Skateboarding may be making its debut in the Olympics later this month, but it’s possible that the biggest skateboarding storyline of the year went down at Summer X Games in Southern California on Friday.
In 1999, Tony Hawk became the world’s first skateboarder to land a 900 on a vert ramp at X Games after 10 failed attempts. It remains a watershed moment in pro skateboarding, and to this day, only a handful of other skaters have landed the trick on a non-mega ramp.
On Friday, Hawk’s name became a surprise addition to the start list for the X Games Vert Best Trick competition, held at the CA Training Facility (CATF) in Vista, California—the world’s only high-performance center for skateboarding.
There were no spectators on hand at this year’s Summer X Games due to Covid-19, but skateboarding fans were surely glued to their screens once news of Hawk’s surprise appearance began to spread.
Hawk didn’t throw down the 900 in Friday’s contest, though he more than proved he’s still got it with an impressive full Cab backside 540.
But 12-year-old Brazilian Gui Khury had a 900 earlier in the day in the skateboard vert contest. And in Vert Best Trick, Khury made history of his own as he became the world’s first skateboarder to land a 1080 on a (non-mega) vert ramp. In May 2020, at age 11, Khury became the first skater ever to land a 1080 on a traditional competition-size vert ramp.
On Friday, Khury also became the youngest gold medalist in X Games history.
Think about it this way: 53-year-old Hawk’s most recent X Games medal was in L.A. in 2003, when he won Vert Best Trick.
Khury wouldn’t be born for another six years.
You can’t script this sort of thing: Khury landing the first-ever 1080 in competition in front of Hawk, 22 years after Hawk landed the first 900—in a contest Hawk was also competing in.
After his win, Khury called Hawk his idol and said he never could have imagined he would ever be skating with him in a contest.
It was a perfect and at times emotional passing of the baton as the next generation of skateboarders, many almost as young as Khury, takes over the sport.
As for Hawk coming out of retirement to skate in Friday’s contest, Craig McMorris asked Hawk on the broadcast, “Why today?”
“If you build it, I will come,” Hawk said. “There’s a serious lack of vert events nowadays and I gotta support it as best I can. If that means getting involved, I’m in!”
Indeed, while it’s fun to believe Hawk, who was on hand as an observer during the regular vert contest earlier in the day, was so overcome with the urge to shred that he entered Vert Best Trick at the last minute, it’s also plausible Hawk’s guest star appearance could be a carefully considered move to inject some hype into vert skating again.
It’s no secret that in the last decade, vert has taken a back seat as street and park skating, which will debut in the Tokyo Olympics later this month, have rapidly developed around the world.
On Wednesday, Hawk wrote in an Instagram post, “As park (and street) skating takes center stage in the upcoming Tokyo games, I have been working feverishly behind the scenes to bring vert back into the fold of big skate events. Stay tuned.”
In a week’s time, the world will be closely watching park and street skating debut on sport’s biggest stage at the Olympics, represented by today’s big-name stars like Nyjah Huston, Sky Brown and Leticia Bufoni. But on Friday night at X Games, vert once again reigned supreme.