By Paul Zitzer
Surprisingly, the most heated topic of conversation at the start of the skate park finals in Vegas had nothing to do with who might or might not be skating away with the Dew Cup. Instead, among those entering The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel where the street course was located, talk focused on the pros and cons of the course itself, which is understandable when you consider that a giant skateable guitar served as the course's main focal point.
Timmy Knuth, gap to crooked grind on the guitar rail
Besides the guitar, The Joint's limited space required a course design that was, let's just say, unique, with two things in particular standing out. The first being the size of the obstacles, which were big, if not downright monolithic. The truth is that if one didn't feel like jumping, one would have been advised to avoid this course at all cost.
Robert Lopez Mont, 5-0
The second being the relative lack of flow from each obstacle to the next, again a direct result of the constraints presented by The Joint's layout. The consensus far and wide was that this course would do a good job of separating the wheat from the chaff.
“Ryan was falling in the beginning and then I was like, 'Alright, I gotta land tricks I know how to do.' And it just kept going and going and we battled it out.” -Chaz Ortiz
Apparently P-Rod, despite coming in to the finals ranked fourth in the running for the Dew Cup, didn't feel like jumping when he got to Vegas, and opted out of the event altogether. Make of that what you will, but his withdrawal upended an entire season's worth of shredding, and left Sheckler, Ortiz, and Lutzka as the only skaters in the final jam with any kind of shot at the Dew Cup.
Eli Reed, wallie to manual
In addition to the usual cast of characters battling for the Vegas title and the overall crown, there were a few surprises worth mentioning, like Alec Majerus. This kid earned a spot in the prelims by winning the Gatorade Free Flow amateur series last month in Salt Lake City, which, while impressive, was just the tip of the sand dune. He went on to smoke 99 percent of the pros in Vegas by qualifying in second place behind Canadian rail chomper Ryan Decenzo.
“It’s cool. Alec, he’s just coming up and he’s going to be a rad skater. And hopefully he does what I do, you know, just do it. Skate and at the end of the day we all love what we do and just keep our heads up and keep going.” -Chaz Ortiz
At the end of the day he finished in fifth place with a consistent and impressive ability to kickflip to (insert-your-choice-of-trick-here) down whatever rail happened to be in front of him. Of course his performance raises the question as to whether or not he will follow in the footsteps of the 2007 Free Flow Champ Chaz Ortiz. For an answer, only time will tell I guess… sorry.
Alec Majerus, frontside tuck knee
Other notable rippers in the finals included Belgium's Philippe Zwijsen, who did an amazing job of skating the course against the grain. Philly Z opted to take his tricks down the neck of the guitar (instead of up), and had a tendency to keep things rolling where others were forced to pick up their board and run with the thing.
Philippe Zwijsen, one-footed ollie over the gap
And Dios Mio! Let us not forget about Mario Saenz from Mexico. He skated his way into the finals for the second time this year with a style that made me wonder what the word for buttery is in Spanish.
Mario Saenz, kickflip Ryan Decenzo, bluntslide
And of course there was Ryan Decenzo and his nollie heelbangers over the mini-mega. I thought he might be joking. He wasn't and he almost won the whole contest as a result.
“It was definitely an extreme-style course so you gotta to be a well-rounded skater to be able to skate it. There was some danger factor involved, so that’s what made it more exciting.” -Ryan Decenzo
And then there was Lutzka who, after killing it at all three previous stops and coming into the finals ranked number one in points, failed to really practice. Again. Now, in all fairness, Lutzka has lapsed in this department at just about every Dew Tour stop in history with undeniably positive results, but judging by Greg's tenth-place finish, which killed his chances of taking home the Dew Cup, this particular course might have required a shift in strategy.
Greg Lutzka, lipslide Sierra Fellers, ollie one-foot
So with P-Rod and Lutzka out of contention, only Shecks and Ortiz were left with a crack at the overall title, and the wacky course seemed to point in the direction of a Sheckler victory.
“I felt great, I just didn’t land the tricks. I just didn’t land a couple tricks. It’s all good. It was fun. Congrats to Chaz.” -Ryan Sheckler
And, just as expected, Shecks cruised into the lead with his intro run while barely breaking a sweat. Where other's kickflipped down the mini-mega gap, Sheckler kickflipped up, and where most had to start and stop and start again, Sheckler found a way to somehow keep the flow going.
Ryan Sheckler, frontside feeble grind
So things were looking good… until about midway through the first jam that is, when he went down on a high-speed backside flip and lost all forward momentum (both literal and figurative), right then and there.
Fabrizio Santos, nose grind
From that moment on it seemed he had to struggle for every trick, and although he still managed a ridiculously high level of shredding, like when he cab back lipped down the rail, it wasn't enough to keep up with Chaz, who landed trick after trick after trick, like the nollie backside 3 over the mini-mega and a kickflip front feebs down the big rail, all while keeping his hat teetering precariously on the back of his head without ever falling off, a trick in itself.
Chaz Ortiz, crooked grind
In the end, Chaz won the contest, the Cup, the majority of the cash and the accolades of becoming a two-time Dew Tour champ. Yeah Chaz! And I hate to bring it up so soon, but if he wins the Cup one more time, he'll tie Sheckler for the all-time record. Just a little something to think about until next year.
The podium (l-r) – Ryan Decenzo, second; Chaz Ortiz, first; Ryan Sheckler, third
Watch the video highlights below