X Games sees rift between skaters
The differences between vert and street skaters are causing a split among fans.
LAKE FOREST, Calif. (AP) -- Yeah, it took some guts to jump over the Great Wall of China on a skateboard. You'll just never convince Donny Duhadway that pro skater Danny Way's leap last month was anything more than a stunt.
"It's not even skateboarding. It's like a daredevil thing," the 16-year-old street skater with braces and shoulder-length curly hair said during a break at an Orange County skate park. "That's not cool!"
The growing gulf between vert skaters' aerobatics and the more popular closer-to-the-ground technical finesse that Duhadway and others embrace will be on display at ESPN X Games 11.
Other sports at the games, which begin today in Los Angeles, are motocross, BMX freestyle and wakeboarding. In-line skating has been dropped and a surfing event was held Tuesday in Mexico.
Way, whose China jump drew national headlines, again will take to the massive mega ramp he created -- and which debuted at last year's X Games. He's expected to dominate in the big air contest, which will be broadcast live Sunday on ABC. Street skaters are relegated to a tape-delayed broadcast on ESPN.
Don't sweat the technique
Although X Games manager Chris Stiepock calls street skaters the "rock stars" of the insular skate world, they're largely unknown outside it. With studied cool and a wariness of the corporate world, they also trail vert skaters in major endorsements from non-skate companies, which can be a key source of income for pros.
It's the result of the gap between the crowd-pleasing drama of mid-air flips and the sometimes imperceptible nuances of street tricks.
"People that don't know anything about skateboarding don't really know what they're seeing" in street skating, said pro skater Rick McCrank. "They don't know if that's harder than the next thing. But on vert, it's more spectacular. You could just be doing the easiest thing on vert, and someone would think it was amazing."
The 29-year-old McCrank skated vert at a park where he grew up in Ottawa, but quit after two summers when the park shut down.
He's among the majority. About three-quarters of the nation's 10.5 million skateboarders prefer the streets to skate parks and ramps, according to data from marketing researchers American Sports Data Inc. and Board-Trac Inc. An even higher percentage stick to the streets when skaters under 12 aren't considered, Board-Trac's Marie Case said.
Other action sports have worked to smooth over splits between disciplines. In motocross, a race blending leapers with racers was introduced to X Games last year. The supermoto combines big jumps with a dirt and street course and proved popular with all types of riders. It will be held Sunday.