Paul Zitzer Retrospective: The Great White Hype

The biggest story of the weekend, by far, was the match-up on the pipe between tech junkie PLG and snow god Shaun White. After their one-two finish last month at the X Games, this event should have been considered just another showdown between greats, a “may the best man win” type of thing.

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But the times they are a changing.  Trouble started brewing for PL when in a pre-event interview he said in an off-the-cuff sort of way that the media was spending too much time making the snolympian out to be the face of skateboarding while treating him and other Dew diehards like chopped liver (I’ve taken some liberties here with the wording of Pierre’s “gaff,” but you get the idea.)

plg
Pierre Luc Gagnon

The thing is that Pierre’s comments can’t really be said to be untrue in the sense that he and Bucky have pretty much won every contest since Shaun’s self-imposed snow exile began, and there really was a lot of White hype leading up to the finals.

But regardless, over the hours and days before the event, Pierre’s words reverberated again and again over the airwaves, making him appear insecure at best, and at worst pretty terrible. Neither of which he is, by the way.

Even the local news entered the fray, splashing PL’s quote across the screen while encouraging Portlanders to get down to the Rose Quarter for what was being billed as the Clash of the Titans.

shaun and plg
PLG and Shaun White

On Sunday, with roll-ins only moments away, the fracas continued, escalated even, with a televised confrontation between the padded duo. While Pierre did his best to explain the whole thing away as a blown-out-of-proportion media creation, White, looking not fully convinced, in a bizarre yet entertaining twist used it as an opportunity to compliment himself on his own perceived good looks. Even as the contest commenced it was still unclear whether the issue could be considered water under the bridge or if the two might have to duke it out on the flat bottom.

Whether due to the pre-comp drama, or in spite of it, the finals proved to be one of the wildest yet. Despite everyone going ape on the pipe, of the nine skaters in the finals (It was supposed to be 10 but Pedro Barros had to pull out due to a discombobulated elbow joint) only five would advance to the five-man super final.

The fact that White, PLG, Bucky Lasek and Andy Mac all did so with ease was not terribly surprising considering that’s what they do. What was surprising however was Alex Perelson getting all up in their mix. Because despite being “the kid who does 900s!” and one of the most talented vert skaters ever, Alex hasn’t had all that much luck on the Dew Tour. And although I don’t think he did his best runs (despite starting them off with kickflip liens in the rafters), his display of super-charged ripping over the entire course of the weekend was so awe-inspiring it almost overshadowed the whole PLG/White thing. Almost.

perelson          white

Alex Perelson                                                      Shaun White

In the end, Pierre’s super final looked a little sketchier than usual. Whether that was due to the controversy leading up to it, or the fact that his run is made up of what really are sort of impossible tricks, I can’t say. But either way, he left the door open, just barely, but Shaun blew through it with what he said was a run he’s never done in competition.

The run was beyond the scope of comprehension even before he threw in his last trick, the much talked about but rarely seen Armadillo (named for how hard it is). When broken into parts, it’s essentially a heelflip body varial to stale grab frontside rodeo. And you can be sure he didn’t learn that one on a snowboard.

If for some reason you’re not already a fan, do yourself a favor and become one. On a side note, there were whispers about a secret training facility in LA where White is reportedly working on skateboarding’s equivalent to that Double McTwist thing he did at the Olympics. And although in the end he didn’t try anything in Portland that we hadn’t seen him do before (besides his ridiculous line), I’m pretty sure something big might be coming. My advice to his fellow competitors: be afraid, be very afraid.