Monday, June 16, 2014

X Games Bring Extreme Sports And More To Austin

Austin, Texas is a unique city. Since the 1800’s, Austin has been the capital of Texas and home to one of the largest public universities in the nation. In recent years, Austin has also become a center for business and technology, causing it to quickly grow into the 11th largest city in the United States. And yet, despite all of this growth, our city still strives to hold on to the small-town friendly feel of our past. One way we have kept this friendly atmosphere alive is through the endless number of fun activities we participate in. No matter the time of year, citizens of and visitors to our fair city can attend any number of special events celebrating one thing or another. I guess you can say Austin loves to throw a party and invite the rest of the world to join in on the fun.

Downtown Austin as seen from Auditorium Shores Park across from the Long Center

Three areas Austinites especially love to celebrate are music, sports, and the great outdoors, so what could be better than becoming the new home of an event that brings all three of these loves together into one giant party. That’s just what happened June 5th through 8th as “The Live Music Capital of The World” took on a whole new energy when many of the world’s top extreme sports athletes brought their “A-Game” to town for the first annual X Games Austin held at the 1,500 acre Formula One race facility, Circuit of The Americas.

Welcome to the Circuit of the Americas complex, the home of  X Games Austin 2014 

When most people hear the term “extreme sports” they think of crazy kids doing even crazier stunts on skateboards and bikes, but, as Austinites soon found out, the X Games are so much more than that. We did see our fair share of kids doing unbelievable tricks on skateboards and BMX bikes, as well as many other incredible feats during the four days of competition, but we also witnessed many more seasoned athletes, some in their 40’s, showing the kids how it'is all done. We saw a 40-something BMX rider capture his 9th consecutive X Games gold medal. We witnessed an experienced NASCAR driver competing in the Stadium Super Trucks event while being challenged by a 14 year old kid who had to have his mother drive him to the race track because he wasn’t old enough to obtain a regular driver’s license. We saw an experienced four time gold medalist fail to reach the podium in his “normal” event of Skateboard Vert, yet finish second in his new challenge event, Rally Car Racing. And these are only a sampling of the World Class talents vying for the Gold, Silver, and Bronze at the X Games Austin.

Jamie Bestwick celebrates a successful ride as he vies for his ninth Gold medal

Three time NASCAR Sprint Cup winner and Baja 1000 winner, Robby Gordon, participates in the first
X Games Stadium Super Trucks competition 

2013 X Games Vert Champion, Bucky Lasek, competes in this years Skateboard Vert event
staged in downtown Austin in front of the capitol building

While the X Games brought a little bit of everything extreme to COTA, sporting events were not the only draw for these games. Keeping with Austin’s love for all things music, three stages were filled daily with both local and world renowned musical acts. Participants and attendees alike were treated to performances from Slightly Stoopid, Leopold and His Fiction, Black and White Years, Bad Religion, My Jerusalem, and Gary Clark Jr, to name a few. Headlining on Friday night was Pretty Lights. Saturday saw Kanye West take over the Austin 360 Amphitheater stage. Closing out the entire X Games festival, in true “Keep Austin Weird” style, Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips. In keeping with the spirit of competition during this weekend, a fan-voted band competition also took place, with the winning band receiving a $25,000 prize.

Bad Religion

Greg Graffin of Bad Religion performs on Day 3 of X Games Austin 2014

The punk rock band, Bad Religion performs on the Austin 360 Amphitheater Stage during
X Games Austin 2014

Gary Clark Jr

Gary Clark Jr entertains the crowd on Day 4 of X Games Austin 2014

Gary Clark Jr performs on Sunday, June 8, 2014 as part of X Games Austin 2014 at COTA

The Flaming Lips

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips performs on Day 4 of X Games Austin 2014

The psychedelic alternative rock band, The Flaming Lips, close out the X Games Austin 2014 festival
 in a way only they can

The four days of fun and jaw-dropping events started on Thursday evening in downtown Austin where several major city thoroughfares had been shut down and a gigantic half pipe was built in front of the state capitol building for a free to the public event. Tony Hawk, yes that Tony Hawk, the only name most people know in the world of skateboarding, and some of his friends, were first up to show Austin, and the world, what the X Games are all about. A crowd of approximately 12,000 enthusiastic fans showed up to cheer everyone on.

Tony Hawk and Friends Demo

Riders practice for the Vert competition on a specially built half pipe built on Congress Avenue
in front of the state capitol building

Tony Hawk shows off some skills during the Tony Hawk and Friends Demo

Neil Hendrix performs as part of the Tony Hawk and Friends Demo before
taking his place at the judges table

Kevin Staab demonstrates his skateboard skills for the appreciative crowd of onlookers

After Tony and his friends demonstrated a few moves, it was time for the first competitions of the games, the Skateboard Vert and BMX Vert. The competitors had some great moves, but I’m not sure all of them were prepared for the summer-like mid 90 degree temperatures Central Texas was experiencing that day or our extremely high humidity. No, we are not sunny L.A., and we like it that way.

Skateboard and BMX Vert Competitions 

Competitors prepare for the Skateboard Vert competition staged in downtown Austin near
the state capitol building

 Gold Medalist, Jimmy Wilkins, the youngest X Games competitor to win Skateboard Vert,
flies high above the half pipe in front of the state capitol

Sandro Dias, Silver Medalist in the Skateboard Vert competition, performs
on Day 1 of X Games Austin

Bronze Medalist, 17 yr old Mitchie Brusco, shows his skateboarding skills in the
Skateboard Vert competition

40 Yr old Simon Tabron flies high above the half pipe as he brings home
the Silver Medal during the BMX Vert Competition

47 yr old Dennis McCoy demonstrates the moves that earned him
 the Bronze Medal during BMX Vert

Jamie Bestwick, 42 yrs old, soars into the Austin evening sky as he earns
 his 9th X Games Gold Medal during Day one of X Games Austin 2014

On Friday, all of the action moved out to the spacious grounds of the Circuit of The Americas. After weeks of preparation, the state of the art Formula 1 race track had been transformed into an array of elaborate venues ready to host each competition. Friday’s events included BMX Street, Men’s Skateboard Street, Men’s and Women’s Moto X Endurance, and Skateboard Big Air competitions.

