Over the course of my career I’ve had the good fortune of working on some pretty cool and interesting projects. I can honestly say that few compare to the ride my company, partners, and I have taken with Street League Skateboarding (SLS) over the last five years.
I’ve been part of Street League since before it was even Street League. My ISX Scoring partner, Paul Taublieb, came to me with this idea of instant scoring for action sports and had been talking with Rob Dyrdek about his idea for a professional skateboarding league. A little time passed and we actually conducted a pilot test during the season one finale of Rob’s MTV show Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory. The pilot was a success and the die was cast for what today has become the biggest thing to perhaps ever happen to street skating.
Last weekend we wrapped our 20th event with a competition that, yet again, came down to the very last round of trick attempts before the winner was locked. We’re proud that our ISX Scoring platform plays a role in that down-to-the-wire finish time and again. It makes for an exciting and dramatic event that fans in the arena, and at home on TV, really enjoy.
After 20 events, here’s what I can tell you about Street League and its fans:
- People always love the underdog: No matter if they have a shot at winning or not, the fans always root for the guys who go all out, trick after trick.
- Nice guys finish first: I’m always surprised by how genuinely nice the SLS pros are. Most are always smiling, cheering each other on, and making time for the fans. It’s really great to see.
- Get out of your head: More often then not, when one of our skaters struggles and either gets eliminated or doesn’t finish as strongly as they had hoped, their answer as to why is something akin to, “I couldn’t get out of my own head.” Meaning, they either get themselves psyched out or they get so hung-up on nailing a trick that they keep going for it even when it’s not coming together that day. These guys show us that it’s important to be adaptable and know when to change the game plan. It’s not a sign of weakness to acknowledge when something isn’t working. Rather, it’s a sign of strength and self-control to know when to zag if zigging isn’t working.
- Strategy will help you win, but sometimes it’s more about showmanship and the love of the game: Unlike other skateboarding competitions, at Street League the skaters have scores and stats available to them right on the course. They know exactly where they stand and, more importantly, what score they need on the next trick to move up in the rankings and/or into first place. That might mean that a relatively easy and safe trick that will earn a 6.5 (out of a possible 10 points) is enough and they don’t have to go all out. Some play the game that way, studying the stats and making strategic adjustments as they go. But others (actually, most, from what I can see) just go for it, all out, every time. When they succeed, it’s amazing. They go big and nail it and the crowd goes crazy. When they miss, the emotions in the arena are mixed. Edge-of-your-seat excitement as they fly through the air quickly gives way to the disappointment of what could have been. But, the crowd always appreciates the effort and often when asked why they didn’t do something simpler and safer, the skaters answer that it’s not how they skate. Points and leaderboard position aside, they are there to skate, go big, and put on a show. If it works they come out on top. If not, they still do it for the love of skateboarding and they’re not going to compromise. As a non-skater myself, and someone who is very much into the scoring and stats of it all, I must admit I can’t always relate. For me, the strategy is the game and making the chess moves necessary to earn the points, and ultimately the dollars, is how you play the game. But, something tells me I’d feel differently if it were I flying through the air on four wheels and a board hoping to nail the landing of a lifetime.
So, what have 20 professional skateboarding events taught me? They’ve taught me that there is room, and even a need, for both strategy and a little showmanship. I still think a balance is important because all strategy can be boring, but all showmanship can get tedious, and even seem reckless, when it’s not working out. But, for some reckless is the only way to play it and for them that’s the win. To each his own and I’m just glad SLS has continued to put together the right mix to make for fun and exciting competitions. Here’s to the next 20, and many more.