While it might be a kook move in any skate shop to get excited about Street League, we all know that it would be fun to go. “Cool” or not, there’s nothing like it, and who wouldn’t jump at the chance to see that much skateboarding talent all in one place?
Enter the unlikely heroes of this article: three middle-aged skaters who traded in running from security and nollie flips for careers (a web developer, an engineer, and a middle school principal) and getting annoyed by teenagers playing their music too loud. In the words of Nate, the engineer, “$20 for a night out and as much beer as I want or being able to go to bed at 8:30? Shit. In bed every time. Asleep by 9.” Think it won’t happen to you one day? So did we.
Of course, the upside of all this “adulting” (as developmentally arrested millenials call it) is being able to afford the flights, a hotel room, and the miscellany required to actually attend something like Street League. And attend Street League we did – and the Super Crown at that!
Not cool? No shame. Cheer our hearts out? No shame. Wear a bright yellow shirt and jump up and down so that I can find myself on TV? No shame. Slap that free Cariuma sticker on my board? Calm down now. Even middle age has its limits.
Middle Aged Observation 1
Want to run into the skaters? Find the moderately pricey hotel closest to the contest. Everyone, and I mean everyone, will be staying here. On the elevator alone, we ran into Jagger and Nyjah (who was super friendly, by the way, even after just taking 4th).
If you’re not afraid of getting creepy, which apparently my engineer buddy wasn’t (again, middle age, no shits given), then you can easily spot all the famous skaters by posting up somewhere high (such as our 12th floor hotel room) and just looking for white Red Bull hats.
3. Cariuma is everywhere
The only thing more inevitable at Street League than vape smoke and the smell of pot (and, perhaps, bad tattoos and mullets) is the Cariuma logo. I cannot possibly overstate this. Whoever the hell they are, they are not playing. The banners are everywhere, and every single guy on the podium was rocking their shoes and bearing their bizarre logo on his chest. Berra definitely had them on. And did you know that Mike Vallely has a Cariuma pro model? He was there with the shoe in hand. (Incidentally, Mike was thoroughly friendly and welcoming to the seemingly endless number of people that approached him.)
While Cariuma makes an easy target (I mean, I’ve already made fun of them here twice), one would be foolish to dismiss them. They may well emerge as the ReVive of the skate shoe game, but, then again, as the industry can be pretty self-involved and cliquish, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
4. Street League ticketing is a mess
After you’ve committed to VIP tickets (which cost a staggering ten times the price of general admission; $400 vs $40), it doesn’t seem unfair to ask that Street League have a plan. Seat numbers are a suggestion at best, so don’t expect to have anything reserved. Fans are shuffled into “general” and “VIP” sections after which, despite what your ticket might say, good luck. I also don’t recommend asking any of the employees how this works, as they may well have less of an idea than you despite already allowing hundreds of people admission.
Of course, once one begins to succumb to the siren song of middle age, this sort of thing looks a little more frustrating as every simmering resentment over poor customer service comes bubbling to the surface. As my buddy put it, “see? This is why I never leave my fucking house.” Enjoy your youth, kids.
5. On a positive note, you know who rips?
Alec Majerus. I mean, I know he was good, but who isn’t? In person, that dude is as smooth as they come. Think Appleyard in his prime when his arms never went above his shoulders.
6. Ty Evans has not missed a step
If you haven’t heard, he’s directing a documentary on Nyjah. Shortly after arrival in our hotel room, my buddy’s Red Bull hat spotting was interrupted by the arrival of an all-black, seemingly military grade van with a really expensive looking camera mounted on the front. Who else could it possibly be besides skateboarding’s most committed filmmaker, Ty?
All weekend, everywhere Nyjah went, Ty followed with a hefty RED camera setup, and man did that thing look heavy. At 37, just being near it made my back hurt. If I was sore after sitting in a foldable chair for six hours, I can’t imagine how Ty, perhaps ten years my senior, felt after lugging that thing around all day. I guarantee you that man has ice packs and Ibuprofen waiting in his hotel room. As for Nyjah…
7. Love him, hate him, Nyjah is a bonafide celebrity
No one else even came close. When most of the skaters walked through VIP to get to the course, they had to stop for a couple of autographs. Nyjah, however, couldn’t go anywhere without rivers of people rapidly flowing his way. His fame might even be to the point where he has trouble going into restaurants.
Remember when Nyjah pushed that guy in the face? Yeah, I thought it was lame too, but imagine being mobbed (perhaps somewhat literally) by people every time you go in public. From what I saw, he was nothing but patient and friendly.
8. You know who else rips? Pamela Rosa
No other woman (or girl? I mean, did you see the Olympic podium?) had any interest in stepping to that double set gap-to-rail (a distance of maybe six feet?). We saw her working a boardslide in practice, but Pamela pulled in both a lip and Smith first try for the finals win.
9. Tech Deck still exists!
They even had a booth. They threw out a few freebies during the contest, and people were beside themselves to get their hands on one. Who knew?
10. The only thing more impressive than the skating was the guys cleaning the letters on the top of the Wells Fargo building behind the contest
With everyone quitting their jobs, somehow we can still get people to do this?
11. You know who really, really rips?
The guy who won the whole shebang: Jagger Eaton. Apparently, he’s also controversial. He has a coach and skates for Chipotle and a board brand that you can buy in Target. He also had a show on Nickelodean and rocks jorts (in the suburban way; not in the cool Ishod way). The list surely goes on. At my age, sure I’m not planning to buy his board, but I also understand that “keeping it core” is code for not having health insurance and ending up broke and unemployed at 30.
However you feel about the kid himself, there can be no doubt that he is an incredible skateboarder. Whether it’s cool or not that he could skate the mega ramp at 10, we all have to (even if it’s begrudgingly) admit that it’s impressive. The same could be said, of course, for his Olympic medal. And now third in Tampa? If this kid keeps winning, then he’s really going to ruffle some feathers.
Still, nothing in his résumé prepared me for how good this kid is in person. He’s not simply consistent (one of only two skaters there not to miss a trick in his run); he’s consistent with a huge bag of tricks (first try fully dipped switch backside noseblunt down the gap to Hubba?). At this stage of life, none of us could give two shits about being cool, and we came to appreciate his odd underdog status.
12. Even though I’m old and fussy (and needed a nap afterward), Street League was still (dare I say it?) lots of fun
I’ve skated for over 20 years, and I spent about 10 of those years getting as good as I possibly could. When you’ve dedicated that much time to something, it borders on surreal to see firsthand just how much better the pros are than you. Street League, even if you don’t know how to create assigned seats and you played your hippity hop music a little loud, thanks for having us and doing what you do.