EVENT: Street League 2012 Championship Preview
Street League 2012 Championship Preview – How The Course Could Determine the Champion
by Josh Brooks
The 2012 Street League Series Finals is anticipated as being the biggest contest in skateboarding history and is going down on August 26th live on ESPN2 at 5PM ET. As the championship approaches, aside from a brilliant analysis of the odds Vegas has on each skater, one more question remains: how will the course play into the strengths and weaknesses of these eight Street League pros?
The 2012 season has been one for the history books, with record-breaking crowds for skateboarding, and undeniable excitement with each event ending with the top three skaters within one or two points of each other in the final attempt. Nyjah Huston and Paul Rodriguez are the only skaters to win Street League events this season, but the victories have not come easily. Bastien Salabanzi was a single trick away from winning in Kansas City, as was Chaz Ortiz in Ontario, and Chris Cole in Arizona who suffered the same fate after missing their final attempts.
When asked whom he thought his contenders were for the New Jersey championship, Nyjah even admitted as much: “I haven’t seen the course yet, so I can’t really answer that,” he said.
Street League’s pros are some of the best, able to skate almost anything. But, throughout the 2012 Street League season, we’ve watched as each skater’s strengths appeared and their preference for certain obstacles and particular terrain has determined whether they’ve finished strong in the past three stops.
So, with the recent release of California Skatepark’s course design for Street League’s 2012 Championships in New Jersey, we may have some more insight into how this season finale will end.
Let’s take a look from one end to the other. Outfitted with Street League’s red, black and gold, the design is a culmination of 2012’s amazing season. At the end of the course, there are the grey four-foot quarterpipes, flanking a black center inset quarterpipe with a two-foot extension. Moving into the center of the course, it’s symmetrical, with a central pyramid with grass gaps and a larger black kicker. Along the sides, the course has two A-frame rails, a lot like in Ontario, CA. On both sides of the center obstacle, the course has a 1’8” flat ledge next to a bank to longer slightly curved ledge.
In the main raised stage area, we have the central Big Section with rails on both sides and a center flat ledge to drop over a grass gap. The stairs are a 3 by 3-stair triple set.
Just outside the rails, there are kickers over grass gaps. To the left of the Big Section, when you’re looking down from the top of the stairs, the course has a flat ledge that has a smaller drop off, which a skater can skate out off the stage or off the bump up onto the stage. To the right when you’re standing at the top of the Big Section, there is also a slant-to-slant gap over a grass gap and a ledge that goes from flat and slants down. Finally, at the top of the banks at the end of the stage area, there are two black ledges.
Now, who fairs better where? Let’s take a look:
Based on his recent performances in the past three stops, Cole stands to skate well on the slant to curved ledges along the outside of the course. On the bump to ledge in Glendale, AZ, he scored a 9.1 in the Best Trick Section with a backside 270 noseslide. He seems to be at home on this kind of bump to ledge set-up and it could give him an advantage in the Run Section and Best Trick.
The Big Section, for everyone, is of utmost importance. So, for Cole the option of a flat out ledge and rails in the Big Section, will allow variety between two obstacles, on which he’s performed stronger this year. In Glendale he scored a total 26.7 points in the Big Section, where there was also a flat out ledge. In Kansas City, he finished fifth overall with 23.8 points in the Big Section, compared to Ontario, CA where he didn’t make it into the finals, on a Big Section that was a Hubba down stairs. So, the current set-up could be advantageous for Cole.
First time Championship qualifier, Luan fairs well on the pyramid obstacle, particularly the larger black slant, as he’s been known to fling incredible hardflips in almost all of the stops this year. This will likely help his Run Section. However, the ledge and the rails of the Big Section likely won’t determine much as to how he finishes, considering most of the Big Sections, we’ve seen him hucking down the stairs with switch and regular frontside flips, nollie backside flips and any number of tricks. He has largely avoided the rails or ledges in that section and generally done his own thing. It’s been an entertaining tactic, albeit a unique one, which got him into the semi-finals in Kansas and finals in Ontario and Glendale. But, he’s never finished higher than fourth, so either he’s psyching his competitors out for the championship or he’s bound to do his own thing (he was quoted as saying “I don’t do that s@#t” when asked if he practices for Street League).
