X Games Austin Recap
Looking back at the X Games.
Skater boys (and girls) were cool long before Avril Lavigne sang about them in 2002. In fact, this past weekend the X Games celebrated their 21st action-packed year–each year bigger and better with no plans of slowing down. Literally. No slowing down for this extreme weekend with more than 136,000 in attendance over the four day event, which boasted 206 athletes competing in 20 disciplines in five sports. In fact, nothing about X Games 2015 was slow–not even the $9 beer lines.
An excess of VIP parties, flat bill hats, noises that evoked awe and amazement from the crowd, energy drinks, sunscreen, humidity, flying dirt in your face, loud engines, louder music–that pretty much sums up X Games 2015 at Circuit of the Americas, but here’s a healthy recap if you missed it.
As Travis Pastrana, 11-time X Games Moto X and Rally gold medalist, told us there’s an element of surprise that adds to the overall weekend. “It’s the one place that everyone comes out with their new tricks, so everyone is kind of secretive for like two months. After X Games everyone kind of opens up like “hey buddy sorry I wasn’t returning your calls,’” he jokes.
Athletic event becoming just as much a music festival
Nicki Minaj and Metallica co-headlined the weekend on the Super Stage, and other musical talents included The Glitch Mob (one of the most popular electronic acts), Kid Ink, Talib Kweli, Pennywise and a few others.
As Pastrana mentioned earlier, X Games is the place for athletes to debut tricks they’ve been keeping top secret for months, but it’s also the debut of athletes taking on their first X Games, or new disciplines being introduced.
One of the most popular events to debut this year was the skateboard/BMX Doubles on Sunday, with veterans Bob Burnquist (who has attended every summer X Games and leads the all-time medal count) and Morgan Wade (local Texas guy) taking home gold for the Big Air Doubles on the MegaRamp. Both Burnquist and Wade posted their highest individual scores on their third run and no one could top it.
This brand new event consists of four teams–one skateboarder and one BMX rider–paired up to post the highest individual scores and adding them up for their final score. Pairing up with guys in this new discipline is a unique element to the weekend.
“I’m just excited to have another shot at riding the ramp,” Wade told ESPN’s Annie Fast on Sunday. “That alone is worth everything to me because I only get to ride this a week out of the year. It’s a different dynamic because I don’t want to let him down and I’m sure he’s thinking the same,” he told Fast about competing as a team. The event’s silver medal went to Steve McCann and Elliot Sloan and Tom Schaar and Zack Warden took bronze.
We heard a lot of talk throughout the Paddocks of a few teams unofficially forming together for next year’s competition.
Other sports that debuted this weekend included Moto X Harley-Davidson Flat-Track Racing, and Moto X Toyota QuarterPipe.
Age is just a number–nothing more, nothing less
X Games is also one of those places where age is just a number. It pretty much means nothing. You’ve got guys like Tom Scharr, who at just 15 was the defending America’s Navy Skateboard Big Air gold medalist (he left with bronze this year behind Burnquist who took home gold and Elliott Sloan with silver), competing on nearby stages with 43-year-old Mike Brown who took home his third gold in Enduro X. Brown turned pro in an era before X Games was even a thing (1989). Though the guys compete in different disciplines, the age disparity isn’t something you’ll find in many other sporting events.
Then you’ve got sports like BMX Vert, which is a final-only format with eight athletes and is essentially a halfpipe make of skatelite (a durable paper-composte material) and wood, and is 60 feet wide with 11.5 feet transitions and two feet of vert. Jamie Bestwick, a 43-year-old rider who was unbeaten in X Games Vert since 2006 succumbed to 25-year-old Australian Vince Byron, which was a huge change in the game.
For the women’s sports, the age ranges are as big–you’ve got the youngest at 14 with Alana Smith (SKB) and the oldest being 42-year-old Nicole Bradford (MTX). For men, the oldest is formerly retired NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace at 58 (the second-oldest athlete ever in X Games history) and America’s Navy Skateboard Big Air Trey Woods at 14 (who is also the lightest male athlete at X Games weighing 105lbs).
Sheldon Creed took home his first X Games gold in Off-Road Truck Racing Sunday. Interesting fact–Creed just wrapped up his junior year of high school. Who needs a class ring when you’ve got a gold medal from X Games? “To be an X Games gold medalist, that’s so rad and something that I’ve been looking to do since I was little,” he told ESPN, which is ironic, because by most standards, he’s still little. Or at least young.
The average age for X Games Austin athletes this year was 27.87.
A first time for everything
Nichole and Jared Mees became the first married couple to compete against each other in X Games
history as they battled it out in Harley-Davidson Flat-Track Racing, and Shayna and Cory Texter (also Flat-Track Racing) became the first brother and sister to compete against each other.
The Harley-Davidson Flat-Track Racing event was one of the events to debut at X Games 2015, where 24 racers competed on the 3/8-mile long oval dirt track on twin-engine motorcycles. Drivers hit high speeds, dramatically leaning into turns with no front brake having to use the rear skid to their advantage for traction and control. The final lap came to a dramatic fit-for-TV finish with a mechanical failure allowing Bryan Smith (Kawasaki) to snag gold.
