20 Reasons to Tune in to X Games Austin 2014
A Lot to Look Forward To
As X Games makes its debut in Austin, Texas, this week, we could list hundreds of things for fans to get excited about. But instead, we've boiled that list down to the 20 biggest moments, people and contests to look forward to -- from new names and established champions, to mind-blowing tricks and surprising upsets, to the food and culture in the Lone Star State. Get ready, because Austin, here we come.
1. A New City
For the first time in more than a decade, X Games -- which was most recently in Los Angeles, California, for 11 years -- will be venturing to a new U.S. city, Austin, Texas. With a new location, there's sure to be some surprises -- the vert ramp is going up where, you say? -- and an infusion of culture from a brand-new place.
2. Woman in Rally
Emma Gilmour will be making X Games history in Austin as the first female driver in RallyCross, racing head-to-head against the guys. "With rally driving, there are no physical limitations for a woman to not be as fast as a guy," said Gilmour, a veteran of the New Zealand Rally Championship circuit. Gilmour finished 12th out of 16 drivers in her GRC debut in Barbados in May.
3. Brand-New Tricks
Austin will boast an all-around bigger and more expansive Moto X Freestyle course than was possible in Los Angeles, and all of the top competitors have been working on new tricks to make the most of it. Look for potential X Games firsts like the new Special flip bike flip combo Taka Higashino debuted at the Red Bull X Fighters event in Japan last month, front flip variations Jacko Strong has been working on at recent Nitro Circus shows and the bike flip 180 Tom Pags plans on hucking off of the first Moto X quarterpipe feature at X Games.
4. Jamie Bestwick goes for nine
Jamie Bestwick, 42, eagerly awaits the day when some younger rider rises to the challenge and wrests the BMX Vert crown from him, but he says he has no intention of making it easy. "Today everybody looks at me as the man to beat," said Bestwick, who set an X Games record in Barcelona in 2013 with his eighth consecutive gold medal and aims to round that up to nine in Austin. "If you think I'm just some old guy now who's at the twilight of his career and I'm just going to roll over ... no. Forget it."
5. Hawk Times Two
Tony Hawk, an X Games skateboarding commentator since retiring from competition in 1999, is going to try his best to remain unbiased -- and thankful he's not in the judging booth -- when his son Riley Hawk makes his X Games debut in Skateboard Street. It turns out that the key to raising a second-generation skateboard superstar is mostly to stay out of the way. "He needs to have his own identity and not just live under my shadow," Hawk said. "So I definitely try to step back as much as I can." The younger Hawk is also competing in this year's X Games Real Street video contest.
6. The Music Lineup
X Games isn't just about sports. More than a dozen artists, including Kanye West (shown here) and the Flaming Lips, will perform at X Games Austin, turning the four-day event into a massive festival filled with music, sports and more. Other musical acts include Pretty Lights, Bad Religion, Gary Clark Jr., Mac Miller, Slightly Stoopid, Dillon Francis, Mayer Hawthorne, Wavves, Cash Cash, FMLYBND and Candyland.
7. Bucky Is Back
"I'm going to keep kicking butt until my butt keeps getting kicked," Bucky Lasek said after sweeping the X Games Skateboard Vert events in Brazil, Spain and Germany in 2013, then winning another gold at X Games Los Angeles 2013. "I'm having the best year of my life, hands down." Lasek, now 41, has been a force at X Games since 1997 and has a stack of medals to show for it: 10 gold, seven silver and two bronze. He's also been a RallyCross competitor since 2012 and just renewed his contract with Subaru for the 2014 Global RallyCross season.
8. A Battle in BMX Street
Garrett Reynolds won every BMX Street event at X Games from its introduction in 2008 until last year, at X Games Los Angeles, where Chad Kerley fought his way to the top of the podium and left Reynolds with silver. Rivalries don't mean much to Reynolds -- whose response after losing out to his friend and teammate was, "It's an honor to be beat by that guy" -- but Austin, home of one of the world's most thriving BMX scenes, is sure to see a showdown.
9. Downtown Vert Ramp
To kick off X Games Austin on night one, Thursday, June 5, the Skateboard and BMX Vert competitions will take place at an iconic location: at the intersection of 10th Street and Congress Avenue in front of the Texas State Capitol building. The streets will be shut down temporarily and admission will be free to the public. Once it's over, the vert ramp will be disassembled as quickly as possible to let the Capitol return to business as usual.
