Vans/Hard Rock Cafe World Championships Of Skateboarding

After two preliminary events in Panama Beach, Florida and Asbury Park, New Jersey, the 1998 Triple Crown Of Skateboarding finished on yet another beach, this one in sunny Southern California.

Five months and 150,000 dollars in prize money later, the Triple Crown of Skateboarding has anointed two new skaters with the titles of Champion Of Street and Champion Of Vert¿titles that they will wear for the year to come. Veteran Santa Cruz pro Tim Brauch destroyed the street course, and Anti-Hero’s Bob Burnquist did the same to the double vert ramps to win what was certainly the most entertaining and suspenseful vert contest of the year. This was a repeat performance for Bob, who also won the 1997 Triple Crown final contest and the 1997 overall Triple Crown series vert award.

The festival took place at Huntington State Beach, in the shadow of an oil refinery to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The coastal location provided a perfect breeze all weekend and kept the skaters from bursting into flames. With a three-run vert semifinal followed by a five-run final, there was speculation that some skaters might self-combust, or just collapse from exhaustion. Luckily, they all held on to their molecules to finish the contest chemically unaltered.

The street course and vert ramp were built by the folks from Ramptech, who also built the ramps in Hollywood for the finals in 1997 and 1996. The street course included a series of rails and ledges, plus various flat banks and transitions. There was also a twelve-foot wall with four feet of vert, plus some shorter quarterpipes built into it. This area gave all-around skaters like Brauch, Steve Caballero, and Andy Macdonald an edge over the vert-only or street-only competitors. Bob Burnquist used the quarterpipes to launch up to a tailslide on top of the twelve-foot wall, and Brauch was seen launching into wallrides along the vert section. Brauch also managed a 50-50 down the steep long rail, and ollied to 50-50 to frontside grab off the tall funbox ledge. He dominated all elements on the course, to say the least, and he did so at his usual Mach five pace.

The vert qualifying took place on Saturday after the street finals. That gave the vert skaters ample time to get used to the two 40-foot-wide vert ramps, placed side-by-side at a fifteen-degree angle. Almost touching on one side, the V-shaped arrangement formed a slight hip at one end, and created a huge eight-foot gap at the other. Apprehensive at first, many skaters avoided the gap until it became apparent that it would play a key role in any successful run.

Unlike the common channels found on many ramps, the gap was a straight twelve-foot drop to the asphalt. Add eight or ten feet of air above the ramp, and you have a serious problem with miscalculated jumps. But as the bolder skaters began to land tricks from one side to the other, the

rest realized that they’d have to at least make it across once or twice in a run to be competitive. While Giorgio Zattoni’s alley-oop Indy 540 attempts were amazing (he never quite pulled one), the really impressive maneuvers were the precision landings on the far-side coping: Bob Burnquist’s ollie nosegrinds; Rune Glifberg’s frontside noseblunt slides and backside tailslides; Chris Livingston’s lipslides; Omar Hassan’s lipslides and feeble grinds to fakie; and Lincoln Ueda’s alley-oop Indy flips.

The contest employed a rare judging system designed to reward consistency. The twenty semi finalists skated three runs, of which their two best scores were added and averaged. Going into the finals, Rune Glifberg was on top. As often happens, however, his ballistic approach to skating got the best of him, causing him to fall early in a couple runs in the finals. One day Rune will hold on, perform a series of explosive and untouchable runs, and will take a contest of this caliber by a wide margin.

In the finals, the eleven skaters took five untimed runs (they skated as long as tthey liked, or until they fell), of which the three best scores were added and averaged. Those who skated longer¿some runs lasted over a minute¿had a better chance to score higher. Skaters who may have had one or two amazing runs, but fell early in the others, were penalized by this system. The 1996 Triple Crown finals, in which Tas Pappas edged past Tony Hawk after one amazing run, was likely the inspiration of this new system. But the fatigue evident on the skaters’ faces suggested that five untimed runs may be too much to ask for. For the audience, however, it was a dream session come true.

Omar Hassan skated the longest runs, pulling huge airs and tricks like his feeble to fakie over the gap that clearly surprised even him. Andy Macdonald skated with the power, consistency, and technicality that has become his trademark style. Matthias Ringstrom pulled every variation from his bag and held on to a series of varial gay twists and Indy flips. Bucky Lasek looked like a clear candidate for the top spot, skating with the technicality and choreography of tricks that has made Hawk so dominant. But Bucky fell a couple times and his amazing runs were penalized by the judging format.

After a climactic vert finals, a Best Trick contest took place. Hawk, who arrived too late to enter the regular contest, poured all of his talent and unspent energy into this event, and after Lasek outdid Burnquist’s one-footed backside Smith grind revert with a forward-to-fakie 720, Hawk put his chips on a fakie-to-forward varial 720. When he landed that, the contest was over. As hard as they fought for the 1,000 dollars, the competitors almost seemed relieved that they didn’t have to skate anymore. It had been a long weekend, and the sun had begun to set, casting long shadows over the festival area.

Vans says that while next year’s Triple Crown Of Skateboarding finals will take place at this location, the two qualifying contests will continue to be planned at different locations. Vans was founded here in Orange County in 1966, so the site seems an appropriate place to celebrate the conclusion of what has become the premier annual pro-contest series.

The Vans/G-Shock World Championships Of Skateboarding will air on espn2 on October 27. Check your local listings for exact times.

¿Miki Vuckovich