The dust has settled. The Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., has cleared out and 15-year-old Nyjah Huston is going home with $150,000 and the first-ever trophy from a Street League event. Huston outscored his finalist peers, including Paul Rodriguez and Chris Cole, both of whom were considered favorites to win the event. Huston joined Street League on Aug. 20 when Geoff Rowley backed out of competing in the events. Huston took second place at X Games 16, second place at the Maloof Money Cup in Orange County and second place at the 2010 Tampa Pro contest. With so many near misses, it was nice to see him finally hit the mark and take home a big win in a skate contest with the largest first-place purse to date. The normally shy Huston was vocal about his happiness with the decisive win.
"Getting all the same placement before, it just gives me a greater feeling now," Huston said. "It's definitely well appreciated. I think the format, the judging, everything that Rob [Dyrdek] and all of these guys did, [the contest] is put together so well. It's always going to be fair and you're always going to know what you've got to do to win."
The big day of Street League kicked off with a last-chance qualifier. Only six skaters qualified for the finals by placing the highest in prelims on Friday. The remaining 16 skaters had the option to battle it out for the remaining spot in the finals; they competed against one another on the area of the course with the biggest obstacles. Skaters gunning for the seventh slot included Eric Koston, Billy Marks, Tommy Sandoval, Torey Pudwill, Ryan Sheckler, Peter Ramondetta and Greg Lutzka. In the end, Pudwill stuck the most difficult tricks with the highest rate of consistency to advance to the finals where he joined Cole, Huston, Rodriguez, Chaz Ortiz, Sean Malto and Shane O'Neill. Pudwill's standout tricks included a backside Smith to backside tailslide down the hubba ledge as well as a perfect switch flip and perfect nollie flip down the sizable stairs.
With Pudwill in and the top seven riders decided, the final got underway. The crowd here in Arizona quickly picked up on the new concept of the "ISX" instant scoring system and its ability to influence skaters' trick selection and strategy to propel themselves higher in the ranking. Cole, who began the final with some power moves that put him ahead, missed key tricks in the final section and saw his lead disappear before his eyes.
"It's tricky because, personally, I like to play the no-brains, no-headache card, " Cole said afterward. "I just skate around not really thinking about what I'm gonna do next. In this contest you start to think and then once you fall once, you might as well dig a hole and stick your face in it."
Torey Pudwill, who was also out in front in the ranking at varying stages during the final felt that the instant scoring presented a new challenge. "This is a hard contest, I'm not gonna lie. But it's tight," Pudwill said.
In the final section of the day, a three-flat-six stair double-set with hubba ledges and a kinked rail, the lead seemed to go back and forth between Huston and rookie pro O'Neill. A switch 360 flip and nollie backside heelflip down the stairs by O'Neill had the crowd cheering. Meanwhile, Huston kept racking up points with trick after trick. Huston sealed the deal with a switch frontside big-spin heelflip down the stairs and kickflip frontside boardslide gapping out to the last section of the kinked rail.
Everyone here saw some serious skateboarding and what may well be the beginning of a new era in skate contests. Be sure to keep checking back for our exclusive video from the event coming Sunday and tune in to ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET on Sept. 15 for the broadcast of Street League stop one.
1. Nyjah Huston 116 points 82% consistency $150,000
2. Shane O'Neill 114.9 points 79% consistency $80,000
3. Torey Pudwill 112.8 points 82% consistency $25,000
4. Sean Malto 111 points 86% consistency $10,000
5. Chris Cole 109.6 points 79% consistency $7,500
6. Chaz Ortiz 102.2 points 79% consistency $6,000
7. Paul Rodriguez 100.1 points 71% consistency $5,500