5 things to watch at Street League Skateboarding Stop 2: New Jersey
With the first stop of the 2015 Street League Skateboarding Nike SB World Tour in the rearview mirror, the SLS pros are making their way across the country from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, where they’ll face off at the Prudential Center on Aug. 23 to compete in what will no doubt be a pivotal opportunity for every skater on the tour. Pros like Nyjah Huston and Luan Oliveira will be looking to increase their lead, but for many others like Chaz Ortiz and Paul Rodriguez, the second stop will be an open invitation to recover vital ground in the already-heated race to the finals. Below are five things to watch for as the SLS gear up to square off in Jersey.
1) The People’s Champ prevails: Can Luan Oliveira repeat his LA victory?
He was the pro to watch going into Stop No. 1 at LA’s Galen Center, and sure enough, at the last possible moment, Luan Oliveira ended up sealing the deal in SoCal to the tune of a first-ever SLS victory in front of a sold-out crowd. For the fans who were there and for the millions of spectators around the globe, Luan put on a nail-biting display of skateboarding showmanship — just barely edging out Huston on the final trick.
As the winner of last year’s People’s Champ Award, Oliveira earned the opportunity to help design the course layout at the Galen Center and definitely took advantage, creating a few key obstacles that lent themselves to his specific style of skating. Features like manny pads and unique flatground obstacles deployed in an overall speed-line-centric layout played to his strengths and may very well have contributed to his win, but according to Oliveira in a post-victory SLS interview, "anyone could have won in LA." And he’s likely right.
With his first SLS victory under his belt, Oliveira is already headed to the Super Crown Finals — the big question now is whether or not his momentum will carry over into future stops and help fortify his lead as the front-runner.
2) Haters gonna hate – Nyjah and the burden of being No. 1
It’s a common theme in nearly all competitive sports: The guys at the top are often hated as much as they’re loved. It’s an unfortunate price to pay for being No. 1 — that some fans want nothing more than to see a champion fall. And in the case of SLS dominator Nyjah Huston, it seems many spectators want to see exactly that. As celebrated as Huston is (and deservedly so), it felt as if an entire section of the Galen Center crowd was elated to see a new face on top of the poidum.
But Huston didn’t let it go easy. On Instagram, he was outspoken regarding the scoring — coupled with a clear disappointment with the upset. Oliveira denied any emerging rivalry between himself and Huston, but it’s hard to imagine Nyjah is taking the threat to his crown lightly. This budding tour rivalry — real or not — will definitely be something to keep an eye on as the tour progresses.
3) SLS rookies on fire — don’t call it beginners’ luck
It’s one of the top talking points of this year’s tour — the SLS rookies and their recent induction to the elite ranks of the 2015 Street League Nike SB World Tour. From the jump, it was clear that each of this year’s three newcomers would have every bit of a fighting chance at the Super Crown as some of the league’s more established riders. And sure enough, Evan Smith, Cody McEntire and Kelvin Hoefler all proved SLS analysts correct by dominating the preliminary rounds in LA and earning their way into the stop’s finals.
While none of them prevailed, with proven track records of contest supremacy in tow, it’s hard to chalk up the rookies’ first-stop performance as being beginner’s luck. The big question now is: Will the SLS rookies be able to maintain the kind of standout performance they put on in LA stop after stop? And, perhaps more importantly, are these three a perceived threat to SLS front-runners’ hefty lead?
4) Heatmates: How the luck of the draw can change everything
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Of all of the many unpredictable variables in the SLS arena, the spread of skaters in each heat can mean the difference between a pro performing at the peak of his game or completely choking. Winning is all about being cool and collected on the course, and in the case of Oliveira, his comfort level was quoted as being very high when he squared off against his Nike SB teammates Ishod Wair, Shane O’Neil and P-Rod in the first heat in LA.
Conversely, though, if a pro is thrown into a first-round heat with skaters they don’t necessary feel at ease around, it could spell disaster for even the most confident of riders. It’s not hard to imagine that competing against the same pros you share a team van with on tour would be a psychological advantage in a major contest event like the SLS, but once you’re in the arena, there’s no predicting how the heat rosters will line up prior to each event — adding just one more element of mystery and unpredictability to the 2015 Street League Nike SB World Tour.
5) Luan, Gustavo and Hoefler — the competitive passion of Brazil
If there was ever a country outside of the U.S. that’s absolutely crazy about skateboarding, it’s Brazil. The South American shred hotbed boasts some of the highest levels of skateboarding participation in the world.
That’s why it is of little surprise that some of the skateboard industry’s most talented pros are direct exports from Brazil — a special three of which including Felipe Gustavo, Kelvin Hoefler and Luan Oliveira, who are top competitors in this year’s tour. When it comes to contest skating, it’s common lore that Brazilians are some of the most formidable, passionate competitors out there and Oliveira, Hoefler and Gustavo are no exception. Whether they’re doing it for their home country or simply for themselves, the passionate fans of Brazil will have these guys’ back from beginning to end, which could prove to be a factor in the overall play out of this year’s race.
2015 SLS Nike SB World Tour: New Jersey Schedule
Sunday, Aug. 23
1 p.m. ET (LIVE) Semifinals WEBCAST
6:35 p.m. ET (LIVE) Diamond Supply Co. Presents #DIAMOND Best Trick WEBCAST