After a breathtaking SLS Nike SB Pro Open event on the sunny beaches of Barcelona, Spain, Street League Skateboarding is heading back stateside for Stop 1 of the 2015 SLS Nike SB World Tour, kicking off at the Galen Center at USC in Los Angeles. While Barcelona may be Europe’s skate capital, L.A. is undoubtedly the sport’s global epicenter, with more pros, ams and industry in residence than anywhere else in the world.
The 2014 SLS stop in L.A. played to a sold-out crowd of more than 10,000 eager fans, and with 2015 boasting even higher stakes, more pros and even more excitement, Stop 1 at the Galen Center is looking to get packed out yet again on July 11 as the SLS pros square off for dominance at the pivotal first round of the Pro Tour. Here are our reasons to watch.
1) Is Los Angeles the ultimate proving grounds for the SLS? And will P-Rod have an edge in front of his hometown crowd?
Hometown hero Paul Rodriguez will look to thrill the crowd at Stop No. 1 in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is the hallowed ground of legends. Street skateboarding pioneers like Guy Mariano, Eric Koston, Daewon Song and so many others forged industry-shaking careers in the pro-producing streets and schoolyards of L.A., making July’s event that much more significant for certain SLS pros looking to carry the torch of their legendary Hollywood forbearers.
But one SLS pro, in particular, comes to mind within the City of Angels and his name is Paul Rodriguez. Nearly synonymous with L.A., P-Rod is the quintessential protege of some of the city’s finest. Tapped in his late teenage years by Koston and Mike Carroll, Rodriguez has been finely groomed to represent the city that put skateboarding on the map and today remains as one of its finest sons.
Despite strong SLS tour stop wins in 2012 and 2013 in Glendale, Arizona, and Portland, Oregon, respectively, P-Rod has yet to walk away with a podium finish on the year. But Rodriguez put up a serious fight against Nyjah Huston in Barcelona in May and looks to be more focused than ever for an SLS win in 2015. Will the hometown hero have an edge in L.A.? Will his proven consistency be able to topple Nyjah?
2) The unprecedented dominance Of Nyjah Huston — can he be stopped?
If there’s one competitor on everyone’s mind in 2015, it’s Huston. For the rest of the SLS, he’s the elephant in the room — relentless juggernaut on the course that seems to be nearly unstoppable. Rodriguez gave him a run for his money in Barcelona, taking him down to the last trick in the Finals, but Huston and his bag of hammers let P-Rod and the rest of the SLS pros know that he means business this year — stomping tricks, wowing the judges, shaking the competition and earning 20K along with the coveted Golden Ticket to the 2015 SLS Nike SB Super Crown World Championship.
With a guaranteed trip to the Finals already in place, there’s no question he’ll be ready and waiting – the only question is if he can add a fourth Super Crown trophy to his mantle this year.
3) Rookie pros Gustavo, Hoefler, McEntire and Smith make 2015 debuts
Evan Smith will look to wow the fans with his high-flying style.
The two SLS feeder events this year — Tampa Pro back in March and Barcelona’s SLS Nike SB Pro Open — have definitely shaken up the stakes and upped the excitement of the 2015 SLS Nike SB World Tour by producing four new additions to the SLS pro roster. Tampa saw two Brazilians, Felipe Gustavo and Kelvin Hoefler, put on jaw-dropping performances while the crowd in Barcelona witnessed stunning trick displays from Element Pro Evan Smith and Texas-born skatepark technician Cody McEntire.
Each of these skaters has every bit of a fighting chance at taking it all as they gear up to compete against the more experienced and seasoned SLS elite. Having a solid performance in a single-contest event is one thing, but if these newcomers are to stand a chance at taking it all in the SLS, they’re going to have to have the nerve, focus and consistency necessary to bring the heat at every single-tour stop.
4) SLS’ sophomore class — what will Berger, Torgerson and Colden’s second year on tour bring?
Matt Berger will look to take it to the next level in his second year on the tour.
Ask any skater on the World Tour what it’s like to skate against the most elite skaters in the world in front of thousands of screaming fans and you’ll likely get a similar response: nerve-wracking. Even the most seemingly cool and collected guys out there will admit their nerves are frayed under the intense pressure of the SLS arena.
When it comes to tour performance, experience is definitely a factor which is why Matt Berger, Davis Torgerson and Trevor Colden’s second showings could mean a lot this year. While Berger stunned the world with a strong breakout performance in 2014 — finishing seventh overall — he stands an even stronger chance at landing on the podium in 2015. Same goes for Torgerson and Colden, who are poised and ready to charge at their second year in the arena.
5) Luan Oliveira — the reign of the People’s Champ
Luan Oliveira rides a huge wave of momentum into the 2015 SLS Nike SB World Tour.
He’s one of the most exciting skaters to watch on the World Tour and this year, he’s holding one of the four Golden Tickets to the 2015 SLS Nike SB Super Crown World Championship. Brazil’s Luan Oliveira has made major strides both professionally and personally in recent years. He won 2015’s Tampa Pro contest, edging his way to victory over Nyjah and now, with Nyjah holding the second Golden Ticket, he sits positioned to compete against the tour’s most formidable competitor yet again in the finale.
With a heavy mix of show-stopping, bolt-stomping, switch-stance wizardry, Luan is always one to get the crowd on their feet. It’s this exact mix of tricks and style that’s going to be an absolute requirement to take him to the top this year. With a solid start for Luan already underway, Nyjah could be the only thing standing between him and the SLS Nike SB Super Crown World Championship ring.