The X Games qualifier at Boise’s Rhodes Skate Park is finally here, and with it comes tons of commotion.
For those dedicated to the skateboarding and BMX worlds, the event is a welcome sight. This qualifier is akin to the Olympic trials. Those who perform well Friday and Saturday go to the big show in Minneapolis July 13-16.
But to those who have never watched extreme sports, it can be a bit confusing. Fear not: There are plenty of reasons to check it out.
Even if you don’t understand what’s going on, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Much like the spectator who doesn’t know the difference between a touchdown and a home run, it can still be exciting to watch athletes compete at the highest level.
Make no mistake: These are the best athletes in the world in their respective sports.
“They are amazing,” said Brighton Zeuner, one of the competitors in women’s skateboarding. “Going to the X Games, for just a random person and watching skating, they fall in love with it.”
A year ago, 12-year-old Zeuner became the youngest X Games athlete ever and finished fourth at X Games Austin. On the other end of the spectrum is 34-year-old Gary Young, a four-time X Games medalist who has been competing since 2002.
For Young, the casual fan can relate it to another sport.
“(It’s a lot like) NASCAR because there are going to be crashes,” said Young, whose parents grew up in Boise. “If you’re into that sort of thing, we take some slams.”
It is an ESPN production, so there will be plenty of people to help explain what’s going on.
“You’ll hear our live announcers talking through the tricks,” said Brian Kerr, ESPN’s X Games event coordinator.
A giant tailgate party — sort of
The X Games is entertainment, first and foremost, but it also is a place of communal gathering.
The Downtown location and the expected mild weather (high-60s to low-70s) make it a great way to spend the day. Whether you’re eating at one of the various food vendors or watching skaters pull off new tricks, it almost has the feel of a tailgate.
“When a community embraces something like the X Games … it absolutely brings people together. It gives people another reason to connect,” Kerr said.
Much like a team getting a home-field advantage, X Games athletes are motivated by an electric crowd.
Why not be part of the noise?
“It creates a pretty magical vibe. The competitors feed off of it,” Young said. “If you’ve never been to one, it’s definitely unlike any other sporting event that you’ve seen.”
‘It’s going to get gnarly’
Tony Hawk paved the way for mainstream extreme sports. He landed the first 900, two and a half rotations in air, at the 1999 X Games and changed how people perceived skateboarding.
It led to video games and every kid on the block asking for a skateboard for Christmas.
Who’s to say there won’t be some magic at Rhodes? If anything, because it’s a qualifier, it’s the perfect place to pull out all the stops.
“You kind of have to look at it like college football. Sometimes it’s more exciting because you have to risk more to make it to the big show,” Young said. “It’s going to get gnarly.”
You might even see a kickflip, when the board spins lengthwise directly under a skater’s feet, or a tailwhip, when a BMX rider spins the body of his bike 360 degrees as he hangs on to the handlebars.
“Anyone who doesn’t skate should come and get inspired,” Zeuner said.
X Games qualifier
11 a.m.: Festival area surrounding park opens
2 p.m.: Women’s skateboarding elimination round
3:30 p.m.: Men’s skateboarding elimination
5 p.m.: BMX elimination
6:30 p.m.: Autograph signing
7 p.m.: Skate demonstration
8 p.m.: Autograph signing
11 p.m.: Park closes
11 a.m.: Festival area opens
12:30 p.m.: Women’s skateboarding final round
2:30 p.m.: Men’s skateboarding final
4:30 p.m.: BMX final
6 p.m.: Park closes