At a quarter to three on June 26, hundreds of people ran through the doors of Boston’s TD Garden and rushed up the escalator stairs to the balcony of the stadium to watch the first of five stops on the 2010 Dew Tour and IFC Skateboarding World Championships. General admission ticket holders were not guaranteed seating and therefore contributed to the dog-eat-dog situation. Why choose to risk your life in the mob? Because tickets were only $15 (cheap when compared to the $100 action zone tickets), they were perfect for the moderate fan as well as the monetarily-challenged college student.
The general admission ticket seats (assuming you quickly and successfully tackled everyone in front of you and hopped over 10 rows of seats to get to the front row) gave a perfect view of both competitions held at the first stop of the Dew Tour: Skateboard Vert and Skateboard Park.
Women’s Skateboard Vert
The afternoon began with the women’s skateboard vert competition final. Seven women competed in one jam session where each skater got four 30-second runs. Each skater’s two best scores were tabulated to get an overall final score. Gaby Ponce, an 18-year old from New Jersey, started off the group with a clean run including a kickflip indy, gay twist, and lez twist. Franziska Stolz, however, had a shaky start, failing to land back on her board after doing a trick and falling early in her run. Both Julie Kindstrand and Nora Vasconcellos, the 17-year old hometown favorite from Pembroke, MA, skated clean runs, but their tricks were less difficult, only doing a series of backside airs and frontside grinds. They did not get as much height off each half-pipe wall. Despite tearing her ACL a few months ago, Mimi Knoop took the stage next, landing a trick called the eggplant according to an article on the Alli Network. Lyn-z Adams Hawkins, last year’s Dew Tour Champion and obvious crowd favorite, skated last. Despite pulling of a difficult flip trick, she had difficulty landing tricks throughout her run and failed to retain her title and settled for third. Ponce took first, leading by nearly three points over Knoop who took home second.
Men’s Skateboard Vert
The men’s skateboard vert event was the obvious highlight of the entire afternoon even with an injured Shaun White, who is arguably a skateboarding legend because of his multiple X Games and Olympic snowboarding victories. Before the event started, all of the lights in the stadium were turned down, and a series of lighting and special effects were turned on. One at a time, spotlights shot down onto the skateboarders as they were introduced. The noise level of the crowd increased at least tenfold in comparison to the women’s event that had ended just 15 minutes earlier.
The men’s event was split into two semifinal heats of five skaters each. The overall top five skaters moved onto the final to compete for the gold. Bucky Lasek of the US and four Brazilians: Sandro Dias, Pedro Barros, Marcelo Bastos, and Ronaldo Gomez competed in the first heat of the men’s semifinals. Lasek, last year’s Dew Tour champion, had trouble starting from the very beginning, falling on his first trick. Both Barros and Bastos led the heat in the first round. While most of the skaters relied on 540 spins and its variations, 14-year old Barros wowed the crowd by landing the first and only 720 in the first heat prompting the commentators to call him a “spinning machine.” However, by the third round, Dias had clearly stood out with his technical tricks and height off the sides of the half-pipe. In the fourth round, Barros edged out Bastos with a solid score of 43.25, landing both him and Dias in the finals scoring 85.13 and 85.63, respectively. Shockingly, Lasek was unable to stick his tricks and failed to qualify for the finals, losing the opportunity to defend his title.
Starting in the second heat was Boston native and skateboarding veteran Andy Macdonald, nicknamed “Mr. Consistency” for having qualified for 24 previous finals. He lived up to his name as he hit four clean runs in a row with scores of around 40. Pierre-Luc Gagnon, nicknamed “PLG,” came not far behind, with two strong runs with scores also over 40. Adam Taylor had trouble holding onto his board and landing tricks until he pulled off two clean runs, both nearly over 40, in his last two runs. In the end, consistency won out and Macdonald came out in first in his heat, with PLG and Taylor in following; all three qualified for the finals.
In the final jam session, PLG came out on fire with back-to-back tricks and 720s, leading with a 91.26 by his third run. An ESPN blog post raved about PLG’s switch heel frontside air 360, saying that it was a highlight of the event. Luis Gil ’13, a spectator and skateboarder of 4 years, said, “Besides the last one, he had some of the smoothest landings I’ve ever seen. He was a bit ambitious [with the last one].” In response, Dias brought the crowd to their feet with an alley cat over the 15-foot gap. However, that wasn’t enough and PLG beat out Dias by less than two points. Macdonald finished in third, two points behind.
Women’s Skateboard Park
Twelve women competed in the women’s skateboard park event. It was easy to predict which skaters would be successful in the competition based on their warm-up sessions and practices, which occurred throughout the day and during the vert competitions. Leticia Bufoni, the 17-year old from Brazil, was out on the course for a majority of the afternoon and never missed a chance to skate across the course in the short transition period between runs. Not surprisingly, she led by more than 10 points at 81.50 in the first semifinal heat. She consistently landed jumps across the gaps that other competitors did not even attempt and difficult tricks on the grind rail. Two Japanese competitors, Chihiro Uchida and Miho Kazama, were not seen often out on the course during open practice sessions and came out very conservatively during the competition. They had trouble landing simple kick flips and heel flips. With two and a half minutes left in the jam session of heat 1, Elizabeth Nitu, a 16-year old from California, injured herself after missing an Ollie combination onto a table. She was able to walk off the course after several attempts and with the help of two medics.
