MotoX Freestyle under the lights at the LA Coliseum for X Games 16.

All Photos by Tom Wallace

In this story, we take a look back at the highlights from X Games 16 July 29-August 1 from the men’s competitions, with images that showcase the level of talent and excitement captured during action sports premiere competition.

While many old-school heroes such as Shaun White, Bob Burnquist, Andy MacDonald, and Travis Pastrana all came to the Games and performed at the top of their game and medaled, this summer’s X Games also brought out a whole new younger generation of competitors. One of the most obvious examples of this was in men’s Skateboard Street which was dominated by younger guys, including Ryan Sheckler (who first won gold in this competition when he was 13) who took home the gold again, Nylah Huston with silver, and Chaz Ortiz who everyone thought based on how well he did in the elimination rounds would easily medal but bowed in the end to Ryan Decenzo.

Ryan Sheckler, gold medalist in Skateboarding Street.

Sheckler, who made the best use of the blue teacup during the jam session, put together a final run that included a full cab backlip to fakie down the rail, alleyoop frontside transfer from one half of the teacup to the other, gap up to 5, frontside air on the teacup and a cab back lip to take the win.

“I wanted to throw out a different run from what I already did. The course is interesting. You had to get out there and just start throwing down. I liked it,” Sheckler said. “I just threw it out and gave it all I had because I knew it would be my last run.”

Nyjah Huston wins silver in Skateboarding Street. Here he is in the blue teacup.

Nyjah, meanwhile scored a near perfect run. His rasta style, long dreds, and laid-back attitude often masks the fact that the dude rips. The year marked the second silver medal in a row for Nyjah, who said this silver meant more to him because of what he put into it.

“It means more this year because last year there was just one more trick I needed to land. This year I actually landed the run I wanted to do, so I was really happy with the way I skated,” Huston said. “I wasn’t expecting to win, I was just trying to do my best and I am happy with how it turned out.”

Rookie Pedro Barros wins his first gold in Skateboarding Park. Part of the new-school of skaters.

Rookie Pedro Barros also grabbed his first gold in Skateboard Park, showing another level of newbie talent by pulling a 540 trick at high speed with a frontside tail grab. However Andy MacDonald, who won bronze the day before in Skateboarding Vert, was able to capture the silver in Park making his X Games medal total 21. Once again, the competive field overall was dominated by groms, such as 14-year-old Curren Caples who came in 4th. In only his second X Games appearance, Kevin Kowalski’s precision skills earned him the bronze medal.
“I have won pro competitions before but this is the X Games,” said Kowalski. “I was an alternate since the first day I was invited. I am stoked because I didn’t expect to make it this far.”

Bob Burnquist in Skateboarding Big Air–he won a silver this year in this event. He went on later to capture a bronze and a gold. His best X Games ever.

On the flipside, old timer Bob Burnquist had one of the best X Games of his life, taking home a silver in Skateboarding Big Air, a bronze in Skateboarding Best Trick, and a Gold in the new event called Skateboarding Big Air Rail Jam, which based on the excitement of the audience, is probably an event that will stay. According to Burnquist, “What’s cool about rail is the show of progression and some of the technical tricks that we can pull off in a little bit of a slower environment while still going fast,” said Burnquist. “It’s a pretty big gap but there are a lot of opportunities to pull off those tricks.”

Always the innovator, Burnquist went with something new, throwing a switch 50/50 in lucky run number seven for the highest score of the night.

The tricks these guys were doing in Moto X Freestyle were insane.

Of course for motocross freestyle fans, the X Games was all about Travis Pastrana. Actually, the X Games in general all had their eyes on Pastrana because he was competing in 4 events, including Rally Car. However he took home the gold in MotoX Freestyle and even though he knew he had it, performed his signature double backflip anyway (which won him best trick in 2006).

Pastrana went on to win the gold in MotoX Speed and Style with a backflip double heel-click in the style portion and a sizeable lead over Nate Adams in the speed portion.

Lots of crashes in BMX Freestyle Vert and the level of skill was redefined.

In BMX Freestyle Vert, there were several serious crashes that hushed the crowd at the Nokia Theatre especially when Vince Brown crashed so hard, he wasn’t moving for several minutes. Dennis McCoy also went down hard and yet dropped in again at the very end after shaking off the pain. And Kevin Robinson looked like he dislocated his shoulder before getting paramedics to pop it back in so he could drop in yet again for his final runs.

But it was Jamie Bestwich from Great Britain that earned himself his 7th X Games gold medal with a double tailwhip and opposite flare to opposite fastplant flare. “I felt like I made real good use of the ramp. I kept my height and I always had enough momentum to get me up and out,” Bestwick said. “I can’t say that there was one standout trick, it’s just that everything went together really well and in a jam format. That’s the pattern you need.”

