A comp like the X Games is always going to be a bit weird for your average skateboarder.
Article by Nat Kassel. Photos by Wade McLaughlin.
The words ‘fear and loathing’ came to mind instantly, not so much because I'm about to recount some twisted and narcissistic drug bender (or maybe I am?), but because the X Games is a super-corporate beast that many skaters probably regard with some level of fear and loathing.
Part of the reason that it’s so weird is that skateboarding is lumped in with moto x and BMX – because apparently, they all fall into the category of ‘extreme sports’. There's this huge stadium full of punters, a sea of ads for Monster and Subway, and this whole sporting atmosphere. Then there’s the flame torches, fireworks and hyper-sexualised models who are supposed to make Monster more appealing to kids. It's a strange and savage sight. They gave us a couple of media passes, so I went along with Wade McLaughlin for a look. We spent three days in the belly of the beast, and then came up with this totally imbalanced, unfair and probably inaccurate account of X Games Sydney.
Tas Pappas, mega 540!
The Friday started ordinarily enough, at someone's house with a few longnecks of VB. I piled into an Uber with some skaters and the driver steadily made his way to Spotless Stadium, at Sydney Olympic Park. It was time for us to see the 'athletes' compete in the 'sports'.
We entered the stadium to a soundtrack of Blink 182, The Offspring and System Of A Down. It seemed like X Games hadn't updated their playlist since 2004, but nobody seemed disappointed. Wadeos and I flexed our media passes and ended up at the side of the landing of the mega ramp, where a bunch of skaters I'd never heard of were doing mega ramp 'warm-ups', starting with a super steep roll-in and then flying over a 20ish metre (70 foot) gap. When they managed to roll away from the gap, they could immediately launch out of a ridiculously large quarter pipe, like the one that Jake Brown took that slam on back in 2007. One guy did a 900, which was very impressive.
Tas Pappas was there, noticeably limping from an earlier slam he'd taken in warm-ups. Apparently, he’d gotten the death wobbles before the kicker and then found himself slamming into the wall of the launch ramp, then falling into the gap. (This was before they’d put the safety airbag in place and apparently no one filmed it.) From up close, the mega-ramp gap seemed like a massive Euro.
Our next stop was the 'athletes' chill area, where we loaded up on free Maxibons, yoghurts and vegemite toast. Ryder Lawson was there, sticking to a strict athlete diet of soft drinks, ice cream and ciggies, while Noah Nayef and Brad Saunders were playing ping-pong. Some other people were playing Call of Duty on a couch and in another section people were copping massages. It was all very civilised.
After the free feed, we decided to rip into a few $8.50 mid-strength beers. They were average, so we moved onto mid-strength Jim Beam and Cokes, which were a questionably better choice. Then we joked about the prospect of going into the bathrooms and snorting some performance-enhancing substances, elite athlete style. Instead, we decided to catch the elevator up to the top of the mega ramp.
It was the golden hour – almost sunset – and the view was magical. For some reason, my vision was slightly fuzzy and my balance felt weird. Wade looked a little bit topsy-turvy as well. It must have been the altitude. At first, there were some BMXers sessioning the thing. Jake Brown magically appeared and started hucking himself over the chasm. It was totally fucked to watch from the top. We were actually frothing.
There was a guy up there, Lucas, who worked for California Skateparks and he had a radio and was telling the dudes when they could drop in. After a couple of goes, Jake landed a backflip over it, which was insane. Lucas told us we were lucky to be up there because they’d extended the practice session, and we believed it. Then he said we all had to go down.
The next stop was the women's street finals, which was pretty sick too. Leticia Bufoni was busting back lips down the rail every go and Alexis Sablone was flipping the set like an absolute legend. But Mariah Duran had kicky front boards locked on the flat bar and a front feeble down the big rail for the win. Aussies Liv Lovelace, Aimee Massie, and Haley Wilson all killed it too. It was pretty sick to see the local ladies get the chance to have a dig on the international circuit.
Wade was walking through the crowd, shooting some different angles of the girls’ session, then some drunk punter in the crowd yelled, “Oi, mate. Why don’t you take a photo of my cock?” Classic call, bro.
Lucas from California Skateparks.
'R-Willy' – pro scooterer, pro BMXer and winner of the BMX Big Air comp shares the giant roll-in with Jake Brown. Strange days indeed.
Jake had an epic grip job.
And spins a hectic 720 ollie.
Before flipping out.
The bleachers were great to get your tan on while watching the stuntman concert. Mitch and Anthony agree.