Heat 2 of the women’s skateboarding park semifinals included Vanessa Torres, last year’s champion, and veterans Lacey Baker and Alexis Sablone. In a surprising turn of events, Vanessa Torres, the defending champion, did not qualify for the finals after failing to land most of her tricks. Instead, Candy Jacobs, Lacey Baker, and Alexis Sablone all pulled off difficult tricks to move onto the finals.
During the final, Leticia Bufoni dominated once again, pulling trick after trick and effectively using the guard rails. According to an article on Alli, she pulled off a crooked grind on a picnic table, 180 ollie on the big stairs, back Smith grind on the rail, nose blunt side, and overcrook, giving her a 9 point lead and winning score of 86.00. Lacey Baker, who finished second was credited by Adam Salo, an ESPN blogger for pulling off the best trick of the women’s skateboard park competition: a nollie inward heel off the wedge ramp. Alexis Sablone, who landed flips over the big stairs and a variety of grind rail tricks, came in at 3rd.
Men’s Skateboard Park
The skaters in the men’s skateboard park were clearly anxious to get onto the course. They all hit their warm-up session the instant that the last woman skateboard park competitor finished skating. It was easy to see who the crowd favorites were (especially among the females). Ryan Sheckler, the 3-time champion of the Dew Tour and star of his own MTV show from years 2007-2008, Life of Ryan, and Chaz Ortiz, a 16-year old phenom from Chicago, received many words of adoration and marriage proposals from the crowd as they walked onto the course to warm up.
Heat 1 of the men’s skateboard park semifinal did not start on time since the skaters were so reluctant to stop warming up. It took several announcements that the competition was about to begin for every skater to clear the course for the first competitor, Sierra Fellers, who set the bar high for the heat. The next two competitors, Danilo do Rosario and Rodolfo Ramos, were unable to quite reach the level of Fellers, however, the bar Fellers set was clearly struck down when Ryan Sheckler and Greg Lutzka started their runs. Sheckler showed major control of his board that continued through the rest of the afternoon with a textbook-perfect switch kick. He scored ten points higher than Fellers. However, Lutzka threw down a nearly perfect run with a score of 86.10 and took over the top spot. The heat ended with Ramos snapping the deck of his board from the impact of a trick landing.
There was a brief intermission while skaters in the second heat warmed up. Afterwards, the course was cleared, and Mike Decenzo started off the second heat. Despite predictions from another professional skater who was not competing in this competition that he might come out at the top of the pack in the heat, he was unable to land many of his tricks. Eli Reed, a hometown favorite, came out next with a series of switches and ollies to manuals. Aside from the cheers from the audience for his strong performance, he also received additional cheers for wearing a Celtics jersey. During the heat 2 jam session, where each skater took turns performing a single trick on the course, Reed took a tumble and landed stomach first onto the grind rail, giving him a gash on his stomach. Despite the injury, he qualified and continued to compete in the final jam session. Jereme Rogers, the “it’s not a comeback” skater and fellow Bostonion, skated next, followed by Bastien Salabanzi, who had a nearly perfect run that included a double flip backside that showed perfect board control. Paul Rodriguez skated next with a very clean run; however, it was not enough to take a spot in the finals. Last but definitely not least was Chaz Ortiz, who received the most cheering from the crowd. In warm-up, did not miss a single trick while adding in halfcaps and guard rail tricks, landing him a score of 86.20, one-tenth of a point above the leader, Lutzka, going into the final jam session.
Coming into the final, the top three skaters, Ortiz, Lutzka, and Sheckler, were less than 1.5 points apart. Ortiz started out the session with more difficult tricks in combination such as a Ollie to manual to tail slide across a table. However, he failed to land tricks as consistently as he had previously done in the semifinals. His disappointment at the end of the jam session was evident as he walked off with his hands on his head in frustration. Next, Lutzka came out big with lots of energy and received applause for his 180 to a backslide and switch 270 noseblunt down a rail. Sheckler, however, was the crowd favorite and landed many big jumps across the gap, backslide combinations on the grind rail, and a difficult kick flip backflip.
Reed, had tough acts to follow. He responded by a series of Ollies to manuals and grind rail tricks. His switch Ollie to switch manual on the picnic table was a highlight, according to Salo. Fellers stepped up his performance from the semifinals with larger flips over the stairs and a frontside noseblunt on the grind rail, but he was not able to catch up to claim a spot in the top three. Salabanzi’s jam session runs, including a series of flips on grind rails and flips over the gap, were the talk of the stadium, however his prior low scores held him back in the final standings. In the end, Chaz Ortiz was unable to keep his spot at number one, and Lutzka took first place. Sheckler followed in second, and Ortiz in third.
The Dew Tour is headed off to Chicago, Illinois for their next stop featuring BMX. The skateboarders will continue competing in Portland, Oregon in August, followed by Salt Lake City, Utah in September. The battle for the Dew Cup Tour Championship will commence in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 17 when the combined totals of all five competitions will be tabulated and the Dew Cup champion will be crowned.