Now in its tenth year, Street League Skateboarding (SLS) is the official world championship of street skateboarding. Presented by Monster Energy as the official drink sponsor, SLS has recently seen an unprecedented influx of new talent. The main reason: Starting with the 2019 season, SLS also serves as a direct qualifier for skateboarding’s upcoming debut at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
In this new format, the SLS World Tour stop in Los Angeles included a Global Open Qualifier in which over 100 skateboarders from across the globe battled for Olympic ranking points and a spot in Saturday’s quarterfinal, where they met the highest-ranking SLS pros. With so many young guns hungry for points, anything could happen in L.A. – and it did.
Upping the ante, the California Skateparks-designed course at Galen Center invited high-tech street skating in a symmetrical arrangement of flat bars, ledges and kickers on both sides. Plus, a massive centerpiece stage with a stair gap flanked by two 24-foot long Hubba ledges. And as the key stacking those Nine Club high scores, the course featured several opportunities for spectacular gap-out transfers onto rails and Hubba ledges.
Nine Club scores turned out essential to surviving Sunday’s heavily contested semifinal, “one of the greatest semifinals in Street League history,” according to SLS live broadcast commentator Paul Zitzer. The competition was already on an SLS finals level in the semis as riders from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Portugal, and the United States brought their A-game to secure one of eight spots in the final.
As the reigning SLS World Champion, Monster Energy’s Nyjah Huston came to L.A. fresh off recent wins at SLS World Tour Stop One in London and X Games Shanghai. Huston blazed through the semis with a perfect Run score and high-scoring gap-out transfers – including a bigspin frontside boardslide on the bump to rail for 9.3 points – to qualify in first place with 34.5 points.
Also making the cut, his Monster teammate and Brazilian tech prodigy Kelvin Hoefler followed in fourth place on the strength of bangers like a perfect Caballerial to backside tailslide fakie on the centerpiece Hubba ledge.
Then the finals happened, and nothing was the same. Losing no time, the level of competition escalated as Japan’s Sora Shorai set the bar high with a Nine Club score on his first final run, only to be leapfrogged by rookie Maurio McCoy at 9.1 points and then Japan’s Yuto Horigome with a 9.3-point Run score. Nine Club-scoring runs are usually the exception, suddenly they were the rule.
Always up for a challenge, Huston fired back with the highest-scoring Run in SLS history: Kickflip into the bank off the center stage, backside 180 nosegrind revert the bump to rail, 360 kickflip and half Cab kickflip the kicker, frontside feeble to Smith grind the Euro gap rail, gap out to frontside bluntslide the long Hubba, backside overcrook the flat bar, blunt kickflip fakie on the quarterpipe, kickflip backside lipslide the bump to rail and Caballerial kickflip over the kicker after the buzzer earned Huston a whopping 9.6 points and an early lead.
But the leaderboard continued to move quickly. Hoefler found his perfect Run score on the second attempt and edged into second place with frontside bluntslide the long centerpiece Hubba, bigspin frontside boardslide fakie the flat bar, Caballerial frontside boardslide fakie and kickflip backside lipslide the Euro Gap rail, crooked up the rail, backside Smith grind the flat bar, frontside nosegrind lipslide on the quarterpipe, and Half Cab noseslide to backside tailslide fakie the centerpiece Hubba for 9.1 points.
Losing the handle on an overcrook in his second run, Huston found himself in third place as the action moved quickly into Best Trick attempts. That’s the point when it all started falling apart.
As Japanese young gun Sora Shorai posted another Nine Club score with a front 180 to switch nosegrind off the kicker onto the long Hubba ledge, both Huston and Hoefler missed their first Best Trick attempts. No big deal, still four tries to go.
But as competitors continued stacking high scores – including Brazil’s Carlos Ribeiro and his backside nollie to switch backside Smith the centerpiece Hubba –Huston lost the handle on his big flip backside lipslide the bump to rail again on his second attempt. Meanwhile, Yuto Horigome took the lead by ways of a perfect nollie Caballerial to switch backside tailslide the Hubba for 9.0 points, as the pressure mounted.
Restoring some balance, Hoefler managed to get back in the game by landing a Caballerial backside tailslide fakie down the centerpiece Hubba for 8.5 points. But with Huston missing the big flip backside lipslide for a third time, taking a harsh slam in the process, the air was getting thin. Only two tries left to go.
That’s when Maurio McCoy jumped into first place by sending a massive frontside kickflip off the centerpiece kicker all the way over the stair gap to flat, commandeering a 34.5-point score. Vincent Milou continued his momentum into third place by posting a pop-shove-it backside 5-0 on the centerpiece Hubba.
Next, Yuto Horigome sealed his victory by sticking a highly technical nollie backside 270 noseslide down the centerpiece Hubba for a 35.7-point top score that would hold until the very end.
With no other choice but going for the highest-possible score, Huston’s SLS final in Los Angeles ended when the elusive big flip backside lipslide on the bump to rail – potentially the highest-scoring trick of the day – misfired for the fourth time.
Digging deep for a high score, Hoefler went for a Half Cab noseslide to backside tailslide fakie down the long Hubba ledge, but was thrown off on the landing. Kelvin had one more chance to upset the final order on his last attempt, but had to settle for seventh place as Yuto Horigome took home the win at SLS Los Angeles for the second year in a row in one of the biggest shakeups in SLS history.
Also stoking out the crowd in L.A. this weekend, Matt Berger brought the heat to the semifinal with Run highlights including gap-out nollie frontside noseslide the centerpiece Hubba, kickflip front crooked the flat ledge and kickflip backside lipslide the bump to rail. Although he landed technical Best Trick moves like kickflip frontside noseslide the long centerpiece ledge and joined the 9 Club with a kickflip backside tailslide big spin for 9.1 points, the Canadian tech master closely missed the final eight.
Making his debut on the Monster Energy skateboarding team, French rookie pro Aurelien Giraud was off to a strong start in today’s semifinal: A flawless run including frontside nosegrind and transfer to nosebluntslide the centerpiece Hubba, kickflip backside Smith the flat bar, and frontside feeble the curved rail netted the 21-year-old an 8.9-point Run score. Aurelien also blasted a huge hardflip off the centerpiece kicker over the rail for 9.1 points in Best Trick but could not wrangle a hardflip to frontside board on the bump to rail and missed his place in the final eight.