10. Debut of Super Trucks
When word went out that the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, would be the new home of the X Games and that some new racing events would be added, Stadium Super Trucks founder and reigning champion Robby Gordon put the pedal to the metal to make it happen for his brand of off-road racing. "I'm stoked beyond belief and really feel like this is going to be a perfect fit," Gordon said. "We are probably the most extreme motorsport there is and we can't wait to prove it in Austin."
11. Am Skaters Welcome
It's not every year that amateurs get to compete on the same venue as the pros at X Games. But at X Games Austin, a Skate Street Am event will take place alongside the pro division. Jeremy Leabres, pictured here, is one of the invited am skaters. With any luck, these are the names you'll see in the pro division in years to come.
12. Uprising in Skate Park
Self-proclaimed surf rat Curren Caples, son of former pro surfer Evan Caples, first popped up at X Games in 2010 when he was just 14, just missing the Skateboard Park podium in fourth place. Last year his surf-inspired tuck-knee style helped him win silver in Barcelona and gold in Munich. "Afterward I was shaking, I was tripping out," Caples said. Caples, now 18, will be one to watch in Austin.
14. Tanner Foust's New Ride
Two of the biggest names in RallyCross have jumped over to the new Volkswagen Andretti RallyCross (VARX) team and will be shaking things up as VW -- long a dominant force in the European rally scene -- makes its X Games debut in Austin. "I had a tremendous run with Ford and I wouldn't be where I am without them," said four-time X Games gold medalist Tanner Foust. "But the opportunity to partner with Andretti Autosport and the new VARX team as they're coming into the sport was too good to turn down." He'll be driving a Volkswagen Polo R in Austin, as will X Games Foz do Iguau 2013 gold medalist and fellow Ford defector Scott Speed, who won the GRC opener in his new ride last month in Barbados.
15. A New Paul Rodriguez
Last year four-time gold medalist Paul Rodriguez came into X Games as a man adrift, after severing ties with longtime sponsor Plan B to focus on doing his own thing. "I've been fortunate to ride for any company I've ever wanted to," he said after announcing the launch of his new brand, Primitive Skateboards. "I've paid my dues and I've been fortunate to build myself up to where I saw the opportunity. I figured if I was going to do it, right now would be the time."
16. Wild-card Wes
Wes Agee made his X Games debut in 2013 with a bronze medal in Foz do Iguau. He's been a bit unpredictable since and finished eighth at X Games Los Angeles, but if you're rooting for an underdog in Austin, he just might be your man. "I'm excited for the new location," he said. "It's cool to come in pretty much as a fresh rider in a new location and kind of mix it up a bit." Rumors of what he's been working on in a massive dirt quarterpipe in Nevada have everyone wondering what he might have planned for Austin.
17. A Teen Sensation
Alana Smith holds the distinction of being the youngest athlete ever to win a medal at X Games, after winning silver in the Women's Skateboard Park contest in Barcelona last year. Her can't-lose attitude didn't hurt: "I'm just going to go and skate," Smith said. "If I do well, I do well, and if I don't, I'm only 12." Smith also made the Women's Skateboard Street finals in Los Angeles, finishing fifth, and made more history last year as the first female skater to land a McTwist 540 in vert competition. She's 13 now and, if recent video parts are any indication, will be a podium threat on the Street course.
18. Austin Food Scene
Everything is bigger in Texas, as the saying goes, and the same is true for the city's diverse food culture. From legendary BBQ, to spicy Tex-Mex, to southern po' boy sandwiches, many of the city's best cookeries are located in food trucks dotted around the city.
19. Anyone's Game in Enduro X
Last year, Spanish trials rider Laia Sanz won three of four X Games Women's Enduro X contests, but due to a scheduling conflict, Sanz won't be able to compete in Austin. With Maria Forsberg, who won the one race that Sanz didn't, also out of the competition (she's expecting her first child this fall), the race is officially anyone's for the taking. Who be the new champ in Women's Enduro X? Tune in to find out.
20. Return of Real
Sixteen of the best street skateboarders in the world, including Evan Smith, shown here, created 60-second video parts in this year's Real Street video contest. The judges' favorite and the fan favorite will be determined at X Games Austin.