X Games Austin 2014: 11 Skaters, BMXers and Motocross Riders You Should Watch This Weekend
This lot will all be worth tuning in for...
The X Games is kicking off tomorrow in Austin, Texas. As a well-known hipster haunt and home of the indie-tinged South By South West festival, the city might initially seem a slightly strange choice as an X Games location.
But the organisers are putting a lot of emphasis on the music at this year's event (there's even a Battle of the Bands competition) and are promising one hell of a show.
Brand new tricks are always part of the X Games architecture, as are crazy stacks...
Having decided to rein in their plans for global expansion and reduce the number of events to just two (one summer, one winter) they've got a lot of eggs in this Texan basket, so you can be sure they'll be pulling out all the stops.
And whether or not you're a fan of this carefully packaged all-American action sports extravaganza you can't deny that it's a spectacle that's well worth watching.
It's exciting to see skaters, BMXers and motocross riders given a mainstream platform to perform on, and the occasion always seems to push riders to bring their A Game. Brand new tricks are always part of the X Games architecture, as are crazy stacks, as people attempt things they'd never normally try.
Here are 16 skaters, BMXers and motocross riders that we'll be watching closely this weekend. [part title="Riley Hawk, The Superstar's Son"]
Carrying the most famous name in skateboarding could easily have been a bit of a hindrance for Tony Hawk's son. But although he was taught to skate by his dad, Riley has pursued a different path, concentrating on street skating and putting out video parts.
He even quit his dad's company Birdhouse, to sign for Baker because he wanted to go it alone. He's worked damn hard and earned his first ever invite to X Games (to ride skateboard street) on his own merits.
As one writer for Vice put it: "Riley Hawk sucks at being a lazy rich kid. If I had a dad who owned a skateboard company I would make him turn me pro as soon as I was able to speak, and I sure as hell wouldn’t bother learning to skate."
"I’d just have him buy me the best skater in the world, a la Richard Pryor in The Toy, and inform the skater that he was now me and would be changing his name to mine and putting out video parts for me. I think Nyjah Huston would look great with my haircut."
We're not necessarily expecting him to win, but we are looking forward to seeing how the most famous son in skateboarding fares this weekend.
[part title="Alex Kennedy, BMX's Smooth Operator"]
In the past five years Alex Kennedy has evolved from softly-spoken kid to international superstar, carried along by his prodigious talent on a BMX.
He combines the ability to do super-tech tricks and lines with a laid-back style that means it all looks easy.
As The Come Up, the world's biggest BMX site put it: "It really says something about AK's style that he can make everything from tireslides and tbogs to tech lines and big drops look equally as smooth and effortless."
Best thing about him though? He's British. We'll definitely be cheering our homeboy on in BMX street. [part title="Vicki Golden, The Only Woman Out There"]
Vicki Golden is one hell of a lady. A two times X Games gold medallist in women's motocross, last year she became the first woman ever to compete in an FMX competition at X Games.
Apparently he's actually a pretty mellow dude, but you'd never guess it from his video parts, in which everything he does is absolutely huge!
The picture above, posted on his Instagram recently, gives you some idea, but if you want the full story, watch his latest part below here. It's massive.
We're really looking forward to watching 'Jaws' attack both the park on Saturday and the street course on Sunday.
[part title="Ronnie Renner, The Record Breaker"]
Tons of people have broken records at the X Games over the years, but few can be as visually impressive as the one Ronnie Renner broke in 2012 when he jumped a motocross bike 50 feet up in the air.
Officially the bar in the motocross high jump comp (or as the X Games call it, Moto X Step Up) was set at 47 feet. But we reckon he cleared that by a foot or two... or three. So we're calling it 50.
Either way you'd have to be a proper pedant not to be blown away by that jump - it's frickin' huge! We can't wait to see what he pulls out the bag this year in the step up event, especially as he's going up against his long-standing rival Matt Buyten again. [part title="Ryan Nyquist, The Elder Statesman"]
Ryan Nyquist is an X Games BMX legend, having appeared in pretty much every event since his debut in 1996.
He's won his fair share of medals in the park, but it's been 8 years since he last contested a dirt X Games medal on US err... soil. So we're excited to see him compete in the dirt jumping line-up this year.
[part title="Nyjah Huston, The Boy King"]
Depsite being just 19 years old, Nyjah Huston is the reigning king of street skateboarding - at least on the competition circuit.
Thanks to Street League he's already earned more prize money than any other skateboarder, ever.
His insane technical ability combined with his cool-headed demeanour makes him the ultimate competitor, and as the part above shows, he's none too shabby on the actual streets either.
We're looking forward to seeing whether he can continue his straight run of four gold medals.
[part title="Garrett Reynolds, The Favourite"]
Garrett Reynolds is the man when it comes to BMX at the X Games. And in fact when it comes to BMX more generally. Having won six gold medals in street and park events (plus a handful of silvers and bronzes) he's back this year to try and do it again.
Even though he's probably the odds-on favourite, it's always a pleasure to watch him ride.
[part title="Jagger Eaton, The Child Prodigy"]
The X Games have always been fond of inviting ridiculously young skaters to compete - Nyjah Huston was 11 when he got his first invite, and Ryan Sheckler won a gold medal at the tender age of 13!
But these days you tend to see the youngest faces in mega-ramp and skateboard vert. Which is interesting because for years these events were the preserve of 90s stars like Bob Burnquist and Bucky Lasek, most of whom are now pushing 40.
The latest in a line of child prodigies that includes Tom Schaar and Mitchie Brusco is Jagger Eaton, who'll be 13 (13 ffs!) when he competes in the Big Air.
[part title="Jamie Bestwick, The British Winner"]
Jamie Bestwick is that rare breed - a British sportsman who actually wins things. Not only that, he wins a lot of things, a lot of the time.
Last year he won a record-breaking 9th consecutive title in BMX Vert at the Dew Tour - or a "9peat" as the yanks insist on calling it. This year he's going to attempt to do the same thing at the X Games.
We'll be watching him try it, while secretly hoping that he'll remember where he's from and leave him finishing in a plucky 4th place. Anything else just wouldn't be British would it?
[part title="Alana Smith, The Pint-sized Skateboard Superstar"]
Women's skateboard park was only introduced as an X Games event last year, but has already served to introduce the world to a brand new superstar in the shape of Alana Smith.
Alana was just 12 when she skated her way to a silver medal in Barcelona last year like a real-life Disney teen movie heroine. No doubt she'll be hoping to go one better this year.