Drum Circles and Prelims

By: Paul Zitzer – Portland really is one of the nicest cities in the country. Clean air, lush vegetation, etc etc. I love it, I do. But, unfortunately, so too do a lot of the more interesting types society has to offer… If you like to wear ratty clothes, avoid soap, talk about the benefits of hemp, etc. Portland is for you. And if you come for a visit, don’t forget to bring your dog. It seems our furry four legged friends love Portland as much as I do. And while you’re at it, you might as well bring your drum too; you wouldn’t want to be the only person on the street without a drum would you? But let’s be serious. The point I’m trying to make in all of this rambling is that the Dew Tour is back in Portland and yesterday was the big kickoff. The day for the true hardcore skate fans to come out and see some shredders shredding.

With Sheckler out for the weekend, right off the bat I noticed a major difference in the vibe of the arena. Then I realized it wasn’t the vibe that was different, it was the pitch…the pitch of the noise emanating from the crowd was more than just a few octaves lower due to a lack of shrieking Sheckler fans…Anyway, at precisely 3:30 pm PCT, the park prelims kicked off to moderate fanfare (I say moderate because without a house full of Shecklerettes, even a crowd of rabid hyenas would seem moderate). Here’s how the whole deal was being orchestrated. The top 30 skaters from Boston were invited to come to Portland and Dew it up. The top three from Boston (Ryan Sheckler, Ryan Decenzo, Chris Cole) being granted free passes to the finals, thus leap frogging past that whole pesky business of the preliminary round. The 27 skaters from prelims would be cut to nine, and they would meet up with those lucky top three to make up a 12-man final. BUT, with Sheckler forfeiting his spot in the finals, he opened up one extra spot for one lucky devil. That spot eventually found it’s way into the hands of last year’s Gatorade Free Flow Tour Champion, Timmy Knuth, who rip roared his way around the course like one heckofa crazy swamp rat. Old Timmy later admitted to me that he was thrilled that Sheckler had severely injured himself at X-Games. (I’m totally kidding. Timmy wouldn’t wish ill will on anyone ever, how dare you even think it!)

This year’s prelim format has been kind to some and not so kind to others. In years past it was all about runs runs and more runs. In ‘09 the prelims have gone the jam format route, which, in theory at least, works out better for the somewhat less consistent guys with the bigger guns. The more consistent champs of the 45 second variety however are having a tougher go of it. Take a guy like Austen Seaholm for instance. When he takes a run by himself, you see he does like 500 little things in about 20 seconds and, in years past he was all over the finals at almost every stop. But throw him on the course with four savages who are jamming it up, flying higgledy-piggledy all over the place and, well, things are a little different. Seahorse is 0 for 2 this year as a result.

Fast-forward two hours. Whoa!… after the heats were over, the list of dudes in the top ten is pretty close to what it’s looked like in years past. Chaz finished first by doing what you’ve seen him do a million times before. And while in the past we’ve been impressed seeing him stay on for 45 seconds, how do you react when he makes (virtually) every single trick for 8 full minutes? It’s just nuts. P-Rod came second with his cruiser tricks. The only two new-to-the-2009-tour guys advancing to the finals were Bachinsky and Milton Martinez. Now we saw Bachinsky absolutely murder the course in Boston, and he killed it again in the prelims here. Hardflip sandwiches for days. And little Milton Martinez had the crowd going berserk (and that’s hard to do in a jam when there are a bunch of other people to pay attention to). One minute he was nollie backside big heel flipping over the Nike 6.0 hydrant, the next he was doing a blunt nose grab fakie on a quarterpipe with two feet of vert. But besides what he did during his runs, I can honestly not tell you one other thing about him. My investigative journalism skills are not all that great due to my just being a blogger, which as you can plainly tell is very easy and pretty much anyone can do it.

A few hours after the street prelims, the vert prelims kicked off. And again, long story short: Alex Perelson did what everyone hoped he would (no, sorry, I’m not talking about the 900…you don’t do those in prelims). He stayed on his board and blew the top off the Rose Garden. If he does that same exact run again in the finals he could win his first ever Dew stop…if…if….if…Besides Alex’s ripping, there isn’t all that much that you need to know right now other than the fact that the people that skated the best survived to skate another day. Stay tuned.