Nyjah & Shane vs. The New Kids
by Paul Zitzer
SLS isn’t just a top-level contest series where we find out who among the world’s most talented contest skaters is the best at doing ridiculously hard tricks on manmade street obstacles. It’s also some of the greatest in skate entertainment, serving up fodder for hours of heated debate and friendly argument with the bros. Do smaller obstacles hurt Nyjah’s chances? Did Evan get scored too high for flying out of the course that one time? Should it have been scored even higher? Would it be better if the format allowed for more bails? Fewer bails? Does crowd reaction matter to the judges? And why hasn’t Joslin won yet? As the SLS talking heads at ETN the past couple of years, Geoff Rowley and I are always looking for the storylines that sum up what we think might be worth paying attention to. At the start of 2017 the questions on our minds were basically this: Will the scales stay tilted in Shane’s favor like they were in the battle between he and Nyjah in 2016? Or could some hungry young new kids be coming in to change the conversation?
Louie Lopez boosting a Kickflip during his Tampa Pro run
Tampa Pro in March was the first chance to find out. Tampa is the only SLS North American Qualifier, it also brings out all of the SLS Pros, but it’s a far cry from an arena contest, with no best trick section, no counting the best 4 of 7 tries, no ISX scoring, and no concession stand hot dogs either unfortunately. Tampa is old school, with a best of 3 run format and hopefully no random kids skate onto the course during the Finals. And in that setting, the 2017 Tampa Pro was all Louie Lopez. Sure there was still debate. Did Kelvins kickflip fs blunt happen before or after time? But as I’ve heard people say in the past, “That’s Tampa.” And that’s what makes Tampa rad. Having seen probably 21 of the 23 Tampa Pros firsthand I know from experience that it’s all about the moment. Not a trick for trick breakdown of who did what and what the points on each should be. Louie’s run was a one-minute masterpiece of flow and variety and stoke, not just a grab bag of individual maneuvers. And the fakie tre on the quarter at time sealed the deal, and you have to admit it’s hard to site an example of anyone else ever doing that trick, like that, out of the blue in a contest run. Either way, with Louie’s win we got to chalk one up for the newer kids. And placing 6th, but FIRST among all of the non-SLS pros, big ups to Dave Bachinsky whose efforts finally earned him a spot on the SLS World Tour. Dave’s 31, so he isn’t quite a new kid but he’s mad young at heart and a great addition to the League.
2017 Tampa Pro Top 3
Then it was off to Barcelona for the SLS Pro Open, where 30 of the best of the best Qualifiers (non-SLS Pros) from around the world are invited to duke it out for two open spots on the SLS World Tour. The Barcy scene is second to none and contest or no contest it’s one of the best places for skateboarding in the world. The vibe is more relaxed than any of the indoor arena stops but the stakes for those in the Qualifiers makes the intensity very real. It’s also a good chance to see skaters you don’t normally see in contests: Marek Zaprazny, Sebo Walker, Diego Najera and Kevin Bradley to name a few.
Diego Najera great view on this 360 Flip
None of those skaters made it to the Finals unfortunately, but the ones that did made up for it. Namely Nyjah Huston and Shane O’Neill along with two of the new kids: 2016 Tampa Am winner Dashawn Jordan, and Japan’s Yuto Horigome who has been putting it down in events all over the world the last year. As the only two non-SLS skaters to make Finals, both Dashawn and Yuto locked up SLS World Tour spots as new SLS Pros and guaranteed that we’ll be talking about them for a long, long time. And a nollie backside 270 noseslide on the bump to ledge helped Yuto get all the way up into 3rd place. Nyjah and Shane were battling for the win when Nyjah fakie flipped the volcano on his second last try for an 8.8 and took the lead from Shane. When Shane couldn’t make the nollie tre fs board down the rail (and who else in the universe would ever even try that?) Nyjah got his first victory since New Jersey 2016. But once again, how about those new kids?
Yuto Horigome with a Nollie 270 Switch Backside Tailside
The second SLS event and first SLS World Tour stop of the year went down in Munich Germany, where the history runs deep and schnitzel with warm beer is for sale on every corner. The setting was the site of the 1972 Olympics and either there’s no a/c in the building or they just didn’t feel like turning it on, but no matter the reason it was hot. Just like the skating. Dashawn kept the fire lit by qualifying in 1st place out of the Prelims, which is huge considering this was his first ever event as an official SLS Pro. Munich gave us one of the best showings from Carlos Ribeiro yet, and he’s always on point. But this time he took an approach that went heavy on the tech and light on the feet all the way to his first SLS podium finish in 3rd place. But the real headline coming out of the contest would have been this: Nyjah Fends off Yuto for the Win (But barely!). Yuto had the most crowd support of any other skater in the contest, in fact they were chanting his name before every try. And he ALMOST got the win in Munich but had to settle for second after missing his last crucial trick. Shane shocked us all and missed the 8 cut. So…he IS human?
