Boston August 9-10, 1997 Hard Rock Cafe, Boston, MA

At the tail end of the busiest summer in skateboarding history, it was a first. Never before have pro skaters had so many events to choose from-in the past they generally went to them all. And never before has the level of competition been so intense-the stakes are much higher these days.But what made this contest so unique is that Boston, one of skateboarding’s premier cities, has never hosted a pro contest.

The historical city that spawned the American Revolution and gave us such cultural icons as Paul Revere, baked beans, and the hit television sitcom

Cheers took the opportunity of this inaugural event to welcome skateboarders-and skateboarding-to the plaza at Boston City Hall. The ramp, the skate-shop and company booths, and a concert area were assembled for a free two-day skateboarding and music festival.

Fifteen thousand Bostonians came to see 26 of the best vert skaters in the world compete for 10,000 dollars in the regular contest and the Best Trick events. Concerts following each day’s skating program featured Less Than Jake, Radish, Buck-O-Nine, and Rippopotamus.

The ramp at Boston was also a first. While contest ramps in the past have been either custom wood structures or portable metal demo ramps, Mike Mapp and his Ramptech crew created a hybrid ramp that utilizes the rigidity of a metal frame with the preferred feel of a wood surface. This type of ramp is assembled much quicker than a wooden ramp that must be built from scratch, and it can be re-used almost indefinitely (wood-frame ramps can only be used a few times).

Regardless of the technology employed in ensuring a quality ramp, what really matters is how well the skaters like it-if they’re not comfortable on it, they won’t be skating their best. And the success of a contest depends entirely upon the level of skating it presents.

The ramp in Boston seemed virtually flawless. In a rare unanimous (albeit unscientific) vote, every contestant asked about the structure gave it a two- thumbs-up. It was smooth, solid, and- most importantly-fun.

Its ten-foot transitions were capped by 1.5 feet of vert. The ramp stood 40 feet wide and featured an eighteen-inch-tall extension that ran eight feet across the top of one wall. The real novelty, though, was the extension’s authentic pool coping and tile that grinded much differently than the traditional metal pipe elsewhere on the ramp. Bob Burnquist and Max Schaaf made the most of the extension by pulling switch lipslides and tailslides, respectively, across its entire width. Jason Ellis also impressed with frontside ollies to nosegrind from low to high, but Jason was most noted this weekend for his microphone antics. During Sunday’s practice (of which Jason was not a part of), he took the opportunity to comment on the skating going on and let the crowd in on a few details about each skater as they rode-details mostly invented by Jason on the spot. He had the crowd in stitches, and the riders had a hard time skating thanks to Jason’s infectious humor. Even pros who weren’t skating at the moment were subjected to his roasting. Former Highest Air World Champion Sergie Ventura and transition-master Brian Patch were unfortunate enough to be sitting with Jason during his tirade. “I can’t believe it,” said Jason. “I’m sitting here with the Mini Ramp Champ and the Flying Dwarf. What an honor.”

Despite a severe dose of humility from Jason, Sunday’s finalists managed to salvage enough self esteem to perfect and perform their runs in the regular contest and Best Trick events. With many notable vert heavies like the Pappas brothers (Ben and Tas) and Tony Hawk absent, this event became a true contest for the 26 who did attend.

Two of the weekend’s biggest surprises were veteran Lance Mountain and Montreal’s Pierre-Luc Gagnon. Lance has been skating pro vert contests for over fifteen years; he continued to surprise audiences with smooth runs that included McTwists and some stylish throwback tricks like fastplants offf the extension. Pierre-Luc, on the other hand, is a rookie pro who just last year won the Vans Amateur World Championships to earn himself a place among the big boys. Much stronger now and with a few more tricks up his sleeve, he wrestled the number- three spot from some very formidable and experienced competitors in Boston. As Pierre-Luc gains more experience in the pro-contest spotlight (heat lamp), you can be sure that he’ll give the traditional pro-vert top-ten a run for their (prize) money.

Bob Burnquist may have been the most surprising skater this weekend for the simple fact that one can always count on him to be surprising and amazing. Bob skated the ramp edge to edge, forward and backward, and glided through tricks like the switch frontside noseblunt slide that won him the Best Trick contest. Bob is a show in his own right, and it would be worth the trouble of building a vert ramp in front of Boston City Hall just to watch him skate.

Like a fairy tale come to life, Boston native Andy Macdonald blew through an aerial- and varial-heavy run that nudged by Bob’s array of lip tricks to capture first place. Andy is an extraordinary skater who has made a name for himself by skating hard and consistent, and his presence at a contest is an indicator that second or third place are the best that most competitors can hope for.

The 1997 Vans/Hard Rock Cafe Triple Crown Of Skateboarding in Boston was a groundbreaking event that will certainly pave the way for future pro skateboarding events there. It was a great opportunity for Northeastern skaters who may not have seen competitive pro vert skating in person to get a feel for that aspect of the sport. Special thanks are due to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino for hosting the event in the heart of the city.

This contest concluded the qualifying phase of the 1997 Vans/Hard Rock Cafe Triple Crown Of Skateboarding. Based on their cumulative world rankings, the top 30 skaters from the two Triple Crown Of Skateboarding contests will now meet in Hollywood in October to decorate a new champion. Will Tas beat Tony again? Will Tom Boyle be able to hang on to his title of Overall Winner? Tune in October 4-5 for live coverage Vert Finals

1 Andy Macdonald, $3000.00, Airwalk 2 Bob Burnquist, $1500.00, Anti Hero 3 Pierre-Luc Gagnon, $800.00, Vans 4 Mathias Ringstrom, $600.00, Evol 5 Brian Patch, $500.00, Clockwork 6 Max Schaaf, $400.00, Real 7 Lance Mountain, $375.00, The Firm 8 Neal Hendrix, $350.00, Black Label 9 Darren Menditto, $325.00, Vans 10 Max Dufour, $300.00, Invisible 11 Omar Hassan, $250.00, Formula One 12 Tom Boyle, $200.00, Vans/Arsenal 13 Chris Livingston, $150.00, Vans/Jive 14 Dave Leroux, $150.00, Goodtimes 15 Sergie Ventura, $150.00, Acme 16 Jason Ellis, $100.00, Powell 17 Glen Charnoski, Vans 18 Chuck Wampler, PTS 19 Phil Hajal, Vans 20 Jake Brown, Nation 21 Lincoln Ueda, Formula One 22 Ray Fennessey, Vans 23 Chris Borst, Powell 24 Sanford Lopez, Brooklyn Boards 25 Richard Lopez, Brooklyn Boards 26 Matt Moffet, Jive

Best Trick

1 Bob Burnquist, switchstance frontside nose bluntslide, $500.00, Delux/Anti-hero 2 Mathias Ringstrom, kickflip backside 360, $250.00, Evol 3 Andy Macdonald, nollie 360 varial heelflip mute grab, $100.00, Airwalk