Behind the Scenes: Vert Rapid Fire Timeline

By Sean Mortimer

Less than a week after the X Games officially canceled this year’s vert event, it’s back. The dust-up made it very clear that even though only a small percentage of riders shred halfpipes, skaters respect the hell out of them and have their backs.

Here’s the rapid fire timeline of the past week:

• April 2nd: Transworld Business posts a story titled: “Hell Hath No Fury Like A Vert Skater Scorned—But Does ESPN Care?” The piece recounts vert skaters’ shock and anger at the X Games canceling vert during a recent rider’s meeting.

EXPN.com illustration from April 3 “The Death of Vert” story. Illustration by Chris McNally.

• April 3rd: On the same day they officially announce the vert comp cancellation, there’s an article on EXPN.com titled “The Death of Vert.” An image of the Grim Reaper looking down on a vert ramp accompanies it. Here’s the complete third paragraph:
“It’s time. It’s been time. ESPN’s always a little slow on the uptake. It’s no secret that the vert field has stayed the same for the last decade. It’s no secret that there aren’t any vert ramps for kids to ride outside Southern California. If you want a vert career, you have to move there,” says X Games General Manager Chris Stiepock.

The vert skaters took it personally when Stiepock spoke as a skateboard expert, rather than an X Games expert. The article possesses glaring mistakes (completely misses the early-’80s depression when recounting popularity shifts, has Gonz ollieing his namesake gap in the 1990s, etc.) and highlights Gator and Hosoi’s misdeeds. Pro skaters who aren’t even entered in the vert event pitch in support and the rumblings are felt through the skate world. The comments section at the end of the article is stuffed with angry salvos aimed at ESPN. On the EXPN.com poll, 80% vote that canceling vert is “bad.”

• April 3rd: From the start of the cancellation discussion, Tony Hawk made it clear that if vert was cancelled, he would pull out from commentating. Bob Burnquist and Danny Way among others start flexing, and the unofficial boycott begins. What are they boycotting since there’s no vert and Danny doesn’t even skate that event? Mega Ramp.

• April 4th: Bob works on a press release to counter the EXPN.com article and gathers a list of skaters prepared to boycott. Transworld Business emails Stiepock for answers and explanations for an upcoming article. Phone calls and emails between Burnquist and the ESPN heads shoot back and forth for the next few days. The boycott threatens to bleed over into the street contest.

• April 8th: EXPN.com backpedals with a confusing disclaimer on the “Vert Is Dead” article:
If you looked past the morbid illustration and read past the headline and first two sentences of ‘The Death of Vert,’ you would have found evidence that vert is still alive and well for some people in some parts of the world…The title and crux of the story [The Death of Vert] is merely a reflection upon the X Games’ decision to remove the discipline from its lineup.

• April 9th: The X Games reinstates vert skating.