2017 SLS Munich Top 3
We were back in Chicago for the last stop before the Super Crown World Championship in Los Angeles, which made it the final chance for SLS Pros to stack enough season points to make the top 8 cut and get the invite to the World Championship. For some skaters, their only Super Crown hope was for a miracle win over Shane, Nyjah and everyone else for a Golden Ticket straight to the big show. That seemed unlikely and talk was already turning to the likelihood of Nyjah finishing the year with two more wins. But either way, he already had his Golden Ticket to LA for winning the Pro Open, so did Louie for his Tampa win, and they would be joined by Kelvin Hoefler & Shane who had already earned enough season points to clinch their spot in the Super Crown World Championship. Four other skaters, including Joslin and Luan, were still in a heated race to qualify, and despite his successes Yuto had a ton of work to do to make Super Crown since he didn’t get any Pro Open points due to not technically being an official SLS Pro until after the Barcelona contest was over. And Dashawn’s chances were even worse with a win being his only hope. Things weren’t looking good for anyone other than Nyjah when he went for a switch frontside flip off the top of the hubba, just missed getting his foot back on the tail, and did the splits of a lifetime, and thankfully didn’t get taken out on a stretcher.
Dashawn Jordan Laserflip off the top ropes
Apparently Dashawn Jordan thrives on pressure, because when he floated a laser flip off the top of the hubba it was all in, everything or nothing, and when he rolled away clean he jumped out ahead of Nyjah and won it, and that’s how Dashawn got his Golden Ticket to the Super Crown World Championship. Torey Pudwill finished 2nd behind Dashawn after missing the entire 2016 season due to injury. He’s still looking for his first win, but it seems like it’s only a matter of time. Unfortunately for Luan Oliveira, Dashawn Jordan’s last minute heroics squashed his chances of skating in yet another Super Crown. Yuto’s season also ended in Chicago but Dashawn’s success was enough to keep the new kids anthem alive.
2017 SLS Chicago Top 3
The intensity of the Super Crown World Championship is insane. For starters there are only 8 skaters invited and they can’t be considered anything less than the eight best contest skaters in the world at that moment. That said, not all of them were in fighting shape when they arrived at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. Dashawn had a rolled ankle, T-puds was under the weather, and both Carlos & Tiago were burnt from a hard week of heavy ripping in the streets. On top of all of that, unless you’re a veteran with ice water flowing through your veins there’s a good chance you’ll panic and blow it under all of the pressure. Whether Dashawn’s ankle was giving him too much grief or he panicked is up for debate, but it may have been the fault of a cracked board from the first trick in his first run of the contest. Either way he ended up in 7th, which wasn’t really the fairy tale ending some of us might have wanted to see, but hey, Dashawn came a LONG way in a very short time: Tampa Am in November 2016 to the Super Crown in a 10-month span.
Torey Pudwill Backside Smith up the hubba
At the end of the day it was the veterans and contest killers that landed in the top three. Kelvin Hoefler having completed a miraculous comeback after exploding his leg back in 2016 placed third. In some ways Kelvin is an even better skater than he was before the injury. When he used to depend more heavily on his big handrail tricks to rack up points, he’s toned down the gnar a degree but at the same time turned up the difficulty level in the run section, making him more well rounded and tougher to beat in general.
Shane O’neill Switch Flip Frontside Boardslide
Nyjah Huston, SLS World Champion in 2012 and 2014, was also coming into the weekend in less than perfect health. He’d knocked himself out the week before, landed in the hospital, and left people wondering whether he’d even skate or not. But skate he did, looking calm, relaxed, focused, and basically unbeatable as he worked his way to first after posting a 9.0 and a 9.2 in the runs section, then doing a nollie heel front noseblunt on the handrail for a 9.3 and a backside 270 flip lipslide for a 9.5. At that point, in 2nd place was defending 2016 SLS World Champ Shane O’Neill, the only skater who was still in the running to take Nyjah out. And with one Best Trick attempt left he needed a 9.6. Shane has landed a 9.9 in his past, so a 9.6 is within range. And he tried what only Shane could try, a switch backside bigspin double flip, and he landed ON it, but didn’t manage to roll away. If he had, there is a very good chance he would have skated away with the points he needed to win. But that’s all conjecture now. After taking only one win in 2016, Nyjah dominated another SLS season with his 3rd lifetime Super Crown World Champion win. The season had one of the best endings ever, and nicely sets up the storylines for next year: Will the scales stay tilted in Nyjah’s favor like they were in the battle between he and Shane in 2017? Or will the hungry young new kids turn over the applecart once and for all? Stay tuned to find out.
2017 SLS World Champion – Nyjah Huston