Don’t forget the women
Saturday showcased one of my favorite competitions with 12 of the best women’s skateboarders in the world contending for the biggest prize purse in women’s skateboarding. Alexis Sablone walked away with her fourth Women’s Skateboard Street gold medal and left the crowd with jaws still hanging on the asphalt after watching her performance. Pamela Rosa, a 15-year-old Brazilian skater who rocked a personalized home futbol jersey and Chicago Bulls flat bill cap, combined her technical skills, clean style, and even left it all on the course with an impressive kickflip off the roof, which got her silver.
Maria Forsberg also made her return to Women’s Enduro X after retiring last year to have a baby. After giving birth to her daughter Londynn in October, the six-time medalist (3 gold) was ready to return to the action.
“I got 6th which is obviously my worst finish by far,” Forsberg says explaining how she crashed during her seeding lap which left her literally starting behind everyone else, in a second row. “I had the worse gate pick and was dead last by like 10 feet and I caught up to 6th in six laps, so to me it was awesome what I overcame. I was doing some jumps I wouldn’t have before the pregnancy so I felt really good. It’s hard because looking at results you’re like “she got 6th and usually she got 1stor 2nd’ but to know where I started in the back, I’m really happy,” she says.
Innovation is nothing new for Austin
The festival villages, which included the Galleria–a retail hub featuring large-scale sponsor activations (AT&T took your selfie and put it on a bobblehead photo in exchange for your email address), Torchy’s Tacos Playground (although they didn’t have tacos, which was disappointing)–where fans could compete in pop-a-shot basketball, soccer penalty kicks, skateboard simulation and even catch performances from the YouTube sensation waterskiing squirrel.
The total event was very SXSW-like with innovation and marketing in every crevice of Circuit of the Americas like chalk art contests, semi-impromptu yoga set up by Wanderlust Yoga, Skype’s pull-up contest against the fittest woman on earth–crossfitter Camille I.Bazinet, and even a #tucktest from Fruit of the Loom who had Travis Pastrana riding a mechanical bull to see if the shirt could withstand the #tucktest. Spoiler alert–it did. And he drives fast cars better than he rides bulls. Fans lined up for hours to get their own newly designed Fruit of the Loom undershirt to see if they too could pass the #tucktest.
When an event rolls into Austin, so do the VIP parties. It’s like a right of passage. Many of the athletes and sponsors were throwing their own parties. Some of the biggest went to “Luna Rising” presented by Dos Equis at Ironwood Hall on 7th St., the Monster VIP party (can you imagine how hyped up all the guests were with free Monster all night long?), and the popular downtown pool party series “Shock Wave” back for its second season–on the fourth floor of the W Hotel Sunday late afternoon. Admission was $30 and included complimentary valet, specialty drink cocktails (all Texas brands) and a DJ. Many of the athletes headed to the Wet Deck after the conclusion of competition and grabbed a cabana to soak up the sun, well actually, the shade. And of course a few cocktails.
Behind the scenes
One of the best parts of a weekend packed with so much action is seeing all the behind the scenes craziness and nuisances. Whether that’s watching athletes throw their skateboards off the ramp knowing they just got beat out by a sick trick from their competitor, being treated by medics off course after a fall or even just your casual couch races, it’s all pretty damn entertaining. Check out these behind the scenes pictures from ESPN.
“I did a double flair on a Megaramp Quarterpipe, I’m super pumped! The feeling is indescribable.”
–Colton Satterfield, X Games GoPro BMX Big Air gold medalist
“I was trying to stay focused, I had a good first run which is the best because then I wasn’t as stressed as I usually am, on the last run I felt like I could take a risk—-I’m so happy.”
–Alexis Sablone, X Games Women’s Skateboard Street gold medalist
“I had no plan coming here today. I had certain tricks I wanted to do but didn’t exactly know how to get there.”–Curren Caples, X Games Toyota Skateboard Park gold medalist
“The car got destroyed and after that I figured it was done, but I kept hounding the leader and he made a mistake and I was able to get by.”
–Scott Speed, X Games Car Racing gold medalist
“I just decided to let it all go, just have fun, that’s what BMX is all about.”–Mike Clark, X Games BMX Dirt silver medalist
“I would’ve never guessed 20 years ago when I started watching X Games that I would have my own gold medal–especially seven of them!”
–Ronnie Renner, Moto X Step Up gold medalist
“I just hammered down that last corner and went for it man. To survive here and come home with a gold medal, it’s a dream come true really.”–Bryan Smith, Harley-Davidson Flat-Track gold medalist
“Every win takes a lot of hard work and practice on the course and a lot of preparation. I’m stoked that I was able to put down those first two runs and not put too much pressure on myself.”–Nyjah Huston, Monster Energy Skateboard Street gold medalist