than Way’s trick. It didn’t feel like there was a clear cut winner or loser in a bunch events, which made it hard for me to feel satisfied at the end of a contest. In the end, it truly feels like these guys aren’t really trying to win. They do want to land the tricks that they are trying, but they are doing it more just to progress the sport. This is the aspect I’m most confused on. The action sports industry is all about learing the moves, and creating your own style through those moves, so a lot of the events are more of a specticle than a contest. I’m definately not saying that they should be a show like Disney on Ice, but most of these sports are an art, and like most art forms we may never truly understand them! This is why it will never be as popular as our national team sports.