Maloof Cup NYC 2011 and pondering about the skate world.

I spent my day today watching live the NYC Maloof Money Cup amateur contest, and the pro finals.  When I got home I went to a nearby restaurant for dinner with my roommate. During the NBA finals a Nike commercial ran. In a hodgepodge of action sports athletes with no real connecting theme, pro skateboarder Paul Rodriguez in the commercial does a perfect switch hardflip down a large stair set in slow motion.

Before I recap my excellent day, I’m going to summarize how the skateboard industry has changed it up greatly in the past year. Last year was the inaugural year of the NYC Maloof Money Cup. The Maloof brothers that own the Palms casino and the Sacramento Kings invested quite a bit of money into the contest. They built a park for last year’s contest, and then donated it to the city as a public course. I’ve skated it several times, and along with other public skate parks in the city it has widened my skateboarding world. Last year the contest was exciting too, with Paul Rodriquez, Chris Cole, Torey Pudwill, and Bastien Salabanzi really created a high level of competition in the finals. It was exciting to watch.

Sometime last summer or fall, a rival competition was set up called Street League that goes to multiple cities. I have not watched Street League and I need to research it a little bit. But this Street League made it so if pro skaters compete in those contests they can not compete is certain other contests, and to my understanding it was mostly directed toward the Maloof skateboarding franchise. So quite a few top pros in the world including Paul Rodriguez, and Chris Cole do not compete in the Maloof Cup anymore.  So this year I knew the contest would be different from last year’s.

I enjoyed one thing greatly last year and I enjoyed it this year, and that was that they had a full amateur contest. Like last year they divided the course into 3 sections. The first was the right side of the course, then the left side of the course, and it finished in the mid portion with the big nine stair rail. The level of the amateurs was amazing.  One skater did a nollie heelflip bigspin down the nine stair. It took him several tries, but it was amazing he rode away from that. One am looked to be about twelve years old and was able to backside kickflip to lipslide the 9 stair rail with ease.  The best trick I saw all day was an am doing a frontside bigspin to lipslide down the 9 stair. A lipslide or a disaster slide is when you ollie so your turning over the rail and then slide down. A rail slide you plop onto the rail, a lipslide you have to clear the height of the rail. I’m not sure how to explain it. Bigspins to railslide is a hard trick but it’s been done and done regularly by sponsored people. I think a bigspin to lipslide is a new trick. I keep up with the skate videos, and I don’t think I’ve seen that. The winner of the Am contest was a skater from Florida named Evan Smith and he was really good with a carefree smooth style. Watching him and several of the other ams, I’m not sure what they need to do to go pro. Is it just the decision of the company they ride for, time put in, or other factors. The difference is huge. The winner of this am contest won $1,500 and a trip to South Africa for a contest. The winner of the pro contest won $160,000.

After the am contest I walked around the venders. My friend thought it was weird, and it did have a town fair feel to it. There was about an hour or two gap between the am contest and the pro finals. I had an overpriced hot dog and burger. They did not sell beer at this event. Looking around the majority of fans were teenagers, so selling alcohol would create all sorts of problems. I did get to talk to my friend and few other skaters about topics concerning the skate world. Just like people can talk up baseball or football factoids and lore, the same small talk applies to skateboarding. There are just not as many opportunities to geek out with skating information than with other sports or pop culture.

For the pro finals they changed the format from last year.  Instead of the three sections they did elimination rounds with the 12 skaters. The 4 that qualified at the top had a by or they did not have to do the first round. Kind of like the football playoffs, and this is perhaps were people like the Maloof’s with knowledge of sports can figure out what makes a good skate contest. So in these rounds 2 skaters would skate a the same time for 4 minutes. Whoever skated better would go to the next round. I realized that they might of changed this because of the California Maloof contest last August. In that contest the phenom Nijah Huston was incredible in the third section of the contest. For the time allotment he did not fall and did about 16 tricks down the ten stair or the ten stair rail. I watched it on television, and it was amazing. But Chris Cole did much better on the first and second sections of the competition. So I’m sure with the point calculations Chris Cole did get the win, but everything that saw a fifteen year old skate the third section perfectly was rubbed the wrong way. Nijah Huston was rubbed the wrong way and has since won a Street League event. With the elimination rounds that could not happen. Whoever of the two did better would advance.

These pros stepped it up for these four minute heats, even though you could tell that that much time was fatiguing to them. I was thinking about it, and usually you try a trick, and then think about it or wait your turn. Usually you don’t try super hard continually. Ryan Decenzo was excellent and at one point did a switch 270 to frontside boardslide down the 9 stair. That trick was done in videos as far back as 1993, but to see it down something so big is unreal. Dennis Busenitz was a joy to watch. He has a new part in Real’s skateboard video ‘Since Day One,’ that is amazing. No one skates like him, he has a compact smooth style and he skates so fast. I think he can do three tricks in the time span that other pro skaters would do one trick. But I think he was fatigued, missed some tricks, and I agree the Greg Lutzka deserved the win.  He did a fronside 270 to backside noseblunt slide down the nine stair. I believe he learned that trick during the 2008 Maloof contest on a much smaller rail. But taking that trick to that big a rail is insane, and he did a whole bunch of other tricks. I saw so many good tricks today, I can’t even wrap my head around it.

I think the Maloof contests are doing some things right, and NYC does deserve a yearly big event. I understand the Street League trying to create a regular media tour coverage thing. There are contests that existed well before both of these like the Tampa contest, the Manny Mania contest, the X-games and several other events. I think skateboarding has to borrow from other sport contests, and I think golf or tennis could be examples of what can be done. In those sports there are contests almost every weekend, they all have different sponsers, owners, and television assignments. But they all have the stamp of the PGA tour or the whatever the tennis association is. Skateboarding contests should be different, with different courses, and locations. So I think there can be room for anything, but the ‘exclusive’ clause to Street League is baloney.  Variety in contests should be the goal, not to have a monopoly on competitive skateboarding.

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