Another rookie in SL, Bastien will likely get some strong Best Trick scores out of the large black slant and over the A-frame rail. He’s put down some huge backside flips over the pyramid ledge in Kansas City (8.7 pts.) and may be able to score the same in New Jersey, strengthening his Best Trick scores. In the Big Section, Salabanzi may gain some substantial points, as the Big Section in Kansas City had rails and gave him an edge in the finals with his bigspin flip frontside boardslide (9.2 pts.) and a second place finish. If he can make all of his tricks, these obstacles could help him contend for 1st place.
We know he’s an all-around consistent skater on almost all obstacles, but he’s clearly strong on the Hubba down stairs in the Big Section. In Ontario, CA, which had a Hubba, he finished second in the whole event, but held the top Big Section score of 31.6 pts. The fact that there are no hubba ledges down the stairs in the Big Section may be a disadvantage. Sean was bumped from the finals after the Best Trick section of Kansas City, where we didn’t get to see him up on the rail in the final. But, in the Kansas City Qualifying Big Section, he did score the second highest score with 27.3 behind Nyjah Huston, so even with the ledge replaced with a rail, he could still have a strong showing in the Championships, regardless.
Sheckler likes to boost. There’s little evidence to say otherwise. In New Jersey, he’s sure to have strong scores on the transition at the end of the course, likely using a trick from grey quarterpipe to grey quarterpipe. The slant on both sides of the Big Section and the central kicker off the back of the black flat out ledge, could also lend possibilities of a Sheckler fatty to flatty like his fullcabs in Arizona, which helped his Run Section, and last season’s fullcab flip (9.6 pts.). In Arizona, Sheckler also logged a strong 8.2 pt nosegrind from the kicker to the flat out ledge and could possibly employ a similar strategy skating the rails. With a course like this, Sheckler’s versatility could be an advantage.
Again, Chaz has faired well in two of three stops this season, only falling short in Glendale, AZ. For Chaz, the central kicker off the back of the flat out ledge in the Big Section could be a useful obstacle, as his backside flips are dialed. The Big Section rails could provide for his equally reliable kickflip frontside feebles. The diversity of the obstacles on the course, coupled with Ortiz’s all-around ability on ledges, rails and ramps could be a huge advantage to his Runs Section, which provides a strong base score entering the Big Section. In Kansas his Run score was a respectable 8.3. In Ontario it was 8.7 pts., indicating that any additional advantage in Run scores could be helpful all around. Also, with the rails back in the Big Section, it may help Chaz avoid the lower scores he was getting in Arizona Qualifiers (which kept him from the finals) with only the stairs and the flat out ledge.
As previously highlighted, Paul has achieved mind-melting tricks in every section of Street League this season. He’s clenched his first 1st place finish. And, even his Runs have been quite strong. However, he may be at a disadvantage of getting extra points in his Run Section with the whole far side of the course consisting of quarterpipes, terrain where he does not often pick up extra tricks and points. However, he is likely to benefit greatly from the flat ledges in the middle section of the course. Paul is one of the most advanced ledge skaters and scored an 8.9 with a switch backside tailslide switch heelflip out. In Kansas City, he seemed at a disadvantage, especially against Nyjah, with a rail in the Big Section (he finished with the 4th highest Big Section score of 26.6 in Kansas). But, with the flat out ledge off the stairs in Jersey, much like the flat ledge in Arizona, where he won with a Big Section score of 29.9, he still has the possibility of offsetting or matching the tricks other are landing on the rails.
Last but not least, we know how strong a contender Nyjah is for the Championship, but a few factors must come into play. First, his knee, but that is a matter of seeing how he looks out on the course. Then—as he said himself—finals in Jersey will depend on the course itself. The rails are a clear advantage for Nyjah, who rifled off a 270 backside lipslide, caballerial backside lipslide, tre flip lipslide, kickflip backside lipslide and kickflip backside nosebluntslide in one sitting and ended the Kansas Big Section with 34.6 pts. The A-frame rail in Jersey is sure to help as well, as he put down a caballerial to backside noseblunt (9.0 pts) and caballerial kickflip backside lipslide (9.8 pts) in Ontario to help him clench the win.
But, as always, it’s anybody’s win—Nyjah, P Rod, Chaz, Malto, Chris Cole, Bastien Salabanzi, Sheckler or Luan Oliveira. Any of the 8 pros in the Street League Championship could take it. But, only on August 26th will we get to see just how the course and these skaters combine to conclude Street League 2012 with a bang.