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The X Games Arrives in Austin

The X Games Arrives in Austin
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Photos by Jacob Calle

June 5th marked the first day for Austin to host the 4-day event as an 11.5-ft-tall half-pipe stretched 60 ft across Congress Avenue and 10th St., directly facing the Texas capital for the skateboard and BMX vert finals along with a performance demo by legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk and friends, including BMX hero Mat Hoffman. In the continuing days, the X Games would be relocated to Circuit of the Americas on a 1,400-acre site, which has hosted Formula One, Moto GP, and many concerts. The grounds would be altered into a festival for extreme sports with ramps, jumps, and racecourses set up throughout the grounds, where world-class extreme athletes would compete.

The X Games was a lot like a music festival, but instead of stages and bands there were ramps and athletes along with meet-and-greets with Travis Pastrana, Nate Adams, Morgan Wade, Ken Block, Andy McDonald and more. Like a music festival, there were booths and tents sprawled out, such as GoPro, energy drinks, and other like-minded extreme products, along with “The Garage”, which gave attendees an up-close-and-personal view to watch mechanics prepare cars and bikes for competition. The festival grounds were very interactive-there were remote control car races, pit team races where attendees battled against time to change race car tires, rock wall climbing, and even a mini skate park. It was a giant playground for adults.

While the sun beat down, there were multiple air-conditioned tents for those who couldn’t take to heat to watch extreme sport movies on the big screen, such as “Rad”, “Winner Takes All”, and “Thrashin’”. Also the fest had a gallery of the history of the X Games, which included “The First” wall which displayed photos of Jake Brown’s epic fall from 40 feet straight down onto flat ground, which he miraculously walked away from; Heath Frisby’s first front flip on a snowmobile; Tony Hawk’s first 900 and other monumental moments for the games (excluding Caleb Moore’s snowmobile accident, which marked the first competitor death).

Like a tennis match, viewers sat quietly as the skaters and BMXers performed their hard work on the street course. In lieu of small claps, the crowd gave uproarious shouts to the athletes as they performed large death-defying stunts on the course for the world to see, as ESPN televised the shot. While Riley Hawk deserves his own platform, it’s quite difficult to not announce that his father is Tony Hawk. The tattooed, stoner-rock-lovin’ skater who displays a large Black Sabbath tattoo on his forearm clearly shows that he’s not living just his father’s dream-just equally sharing the passion and talent for skate boarding. While he did not rank in the top three with Nyjah Huston, who took gold for a best of 95 points, neither did MTV reality star Ryan Sheckler, or actor Paul Rodriguez’s son Paul Rodriguez Jr., who was a crowd favorite as fans rushed to the fence for the young skateboarder’s autograph.

Last November, while covering the Red Bull Urban Rhythm Houston event, I was on the roof of Meridian shooting from the top. A BMX rider yells from the ground, “How did you get up there?” I went down to show him. While I thought he wanted to check the view, he was looking to see how he could lunge off the 3-story building into a ramp. This man was none other than Texan BMX rider, Morgan Wade, who placed gold in last year’s big air. The 7-story ramp at this year’s X Games is the largest ramp in the world and is used by few. Wade was Austin’s favorite due to his living situation. He clearly knows that everything is bigger in Texas, as he went home with a silver performing a backflip superman on the big ramp, along with first-time gold medalist and Austinite BMX rider, Chase Hawk. These two aren’t the only ones to prove the cliche true-sometimes this is performed by the littlest player. 14-year-old Tom Schaar beat out legendary skateboarders by point in the big air competition, now owning the gold by pulling off two 900s on the big ramp and quarter. He is now the second-youngest winner in X Games history.

To close each night artists like Pretty Lights, Kanye West, and The Flaming Lips shut down the park with their hits. If you didn’t purchase a ticket in time to the sold-out event, don’t fret, for the X Games signed a 3-year contract with Austin and is here to stay.