Now that the final Street league contest has come and gone, and already been aired on ESPN 2 so more people have potentially seen this competitive experiment in action. What can we take in from it? How will Rob Dyrdek’s effort to change the way skateboarders compete against each other rank in the future annals of skateboarding recordation? How do the competitors feel about the new format? How do the non-competing pros feel about the new format? How do the soccer/skate moms and dads feel about this new outlet of organized skateboarding? And how does your everyday skateboarder feel about this new addition to the modern day explosion of skateboarding?
Street skateboarding is a difficult beast to tame as far as competition goes. It’s very, very technical. In this, the day of mega ramps and superpipes it’s hard to really convince a novice skate fan that the two worlds are equally as challenging. On one hand you have guys dropping into drop-ins as tall as the apartment complexes many of us live in, clearing 50-foot gaps, and then launching 30 feet out of 30-foot quarterpipes. There has been the crowd silencing spills of Jake Brown and Danny Way, falls that look impossible to walk away from, and yet these guys are still competing on these behemoth ramps today. And then on the other hand, you have a switch kickflip backside talislide on a two foot ledge. It’s like a Great Dane fighting a Chihuahua as far as the eye pleasing factor to an ignorant skate fan goes.
But that’s the thing, street skateboarding is incredibly hard, period. I was exaggerating a little bit in the above paragraph. It is obvious to see that a frontside flip over a handrail and down 14 stairs takes a lot of skill and guts. It’s just people in America want every thing to be MEGA! “The Land of the Free” is also “The Land of the Big.” We supersize our fries, drive hummers and make big-fat kids that need big offerings of french fries to fill their big stomachs, and need the big bucket seats of hummers to fit their big-fat asses. So, it’s only natural we want our skateboarding Supersized, it’s the American way.
In direct contrast, street skateboarding is considered more of an art by it’s industry than a sport, which is another factor Drydek is having to battle. Most “artist types” are either naturally non-competitive, or just use it as an excuse not to try. “I’m scared I might not do good, so I’ll make it obvious I don’t care,” or “I’m simply too cool for this.” Now, I tend to hang out more on the art side of things, so I know their are guys in street skateboarding that simply are eccentric artists and really just aren’t competitive. But there are A LOT of guys who use it as a copout. “I’m marketed as this ‘guy,’ I don’t want to ruin my image.”
In other words Dyrdek is giving street skateboarders an opportunity to display what they do, and how difficult it really is. And a lot of them simply don’t want it. He’s trying to change things up and give guys who don’t normally skate these things a chance to prove they’re on the same level as Chris Cole. Some are giving it a shot, but a lot of the video guys are skating Street League like they film a section. Trying more difficult tricks than they need to, and in the process throwing the contest away. I think Sean Malto put it best after his win at the second stop, “I flipped my board twice the whole final.” He played it safe, and was rewarded with $150,000.
So who’s the better skateboarder, the guy who can consistently land a program of tricks, or a guy, who if given a year, can put together a killer section. If the true test of being the best is being able to come through when you have to, than what is better? Being able to land a move in a contest when the pressure is on, or getting every trick you need for your video section in the amount of time allowed.
A competitor in Street League said to me after the Las Vegas contest, “he says it’s so different and ground breaking (the format), but it’s the same guys winning this that win Maloof and Dew Tour.” That is true, but it’s because they are skating with a plan. Street League is very different than the other contests, it’s one trick at a time that is instantly scored. It’s skateboarding meets chess. It may not totally reward a risk taker, but it puts an end to a blizzard of unlanded tricks with a few makes here and there.
The format makes street skateboarding more of a spectator sport. The legitimate “skate rat” can sit down and watch his heroes next to his mom and dad, who will be able to understand what is going on a bit more. They may not know what a switch kickflip is, but they’ll get that the competitor needs a 4.2, and it’s exciting because…DID HE GET THE SCORE. AND THE JUDGES SAY…
Street League skateboarding has one really good thing going for it as far as making skateboarding a league. Street skateboarding is the most popular form of skating by a landslide. All you need is a skateboard and some pavement. They’re aren’t that many halfpipes around anymore, and who the hell knows where the nearest mega-ramp is. It’s been like the same five guys winning the mega-ramp contests for as long as they’ve been around. But the faces of street skateboarding are constantly changing; it’s just so damn popular. And so is Rob, the combination of the two is a legitimate threat.
Street League skateboarding appears to have been a success, and it is going to be interesting to see what happens next year. Enough of the core pros and industry people have given it support, and the crowds have really seemed to be into it. There are tons of possibilities. Will it go international? How many stops will there be next year? Is it going to be all of the same skaters? Will there be a best trick contest? There are just so many things to expect. We’ll see.
Top photo: Arizona course at the Jobing.com Arena. Photo: Courtesy of California Skateparks.
Bottom photo: Street League Founder, Rob Dyrdek. Photo: Polk via Getty Images