Lasek and Hawk/Macdonald retain their titles at annual telefest.

Immediately after the Vert Doubles event, throngs of reporters and photographers piled into the X-Games Press Center on San Francisco’s Pier 32. Tony Hawk and Andy Macdonald had just won the doubles event for the fourth time, which is to say that they’ve won it every time, and were asked to the Press Center to field questions from reporters representing various newspapers, magazines, and Web media. There was an air of surprise that Hawk skated the event, as it was widely publicized he’d “retired” last year. “I didn’t retire,” he told the journalists. “That’s just what the press reported. I only said I was gonna stop competing. I’ll continue skating until my body gives up.”

Hawk was at the X-Games as a commentator, hired by ESPN earlier this year to lend his presence to the event after deciding not to compete after last year’s Vans Triple Crown Finals in October. But the temptation was too great, so he paired up with stunt double Macdonald and played around on the vert ramp for fun. Their over-under combos and Macdonald’s frontside ollie to pivot on the rail of Hawk’s board, as Hawk stood on the deck and He-Manishly held it waist-level, made people wave signs and write things like “Tony Hawk Rulez” on their exposed bellies. Once again, it also forced everyone else to fight for second place.

The rest of the X-Games results were almost as predictable, though thoroughly exciting. Bucky Lasek tumbled and spun his way into first in the Vert event¿again¿but this time with the help of a clean Caballerial heelflip. Bob Burnquist finished where he probably would have last year in the Vert Best-Trick contest if Hawk hadn’t landed the 900; this time he popped out of the ramp fakie to grind a five-0 backward along the elevated coping, kickflipping it on his way in. Eric Koston continued his winning streak, taking first place in the Skatepark event¿basically a street course with big BMX-friendly transitions and walls. Koston recently won the street events at the Gravity Games and The Globe World Championships in Germany.

Attending the X-Games in person is always a little strange. What appears in the broadcasts is a very condensed version of what actually went down on Piers 30 and 32. The physical X-Games are open and free for the public, but after sitting through 90-minute lines, I imagine visitors were a little upset to find out that the skateboarding events’ limited viewing area had been filled since early morning by more eager fans.

Most of the several thousand people attending the X-Games enjoyed the sunny San Francisco weather, but were limited to the crowded festival area that consisted of food vendors and booths from companies sponsoring the event. With the television cameras set up on the opposite sides of the ramps from the spectators, at least the broadcasts benefited from an enthusiastic crowd, excited to finally see what they’d waited all day for.

As amazing as modern competitive skateboarding is, I can’t say I’d be as enthusiastic about it if I had to sit in lines and wade through crowds watching the motocross or in-line events, taking the Marine Corps Pull-Up Challenge, and getting free samples from the official X-Games beverage sponsor. My media pass allowed me to bypass all of that and sit rampside for the vert events, so I was able to tune out most of the other stuff and focus on the skateboarding.

Competitors have become far more consistent in just the past few years, and the sheer caliber of skating that most contest finals exhibit is remarkably higher as well. A good ramp, a good crowd, and the promise of a healthy prize manage to motivate contest skaters like never before. The stage lights, cameras, and armies of headset-wearing network busy bees just accentuate the seriousness of modern skateboard contests.

Traditionally, a contest was a place for a bunch of skaters to get together and enjoy a good sessionn. In recent years, this idea has been suppressed by production crews and security staffs surrounding contest ramps, but they haven’t managed to change the mood on the contest ramp.

Watching the skaters interacting on the decks at the X-Games, it was clear that, for them, it was a session¿it was a warm, sunny day with a group of friends on a good ramp. It was also the ESPN X-Games, and as soon as they came down the ramp, they were reminded of it; microphones, cameras, and questions were thrust at them as soon as they stepped off the flatbottom. But the skateboarding aspect of it is as amazing and fun to see as ever.

Watching the events on television just days after seeing them in person, I was reminded of how much spontaneity there was in the runs I saw. I was reminded of how many autographs the skaters signed as they stood on the edge of the contest area. I remembered following Hawk, Macdonald and their SFPD escorts through the pen-and-paper-waving crowd to the Press Center. I remember glancing up at the climbing walls and seeing spider people weaving up an over-vert tower faster than I could fall down it. It was overwhelming and interesting, but it was just a temporary distraction from the feats I’d just seen on the ramp.

Sitting at home in front of my television, I watched the presentation of skateboarding in a tightly edited segments that highlighted and slo-mo’d some of the moments I remember best¿the ones that made me forget where I was and what was going on around me, the ones that froze me in disbelief. And at home I could mute the commentary, and I could walk through my empty house during commercials, use the toilet, or brew some tea.

That’s the way the X-Games are meant to be seen¿at home, on television. If he hadn’t signed up with ESPN to be a spokesperson for the event, I’ll bet that’s how Tony Hawk would watch them, too.

ESPN and espn2 have been broadcasting the X-Games this week, and will repeat broadcasts in September. You can also see re-edited and alternative footage from the X-Games on spin-off programs like EXPN 2Day and XBS. Check your local listings, or log on to expn.com for more info.

2000 X-Games Results

Skateboarding Park
1. Eric Koston
2. Rodil de Araujo, Jr.
3. Kerry Getz
4. Caine Gayle
5. Carlos de Andrade
6. Rob Dyrdek
7. Willy Santos
8. Chris Senn
9. Tobias Albert
10. Diego Bucchieri

Skateboard Vert
1. Bucky Lasek
2. Pierre-Luc Gagnon
3. Colin McKay
4. Rune Glifberg
6. Bob Burnquist
7. Chris Gentry
8. Max Schaaf
9. Tas Pappas
10. Mathias Ringstrom

Vert Doubles
1. Macdonald/Hawk
2. Gagnon/Dufour
3. Dias/Mateus
4. Gentry/Crum
5. Ueda/Burnquist

Vert Best Trick
1. Bob Burnquist (Fakie five-0 to fakie kickflip out off the grind bar)
2. Colin McKay (Nollie flip backside tailslide revert)
3. Andy Macdonald (Lien to tail on the eight-foot extension)
4. Tas Pappas (Kickflip varial Indy 360)
5. Mathias Ringstrom (Attempted kickflip 540)