Skateboarding Vert Finals were among the most popular X Games event.

Possibly the most popular event at X Games each summer is the Skateboarding Vert. This event not only showcases another level of skateboarding athleticism, but it has celebrity attraction because Shaun White, Olympic snowboarding gold medalist (and a repeat X Games medalist in skateboarding) is a part of the competitor line-up. As soon as he came out for practice, the crowd lit-up as though they’d just seen a rockstar%u2014which in many ways he is in the realm of sports.

However Pierre-Luc Gagnon proved to 3-peat in Skateboard Vert with a six-foot body varial McTwist into a body varial 5. “I was feeling really good in practice yesterday and I was throwing that trick every try,” Gagnon said. “I decided it doesn’t matter if I miss it on the first two, I’m going to make it on the next two. I’m super stoked to pull it off and I can’t believe I did it.”

Shaun White checks his skateboarding routine notes on the coping before the start of Skateboarding Vert. He won the silver and opted out of the Skateboarding Best Trick competition later.

Shaun White was right on Gagnon’s heels, throwing down with amplitude and an innovative frontside heelflip 540 bodygrab that earned him the silver.

“Spirits were really up with the new setting, and the competition was heavy! It felt like it was Pierre and I just battling it out, but it was great,” White said. “There were small details that I think I was missing in my run that would have put me up there higher, but that’s just stuff you need to work on over time.”

Andy threw in a kickflip melon 5 during his final run to help win the bronze.
Boosted by his performance in Vert, Pierre-Luc went on to win gold yet again a few hours later in the Skateboard Vert Best Trick with a never-done-before nollie heelflip, big spin indie 540. “It was the first time I have ever made it, but I had the motion down. I just needed the right one. But, being under pressure gave me the right boost that I needed,” Gagnon said.

Following Gagnon was Colin McKay who pulled an impressive switch nollieflip 360 for the silver medal. Bob Burnquist threw down a switch kick flip boardslides to fakie for the bronze. Burnquist was happy to see Vert Best Trick back at the X Games.

Andy MacDonald in Skateboarding Park–wins his second medal for the X Games with a silver, but a grand total at X over the years of 21 medals.

“It reminded me of how best trick was back-in-the-day. Vert Best Trick is the essence of skateboard progression,” he said. “What’s exciting is that skaters like Colin get invited to prove why he’s one of the best.”

Other major highlights included Chad Kagy reclaiming his BMX Freestyle Big Air gold on the massive ramp at the LA Coliseum under the lights on Saturday night with a massive backflip tailwhip to flare whip. Tanner Foust took home the gold in Rally Car racing. About his win, he said %u201CYou make your own dust cloud and get lost so you need to find your way. Like the Moto X Freestyle guys, I visualize the course. It does get confusing, but today, it seems I had a clear vision.”

Going into the Final, Foust found himself facing off against Brian Deegan. The two drivers were neck and neck, giving the crowd an exciting last run. As Foust took the jump, he pulled ahead of Deegan, leading the Final by four seconds.  However, Deegan soon found himself off-course, putting himself in second and earning his first Rally Car Racing medal.

Garrett Reynolds defended his gold medal for the 3rd straight year in BMX Freestyle Street, and Christian Hosoi capture his second gold medal in Skateboard Park Legends%u2014an event that always attracts a large crowd because it brings back the old-timers of skate, including Hosoi and Steve Caballaro who won bronze and his first X Games medal.

Chris Miller took silver in Skateboard Park Legends again and said “I started my own skate business because I never contemplated the fact that I would be able to keep skating at this age. I continued skating to share with my kids, never thinking that I would get an X Games medal.”

Skate Park Legneds two-time gold medalist, Christian Hosoi.

“The X Games is the superbowl of skateboarding,” said Hosoi. “To have medals now is awesome.  Back in the day, we got ribbons.  What other sport is there where you can get the old guys together and get a big crowd who is excited to see what you can still do.”

In only 4 days, the amplitude of action sports reached new levels during X Games 16 with athlete performances that proved serious progression, which pumped-up the crowds and proved why sponsorship in this genre of sports and lifestyle is worthy, and for a short time, forced mainstream media to take notice.

Curren Caples from Venutra, CA, at only 14 represents the new generation of pro skaters. He ended up in 4th in Skateboard Park.

Reed’s style in Skateboard Street earned him loads of points. He had the blue teacup down.

All eyes on Ryan Sheckler.

Steve Caballero in the Skate Park Legends wins bronze and his first X Games medal.

One of the most popular X Games events is Skateboarding Big Air. When they come off this lip, the tower behind them measures amplitude.

Big Air.

Completely upside down in the Moto X Freestyle.

More action from Moto X Freestyle.

Shaun White in Skateboarding Vert.

Pedro Barros, winner of Skateboarding Park.