Brophy was there for the TV commentary.
Ryder Lawson has a strict diet that enables him to perform at a top level.
The weigh-ins were pretty heated. Lawson versus Saunders.
Kizza was there.
Leigh Bolton on fisheye duties.
Leticia Bufoni had a dude following her around with a phone on live feed the entire time.
She killed the comp. Back lip.
Alexis Sablone has a sublime kickflip.
Renton and Mappy on the job.
No pressure. Mariah Duran about to make it happen!
Flamethrowers 'n all.
Aussie young guns: Nixen Osborne, Hayley Wilson, Liv Lovelace, Ryder Lawson, Brad Saunders and Noah Nayef.
The second day was a little rough because I’d spent the previous night bartending until 4am and Wade had also been partying all night. I hadn’t had much sleep and Wade said he hadn’t slept at all. We watched the big air, mega ramp thing, which was pretty mind-blowing. Elliot Sloan did a tailgrab 900, spinning himself into first place. Hopefully the skaters got paid a lot of money.
After that came the street qualifiers. The Aussie wildcards, Ryder, Brad and Noah, all had a good dig and made us proud, which was good to see. We sat in the front row and decided to throw $20 on who we thought would qualify in first place. I kooked it and picked Zion Wright, just because I like him.
Wade picked Brissy street skateboarding legend Tommy Fynn, which very nearly paid off, but Ben Currie backed Luan Oliviera and took all our money. Straight after that, a violent thunderstorm rolled through and thrashed the whole stadium.
By day three I was all X Games’d out. The hype and the flame torches and the hoards of punters were getting old. Luckily, day three was when we found the VIP bar, where we could get unlimited mid-strength beers and mini meat pies for free. The view of the men’s street final was pretty good too. Everyone skated with crazy consistency and did super tech shit. You probably saw it on TV. Nyjah was wearing white leggings with white basketball shorts over the top. I’d never seen anybody skateboard in that kind of clothing before. Nyjah won.
But, the highlight of the day came after the comp was all over. Some guy called Darren* from Penrith* jumped the fence and had a little skate on the course. He didn’t do any tricks but he seemed more than happy just to get to roll around, then raise his board up to the crowd and soak up the glory. The crowd went wild, then a security guard kicked him off the course. Darren jumped back over the fence happily, to the warm embrace of his fans. Onya, Darren.
Tommy Fynn was looking good after killing the qualifiers but unfortunately couldn't put together a full run in the finals. Crooks up.
Tommy with a "switch nollie nosegrind".
Shane O'Neill, crooks nollie frontside flip out!
Nyjah came to win in white.
Darren gets involved.
Dazza's T-shirt reads: "I try to make things idiot proof, but they keep making better idiots".
For those who wanted some real information from this article, here are the results:
Men’s Skateboard Street Final
1. Nyjah Huston, 96.00 (USA)
2. Kelvin Hoefler, 92.66 (BRA)
3. Shane O’Neill, 92.00 (AUS)
4. Jagger Eaton, 91.66 (USA)
5. Yuto Horigome, 87.33 (JPN)
6. Luan Oliveira, 83.00 (BRA)
7. Alec Majerus, 80.00 (USA)
8. Ryan Decenzo, 70.66 (CAN)
9. Ishod Wair, 65.00 (USA)
10. Tommy Fynn, 42.66 (AUS)
Women’s Skateboard Street Final
1. Mariah Duran, 89.00 (USA)
2. Leticia Bufoni, 88.00 (BRA)
3. Aori Nishimura, 82.00 (JPN)
4. Pamela Rosa, 80.00 (BRA)
5. Alexis Sablone, 77.00 (USA)
6. Hayley Wilson, 72.00 (AUS)
7. Candy Jacobs, 71.33 (NED)
8. Liv Lovelace, 71.00 (AUS)
9. Nanaka Fujisawa, 56.33 (JPN)
10. Aimee Massie, 46.00 (AUS)
Skateboard Big Air Final
1. Elliot Sloan, 95.66 (USA)
2. Rony Gomes, 94.00 (BRA)
3. Trey Wood, 91.33 (USA)
4. Clay Kreiner, 89.00 (USA)
5. Jake Brown, 78.00 (AUS)
6. Toby Ryan, 74.00 (USA)
7. Asher Bradshaw, 66.00 (USA)
8. Evan Doherty, 58.00 (USA)
You can watch the videos here.
*I have no idea if his name was really Darren or if he was really from Penrith.