Nyjah Huston won Street League's finals event at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. It's amazing how unremarkable such an occurrence has started to seem. After all, what this victory really means is something quite remarkable, indeed: With astonishing consistency a 17-year-old is currently almost always able to defeat some of the greatest skateboarders in the world, in the most physically and psychologically grueling contest in skateboarding history.Oh, and he has also already acquired a total of $300,000 since May from Street League alone.
But Huston's talents are such that journalists, photographers, young fans, bloggers and skateboard magazine subscribers now feel entitled to the kind of virtuoso performance he delivered on a warm evening in this suburb of residential subdivisions and office parks east of Los Angeles.
What the Street League series has made abundantly clear is that, in the end, few professionals possess Huston's astonishing array of tricks, let alone the ability to perform such tricks for a live, online and televised audience that can number in the millions. Even fewer, if any, possess his deep psychological gifts.
Master craftsmen like Chris Cole -- who in practice seemed to have secured combinations such as a long backside nosegrind down the kinked hubba followed by a front blunt to backside 180 nosegrind and appeared to be putting the finishing touches on a well-built and winning performance -- was ultimately unable to deliver. It would seem that even someone as established as Cole is still susceptible to Street League's singular pressure.
Huston, on the other hand, often skates even better in front of an audience. Something about that sea of stares, the collectively held breaths, the weight of expectation, brings out the best in the 17-year-old.
Whether it was his cab flip backside lipslide (which secured his victory in the "Best Trick" section of the Monster Energy and DC shoes sponsored skateboarding series) or his kickflip backside tailslide down the monstrous hubba for the "Big Trick" section, Huston has a consistency that one feels tempted to compare to Swiss watches.
Huston, as boyish as he can seem, is an Olympic-class athlete in a skate-rat's clothing.
It's not that Huston's Street League colleagues fail to challenge him.
Brazilian-born Luan Oliveira was often able to keep pace with Huston, but only for a time. He executed a switch frontside 180 flip down the big stairs, a hardflip popped and caught incredibly high, as well as a frontside 180 flip over the hubba ledge. He also was able to work in a slew of technically demanding tricks into his runs. But, at the end of the day, he was no match for Huston.
California Skateparks and Street League have also taken great pains to make the refined plaza-style course "flowable."
The quarterpipes and transition on both sides of the Street League course served two gorgeously gifted skaters -- Tommy Sandoval and David Gonzales -- particularly well.
Sandoval was in noble savage/full-on beast mode. The Chula Vista resident would stomp so hard coming off backside blunts on the bump to rail he called to mind the corny joke about Chuck Norris. (You know when Chuck Norris is doing pushups he is not lifting his body up. He is pushing Earth down.) Ditto for Sandoval's ground-shaking frontside 180 flips down the big stairs.
David Gonzales, a Colombian citizen plucked from obscurity by Flip skateboards part-owner Geoff Rowley, also flew around the course while artfully layering a montage of tricks from skateboarding's past and present -- a kickflip 50/50 on the hubba and stalefish on the quarterpipe.
No wonder that Jason Dill, the Alien Workshop pro, told a reporter Friday (during a surreal but thoroughly enjoyable conversation outside the Citizens Business Bank Arena) that, when it comes to David Gonzales, he "loves the little dude."
Paul Rodriguez -- who had given a valiant, but strategically astute performance during Friday's qualifying event -- was not able to render as precise a performance on Saturday and ultimately placed fifth.
Chaz Ortiz, who is incredibly smooth and consistent, came closest to unseating Huston from his Street League throne. As is often the case the contest seemed to hinge on one trick, and two guys and a unrelenting clock, etc. In this case, Ortiz stumbled on a botched attempt at a switch frontside 360 down the big stairs. The crowd went wild.
But in the end, what is Street League all about? Is it about purveying a certain form of skating? Is it about which skaters can withstand unimaginable levels of anxiety and psychic duress? Is it about scores?
Following the news conference, a reporter found occasion to ponder this question as he walked from the Citizens Business Bank arena to the Hilton Ontario hotel.
Across the street from the Hilton, three kids were skating in an empty parking lot. "It's my birthday." explained Kayleb Hardee, 14. "So we came down here. I wanted to see some pros."
Hardee explained that he and his parents had driven more than 12 hours from Humboldt, Calif., to see the Street League event. He was riding a Girl skateboard. One of his favorite pros happens to be DC Shoes/Girl pro and Street League rider Mike Mo Capaldi.
He and his two friends looked forward to skating the rest of the night away. "I got boardslides on lock," he said. "We're just going to hang out and have fun."
|2012 Street League Stop Two Finals: Ontario, Calif.|
|Skater||Run||Best Trick||Big||Best Big||Score|
|1. Nyjah Huston||9.2||9.8||28.7||8.8||47.7|
|2. Chaz Ortiz||8.7||9.0||28.5||8.9||46.2|
|3. Sean Malto||7.2||7.1||31.6||8.4||45.9|
|4. Luan Oliveira||8.9||8.3||23.2||8.1||40.4|
|5. Paul Rodriguez||8.0||8.9||20.6||8.9||37.5|
|6. Peter Ramondetta||6.3||7.8||14.9||8.4||29.0|
|7. David Gonzalez||7.2||6.8||--||--||14.0|
|8. Tommy Sandoval||3.9||--||--||--||3.9|