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Thursday May 17th crept up on me fast.  I got the website up and running, the shirts and stickers made, and the promo video done beforehand… OperationHEEEPScrime: Revolution Calling!  I was stoked to get a media pass to Street League, although I didn’t really know what I was getting into.  First off, I failed to get my cohort Tom Wyker a media pass for Thursday, so that sucked, because he was going to do interviews.  Mitch Jones (Gnarly Davidson) let me borrow his mic and everything – it would’ve worked out perfectly.  But I did get a mini Chris Cole interview, and Wyke-A-pediA ended up getting good stuff later, especially this gem…  It was rad to be down on the floor during practice.  Chris Cole is a beast.  A seasoned vet for sure.  He was owning it.  “Practicing” came with the territory, but who “practices” an Ollie South, or a Grabless Dog Pisser, if you will?

Cole pretty much shut the practice down for me.  It was time to get out of The Sprint Center and go to what has become the best meeting place for skateboarders in the KC area – besides Escapist – the newly revamped Penn Valley Skatepark.  If you build it they will come.  And they do.  I got footage of bare-foot bowl-trolls Zach Friendly, Kyle Shifflett, and Dustin Hudgens, California transplants Wes “TC” Reeves and Weston Sparks, steezers Josh Thompson, Daniel Brundage, and Delano Harris, locs Corey Fisher and David Bramble, and my favorite geezer still killing it – Chris Benge (of Beer City fame).

After a pleasant evening catching up with friends and learning new tricks at Zach Lovely’s Juggernaut ramp, it was off to sleep and back to The Sprint Center for the Street League Qualifiers on Friday.  David Gonzalez, Mikey Taylor, Paul Rodriguez, Tommy Sandoval, Luan Oliveira, Chris Cole, Tom Asta, Nyjah Huston, Bastien Salabanzi, Eric Koston, Chaz Ortiz, Ryan Sheckler, Austyn Gillette, Dylan Rieder, Ishod Wair, Torey Pudwill, and Mr. KC himself, Sean Malto, were all slaying during the warm-ups.

Next came the qualifying runs.  This is where you make it or break it.  You get the best score out of two runs, so only one run counts.  A few stand-outs are as follows: Jimmy Carlin is hilarious and talented as all get out, but he couldn’t get his shit together.  Luan Oliveira was on fire – jam-packing his runs with solid tech.  Sean Malto had an amazing run in which he missed a trick early on but made up for it in spades.  Mikey Taylor held his shit together, making it to finals for his first time.  Eric Koston got some good ones but ultimately settled on a rendition of his classic Charlie Chaplin routine.  Austyn Gillette was one of my faves, going higher and faster than everyone and hamming it up for Monster Energy.  Billy Marks had some solid moustache-moves for sure, and Bastien Salabanzi, the underdog, hyped up the crowd more than anyone.


Photo: Brendy Muninger

Friday night was the night any true local skate rat was looking forward to.  Red and Yellow is Escapist’s second full length video.  Filmed and edited by Ryan Lovell, it stars Rod Harper, Josh Crane, Max Chilen, Garrett Olinger, Arthur Dachiardi, Dillon Aguilar, Joseph Lopez, Josh White, Ryan Pearce, Tyshuan Johnson, and Sean Malto.  It fucking ruled.  Straight up.  I am proud to be friends with such badasses.

Saturday had already arrived.  I had some delicious anchovi pie at PizzaBella – thanks Quillan!  I suggest you go there and check out their authentic wood-fire oven and excellent cuisine.  Then it was time for a ramp jam at Let it Ride alumni Jeremy Patton‘s house.  Shit. Went. Down!

Next up was Street League Finals.  The big show.  Bastien Salabanzi was ripping, and would’ve won I think if he’d gotten that double flip front board.  Chaz Ortiz, Chris Cole, Ryan Sheckler, and Paul Rodriguez all did great, but in the end Nyjah reigned supreme, effortlessly kickflip back noseblunting the rail for his finale… after it was already determined that he’d won I might add.  “Drain Baby” (Jake Phelp‘s loving nickname for Huston) done grew up I suppose…  The Best Trick contest ensued, and Bastien, Ishod Wair, Matt Miller, and Tommy Sandoval all got some.  Ishod got the most, though, with moves like 180 switch crook on the big rail.  So good.  Then was the press conference, in which Rob Dyrdek introduced Torey Pudwill to lead the surreal festivities which included some choice words from Malto, Salabanzi, and Huston, a lot of Monster cans and a huge pile of “Zumiez cash” in front of Peter Ramondetta – who jokingly sat in that seat because he was injured and unable to skate.

I’ve been a critic of Street League before – and still don’t like some of the sponsors involved, but what are you gonna do?  It’s fun, like a baseball game I suppose, equipped with t-shirt tossing cannons and “cheerleaders” mingling with the audience so it can be seen up on the JumboTron and for the folks watching at home.  It legitimizes skateboarding even more (sigh) and allows a few who deserve it to make good money from it, and I’m happy for that, but the fanfare just seems so unusual.  Skateboarding for me was an escape growing up.  I’d go skate alone, to get away from the constraints of school or team sports.  Sure, I’ve made great friends through skating, but learning a new trick is a personal battle, and desigining a skate video part can be construed as a creative statement.  To break it all down to a minute long contest run full of only your consistent tricks just so ESPN fans can swallow it easier seems disheartening in a way.  But hey, I entered in a lot of contests… I have an inner-jock too.  They can be fun and challenging.  I just hope the next generation of skaters doesn’t think that contests are what skateboarding is all about…  Where do you think the future of skateboarding is going?

– JP Redmon