As Street League Skateboarding grows, so does the money
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Skateboarding is beginning to hit its professional stride.
When Street League Skateboarding makes its 2016 season finale on Sunday at USC’s Galen Center for the Nike SB Super Crown World Championship, eight of the world’s best skateboarders will be splitting more than $250,000 in prize money.
“The sport has definitely changed a lot for me in the money aspect,” said Nyjah Huston, 21, the league’s all-time winner. “It’s definitely a plus. Even if I’m skating for $10,000 or $20,000 instead of $100,000, I’m going to try and do my best.
“I’m a really competitive person. I’m going to go out there and do as well as I can do. The money aspect, especially with Street League, has definitely made it more competitive.”
It was not always that way.
When Street League Skateboarding made its initial Southern California appearance in 2010 at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, after the competition, the top finishers were throwing around the cash prize, which was bundled together. Some athletes were screaming as they shoved it off the victory podium, “This means nothing!”
In action sports, nearly every athlete, at one time or another, has said money is not necessarily been a major part of the equation. It’s the love of the sport.
But a lot has changed in six years.
“When you talk to skaters, it’s not really about money,” Street League co-founder Brian Atlas said. “It’s about respect, notoriety and the chance to shine. Winning can be more about pride and self-accomplishment. They all want to make good money. But often it is about who gets the trophy and can compete at that level.”
Trophies and bragging rights are nice and all, but in reality, without steady cash flow, professional action sports likely would have died a quick death years ago.
Before the SLS, the big competition money was from X Games, ESPN providing a $100,000 winner’s purse for each discipline. The four SLS events this year have had a combined purse pool of more than $1 million. The winner on Sunday will receive $150,000.
“The sport is a lot bigger,” said Southern California native Paul Rodriguez, 31, who was the first skateboarder to sign a major shoe contract with a major corporation (Nike). “Our sport gets far more attention. It’s in style and cool to do. Skateboarding fashion and shoes are big and in the mainstream world.
“The level of ability for the professionals is faster than any sport I can think of. When (you’re watching ESPN), you see the same thing. There is not much progression in baseball. They all do the same thing. But the progression in our sport is nonstop. I can’t believe the things people are doing.”
And now, there are the Olympics. Street and park have been added for the 2020 Tokyo Games— not vert or halfpipe, the skateboarding event that made Tony Hawk action sports’ leading man.
“I believe the IOC representatives have researched this and see we can have a live quality event,” said Atlas, who is on the event committee of the International Skateboarding Federation, one of three organizations that administers skateboarding. “It confirms skateboarding in a competitive format does have a quality and unique aspects that all sports have.
“Our point of view is that if we can help the key players and stakeholders do it the right way, it will be a better platform.”
When the X Games came to Los Angeles for the first time in 2003, the term for skateboarders who went to major corporations for funds was “sellout.” Action sports was the antithesis of mainstream sports. ESPN even called its first X Games the Extreme Games.
It’s why, Atlas said, that when the SLS first competed in Ontario, some of the skaters were flippant.
Some of that image does remain.
“I appreciate the financial aspects,” Rodriguez said. “But skateboarding has a of lot different pockets. Street League, yes, it’s a lot more competitive. But there are still many factions and pockets underground. Other skateboarders are interested in only content and video.”
Perhaps with American youth so involved in the traditional sports culture, the eventual reward in those sports is the big leagues and big money.
There is no regime, no set path to follow to get to professional skateboarding.
“When you’re 11 and 12, for me, I was not thinking about what can I do to support myself,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to find something that was lucrative. It was based off what I really think is fun and like doing. So I kept doing it.
“It kind of evolved as I grew up.”
Street League has honed in on the competitive side of that equation.
“We’re taking professional competition to the highest level,” Atlas said. “We have definitely evolved tremendously from where the sport was at before.
“It’s life-changing to win an event in skateboarding. In the competition spectrum, it’s important that we deal with all parts of the spectrum at its highest.”As Street League Skateboarding grows, so does the money Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to
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