CROSSING OVER

posted by / Magazine / September 28, 2004

“I can’t believe this is happening — again!” Taylor Knox couldn’t help but voice his frustration. In front of 25,000 Huntington beachgoers and a live, TV audience in the untold millions, Knox and his West Coast teammates lost their second consecutive X Games to the Slater-led East Coast. The dramatic conclusion? Four surfers sat out the back for seven minutes, waiting for a set that never came. Surfing’s first shot on live TV misfired due to a dead ocean. Meanwhile, a short drive up the {{{405}}} freeway, it was last man standing in freestyle motocross as Nate Adams beat the unbeatable Travis Pastrana with a high-flying backflip to no-hander and a 360 spin. In skate, the Laird Hamilton-like Danny Way won the first-ever Mega Ramp event with a backside 360 over a 70-foot gap followed by a 20-foot Christ Air off a 27-foot quarter-pipe. Last year was surfing’s honeymoon period in the X Games. Who cares if the surf sucked? We were finally part of the Action {{{Sports}}} Olympics, and it felt good. This year, though, we came to grips with reality: when our heroes are surfing waist-high Huntington, they look silly compared to the other extreme sports daredevils. Which begs the question: does surfing really belong in the X Games? If so, what format should it be in? To get some answers, we invited skate legend and lifetime surfer Danny Way, freestyle motocross gold medallist Nate Adams and six-time world champ Kelly Slater to the SURFING offices to eat some sushi and discuss the X Games X aftermath. We started by playing a five-minute video of this year’s event at Huntington, then we broke out the tape recorders…

SURFING MAGAZINE: Let’s start with you, Kelly. Last year, you and eight other surfers put your careers on the line to surf in the X Games. Do you still feel it was a risk worth taking?

KELLY SLATER: I was a big supporter of the X Games last year. The ASP tried to stop us from surfing in it, but we stood our ground. We knew we could be throwing our year away just to surf one three-hour event, but we thought it was worth it. It was in LA, everyone was here and we wanted to regroup with skating and motocross. We thought it was a good move to get surfing on TV. DANNY WAY: You can’t get better global exposure. There’s nobody bigger right now. If you go to a Supercross event, I bet there’s very few people in the stadium who actually own a motorcycle. You don’t have to ride motocross to be into it. It’s the same for skateboarding, and it could be the same for surfing… if presented the right way.

KELLY: So now, after this second X Games, I still think it was a risk worth taking. If nothing else, it showed that the surfers have the power to make group decisions and force change. Sort of a union thing. But looking at the future and what Danny did this year — he didn’t join the X Games until it really provided something that he felt would push the sport forward– that makes more sense.

SURFING MAGAZINE: Danny, you’ve been a conscientious objector from the X Games since the beginning. But this year, they added your Mega Ramp event and it went off. How did you make it happen?

DANNY: Well, knowing that there’s so much more going on in the sport than what the X Games displayed motivated me. I told myself, if I join now and go down the same path everyone else is going, there might never be a change. It doesn’t matter if it’s the X Games; to enter some vert contest and do the same tricks I’ve been doing my whole life doesn’t excite me. Everyone’s been doing the same run for the last five years. The {{{900}}} keeps winning best trick, and Tony [Hawk] first did that in ’99. It’s been done. With the new mega ramp, there’s enough air-time where it’s possible to do 1800s, you know? The potential is endless. When it was just me, the X Games people weren’t really open to the idea of the mega ramp. Why rock the boat if they didn’t have to? But then we actually created something, brought some of the other skaters in and showed them all the R and D I’d been doing on the bigger boards and trucks you need to ride it. We then had a team of guys that were capable of doing it, and they had to pay attention. ‘Cause if ESPN didn’t want to talk about it, NBC did.

KELLY: If you hold out for your own beliefs, you create a better situation.

NATE ADAMS: Even in our sport, the same problems are occurring over and over again at every contest. This year’s freestyle course wasn’t wheel-packed at all. It was so slick, you’d just skate around. Plus, a lot of guys — including myself — thought the course was way too easy. Way more basic than last year’s. All of this could have been avoided if one of the riders got to oversee it as it was being built.

KELLY: That’s when you gotta go and do it yourself. Like what Danny did with his big ramp and what I tried to do with my event in Fiji. It’s like, “I don’t like the way this is being structured. Let’s take a chance and go do something else.” Like, tow surfing. There’s a lot of potential there to develop something unique; you can ride waves as big as Danny’s ramp, or even bigger.

DANNY: And we can ride bigger ramps, too. Now that we’ve broken it open, it’ll keep growing.

For the complete interview with Kelly Slater, Danny Way and Nate Adams, check out the November issue of SURFING Magazine, available now everywhere killer surf mags are sold. Or save yourself the trouble and just subscribe. Why aren’t you subscribed already?!?

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