Heated talks between ESPN X Games organizers such as Chris Stiepock and professional skateboarders such as Bobby Burnquist”, Tony Hawk, and a slew of others (not to mention those flaming message boards on various skate-related sites and blogs) have caused the X Games to continue with its 13-year-tradition of holding a vert (a.k.a. halfpipe) competition for both skateboarding and BMX at the Summer X Games in Los Angeles in July.
In a press release today, April 9th, ESPN explains that, “Over the past month ESPN has engaged in many conversations with the X Games BMX and Skateboard vert athletes in an attempt to transition the Vert discipline into one featuring a skatepark course design. While many athletes were initially receptive to the idea, the majority of them have indicated to ESPN that they would prefer to compete on a halfpipe.”
While street skating and even aggressive inline have been growing in popularity, clearly there’s still a strong contingency wanting vert in the event series that actually put skateboarding on the map, from the perspective of the mainstream. Halfpipe or vert skateboarding competitions hit a real high when Tony Hawk landed the first 900 rotation in competition some years back, causing a frenzy of publicity for the tall, gawky skater, and the sport itself. To remove the event or worse yet, push it into a new format of street or SuperPark, seems, well, to some skaters, emasculating to the sport of skateboarding.
The move by ESPN to change-up the format and rid itself of the Vert Competition was speculated to be because it simply makes for poor TV viewership. People don’t like waiting for one skater to drop in, wait for their score, then another. It drags. Unless you’re an avid fan. Which is what surfing competitions have been trying to change as well. Pro surfer Kelly Slater actually came up with a surf “jam” type format which in the end takes into consideration the limited amount of time one has good waves -and increases the excitement for viewers.
For skateboarding, they could go back to the old school vert competition formats which was an original 30-minute jam session whereby skaters had to take turns dropping in and pushing the limits, all the while nearly missing others and being courteous, yet aggressive, about getting in one’s runs. That’s damn exciting to watch. And shoot.
Back to the ESPN press release: “ESPN will also continue its plans to hold SuperPark as a new discipline for skateboarding and BMX at the X Games while working with the athletes to better define exactly how the SuperPark course will be designed.
“The X Games has always had a commitment to the athletes and our consistent communication with them has allowed us to collectively grow this event to where it is today, said Chris Stiepock, General Manager, X Games. “In this particular case the communication took many turns but a consensus by the athletes has emerged that has lead us to reinstate Vert as an X Games discipline this year.”
As for the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (search Youth Olympic Games or YOG on Label Networks if you haven’t been reading our latest stories) what happens at the X Games in terms of Vert competitions or changes in format, will probably have an effect on what the antiquated IOC committee decides in terms of naming the events for skateboarding -which will most likely be a new Olympic sport (and unfortunately umbrella-ed under the Cycling Federation (because they both involve wheels)). By the way, for those who have been following our flurry of Youth Olympic Games coverage, Singapore has been announced as the official city of the inaugural YOG Games in 2010. Cities in the running for the first Winter YOG in 2012 include Harbin, China; Innsbruck, Austria; Kuopio, Finland; and Lillehammer, Norway. Announcement of the Winter YOG host city will take place in December 2008.