Street League Has Skateboarding At Crossroads
Street League Skateboarding Might Be The Beginning Of A New Landscape For American Skaters
Nyjah Huston at Street League Skateboarding practice at Glendale's Jobing.com arena. Image by Dusty Draper.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine .com
July 20, 2011 — Street League Skateboarding brought its travelling show to Glendale’s Jobing.com arena this last weekend, the end of the regular season for the second-year league founded by street skater and MTV star Rob Dyrdek.
The league has been called both a revolutionary move and an ultimate betrayal of the spirit of skateboarding. As it is with most extremist views, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
Those who think contests are ruining skateboarding, though, need to realize that capitalism is a relentless beast that will consume anything that makes cash. The more the cash, the more things are “exploited.”
The skaters at the top of the heap as far as skill and tricks in street skating — Nyjah Houston, Chris Cole, Paul Rodriguez, Chaz Ortiz and a handful of others — are able to make really good cash for skating. Ultimately, shouldn’t the best at something be able to look forward to a little bit more than working a 9 to 5 job dreaming of nights and weekends when they will be able to skate?
Dyrdek’s Street League is the first, logical step to mainstream and commercialized skating and it most likely won’t be the last, unless of course, Street League Skateboarding can sustain its growth. Thanks to the league’s association with Nyjah Houston, the future surely looks bright.
Although Huston has not yet reached the pinnacle of American celebrity, he may just be on his way. The 16-year-old kid, originally from Davis, Calif., has dominated the street league in 2011, winning each stop in the three-city tour. He finished second to Chris Cole at last year’s X-Games and has been skating professionally for years. He won last year’s overall title.
In 2011, he has simply dominated the Street League and the best street skaters in the world, winning the first three stops. He has already pocketed $450,000 in Street League earnings in 2011.
This kid is poised to be a star as long as he is able to stay injury and attitude-free.
But honestly, Street League is not just founded by Rob Dyrdek, it is Rob Dyrdek. At the practice session Friday afternoon, it was totally obvious that the guy is engaged, driven and highly motivated for this endeavor to succeed. He fretted over the health of his guys when they were pushing the obstacles on the course, seeing how much they could get away with in competition.
“Sometimes I think we should just skip practice and let them all just skate tomorrow,” Dyrdek said to a gathering of his posse during Friday’s skate when Paul Rodriguez and Ryan Sheckler hit the concrete.
But he also worried about tickets for VIPs and how Street League staff was going to be taking care of all of their needs.
There has been a lot invested in this league and he knows how important the first few years will be. The biggest gamble has been the exclusive contracts that each skater has had to agree to in order to be in the league and get a chance at the huge cash outs — at total of $1.6 million this season.
Before Street League, being a professional skater meant getting a sponsor, doing exhibitions at local skate parks and hopefully hitting one of the handful of one-off competitions like the X-Games. If a league can get off the ground, it provides stability and perhaps a chance at regular events that draw fans and a network to broadcast them.
Ironically, ESPN is again out front on Street League skating, and this league would be dead in the water without the sports network. About 16,000 came to two days here in Phoenix. While the gravy might come from the box office, the meat and potatoes comes from ESPN.
With ESPN pushing the “sport” value of street skating, it is only a matter of time before it is as synonymous with sport as baseball, basketball and football. On Friday’s practice day, the best skaters — Chaz Ortiz, Paul Rodriguez, Ryan Scheckler, Chris Cole, Mike Malto, Mikey More and Nyjah Huston as well as others — were out there working on their “game.”
No fans, no groupies, no television cameras. Just a bunch of guys who love to skate and love getting better, hopefully to beat the other guy.
Coming to an arena near you.
John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.