Images by Fred Sobottka and Markus Akre
I used to pretend like I was a skateboarder. I hung out at the local skate shop in Des Moines, obsessed over Tony Hawk Pro Skater and, at one point, my brother and I conned my dad into making us a half pipe for the driveway. Yeah, I was pretty cool. Skateboarding didn’t stick and although I still have some of my old boards,, they spend more time in my closet than on the street. One thing that hasn’t changed is my love of everything X Games and extreme so when I was given the chance to spend this weekend at the X Games, I just couldn’t say no.
Full disclosure- I know very little about trick names or who the players are these days (Tony Hawk is still God in my world) but that didn’t change the excitement I had as I watched BMXers, Moto x riders, and skateboarders fly through the air right in front of my face. Although I have no allegiances when it comes to the athletes, it was hard not to get lost in the excitement when an underdog placed higher than the assumed winner. Even with the clear rivalry between athletes, there was a clear sense of friendship between each and every one of them. With every win and upset was a plethora of hugs and high fives from competitors and fans alike. New or particularly daring tricks at rewarded with skateboarders banging their boards against the concrete – no broken boards observed, even though they were not gentle.
Monster Energy Men Skateboard Street Qualifier
BMX seemed to be the name of the game for Friday. The fact that majority of the events were done on bikes was about the only similarity between them. From a street course full of rails and stairs to the “park course” that was an empty pool with rails and other fun things on the edges, every event brought something new to the table.being that I’m not a sports writer and this is not a sports blog, I feel like me going over winners, losers, points, and scores just wouldn’t be my thing so, instead, here are some of my favorite photos of the day:
BMX Street Final
Dave Mirra’s BMX Park Best Trick Final
The Real Cost BMX Big Air Final
The “Next X skateboard Park” and “Next X Skateboard street” we’re definitely highlights (and yes, I realize I just got done telling you how majority of the day was about biking but these two competitions were the outliers). The Next X competitions were full of kids and I’m not talking young adults, I’m talking kids that looked like they couldn’t be much older than 10. Watching these uber talented toddlers (okay, now I’m being dramatic) whiz around the courses with ease was truly amazing. It’s one thing to watch adults that have been doing this for years and it’s another to see kids do it who have only been alive for years. Each one of them already had a distinct style and swagger about them at such an early age that it was impossible to not fall in love with them and watching them. With Park and Street becoming Olympic events in just a couple of years, there’s a good chance we will be seeing some of those kids on the podium in Tokyo. One of the skaters, Gavin Bottger caught my untrained eye. At just 11 years old, he skates with enough flair and panache to take 2nd place on the Park Course (He’s wearing the bright yellow shirt in the pictures)
Next X Skateboard Park Final
Next X Skateboard Street Final
Another highlight of the day for me was the Women’s BMX Demo. Although not an event that kept scores or gave out medals, watching the fearless ladies do their thing definitely made me happy. The commentators mc’ing the weekend talked about how the hopes are that the women’s BMX event can turn into an actual competition event as soon as next year. My question is…. Why hasn’t it already? The women I saw today completely shredded the course and honestly could go up against the men if you ask me. I may have given up on my dreams of becoming a skateboarder (okay, they were very very far fetched dreams) but these women didn’t and that made me all warm and fuzzy in the inside.
Watching the big air events was obviously notable. My stomach dropped every time I watched a Moto X Rider reach jaw dropping heights from the half pipe. Being someone that loves my feet firmly planted on the ground, I got to live vicariously through them for a bit and it was absolutely perfect. I don’t know how they do it but they make it look easy as pie. How none of them crashed their bikes or died is truly beyond me. And then Harry Bink dislocated his shoulder and had it popped back in right there on the course. Same can be said for the BMX riders that took to the ramp that nearly reached the top bowl of seats at US bank Stadium. Although the BMX riders seemed to have more falls throughout the competition, there was no lack of impressive tricks and jaw dropping air.
Everything about my first full day at the X Games was amazing, the amount of respect showed between competitors, fans, staff and everyone else has made me a life long fan in just a couple of hours. I absolutely cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings.
Moto X QuarterPipe High Air Final
Moto X Freestyle Final
The night closed out with many of the athletes and fans moving a few blocks to the Armory where they spent any energy left on the dance floor to the tunes of Kaskade