Skateboard Street Men's Elimination

Competitors warm up before the Monster Energy Men's Street elimination event gets underway

Nyjah Huston competes for a spot in Round One of the Skateboard Street event

Curren Caples shows his skills during the elimination round at Street Skate

Torey Pudwill flies high during the elimination round at X Games Austin

Riley Hawk, son of tony Hawk, participates in his first X Games competition

Long time X Game participant, Ryan Sheckler, demonstrates his moves that
made him a legend in Skateboarding during the elimination rounds

Saturday brought huge crowds to witness the BMX Dirt, RallyCross, Skateboard Park, Moto X Speed and Style, and BMX Big Air competitions. Sadly, the Moto X Freestyle competition had to be canceled for safety reasons due to high winds.

BMX Dirt

T J Ellis flies high during the first round of the BMX Dirt competition

One of the moves that helped Brandon Dosh capture the Bronze Medal for BMX Dirt

Kyle Baldock was twisting and soaring his way to the Gold Medal for BMX Dirt
at X Games Austin 2104

Chris Doyle comes in for a landing during the BMX Dirt Competition at X Games Austin

Rally Cross

#77, Scott Speed, lands following a jump during the Rally Cross event during X Games Austin

Bucky Lasek gets some air as he vies for a medal during the Rally Cross on Day 3 of X Games

Scott Speed and Bucky Lasek race around a turn on the race track portion of the Rally Cross

Nelson Piquet Jr races towards the finish line during the RallyCross event at X Games Austin

Gold Medalist, Scott Speed, celebrates as Silver Medalist Bucky Lasek, and Bronze Medalist
Nelson Piquet Jr look on from there cars

Moto X Speed and Style

Mike Mason and two competitors show off their skills during a jump in Moto X Speed and Style

Mike Mason waits for results during the Moto X Speed and Style Finals

A competitor advances through the course during the Moto X Speed and Style event

Mike Mason shows why he is the Gold medalist in the Moto X Speed and Style competition

A track official looks on as two competitors hope to complete a jump during  Moto X Speed and Style 

BMX Big Air

The Big Air Ramp at Circuit Of The Americas track during the X Games Austin 2014

Competitor waiting to drop in during the GoPro BMX Big Air competition

A competitor shows off his high flying skills during the GoPro BMX Big Air
at X Games Austin

Texan Morgan Wade proudly displays a Texas flag on his shirt as he earns the Silver Medal
 in the GoPro BMX Big Air competition

A competitor travels down the 60 foot wall at the beginning of his run in the BMX Big Air event

Sunday might have been the final day of competition, but it was in no way short on excitement. Events included the BMX Park competition (won by a local boy), the first ever X Games Stadium Super Trucks race, and the finals of both the Men’s and Women’s Skateboard Street competition.

BMX Park

The Texas-themed Park venue for Skateboard and BMX at X Games Austin 2014

Austinite, Chase Hawk competes on the way to winning the Gold Medal for BMX Park  at X Games Austin

Drew Bezanson soars to a Silver Medal in the BMX Park competition at X Games Austin 

A competitor pulls off a trick during the X Games Austin BMX Park event

Daniel Sandoval flips and flies onto the podium, winning the Bronze Medal in BMX Park

Daniel Dhers puts up a good challenge for one of the medaling positions at X Games

Stadium Super Trucks

And their off and running in the first ever X Games Stadium Super Trucks competition

#7, Robby Gordon, gets some series air as he races around the track in the Stadium Super Trucks
event on his way to a third place finish

#74, Sheldon Creed, races to a second place finish and the Silver Medal in the first ever
X Games Stadium Super Trucks competition

Gold medalist, # 19 Apdaly Lopez, exits a ramp during the Stadium Super Trucks race at the 2014
X Games Austin

Competitors fly around the track during the first X Games Stadium Super Trucks event

Women's Skateboard Street

Gold Medalist, Lacey Baker, competes during Women's Skateboard Street 

Lacey Baker completes a trick during the X Games Austin 

2013 Silver Medalist, Alana Smith competes in the Women's Skateboard Street event

Bronze Medalist, Leticia Bufoni, prepares to land a trick during the
Women's Skateboard Street event

Men's Skateboard Street

Tony Hawk surveys the course before the start of the Men's Skateboard Street competition

Tony Hawk

Silver Medalist, Luan Oliveira, skates during the event finals at X Games Austin

Nyjah Huston shows what made him the Gold Medalist in the Men's Skateboard Street
 at X Games Austin

Crowd favorite, Ryan Sheckler participates in the Men's Skateboard Street competition

Bronze medalist, Alec Majerus, pulls off a trick during the finals of Men's Skateboard Street

Torey Pudwill competes in the finals of the Men's skateboard Street competition

The 160,000 plus attendees for the four days of sports and entertainment were also treated to many other family friendly activities in the festival villages which included a playground, next-generation skate park, a shopping galleria, a gaming tournament, go-cart racing, a Texas themed area, and special displays from the X Games sponsors, including my favorite, America’s Navy.

Monster, one of the X Games sponsors, displays a Stadium Super Truck for attendees to inspect

Traxxas shows off their remote control cars as well as their full size racing vehicles at
X Games Austin

Attendees had a chance to purchase new skateboard decks and have them
autographed by their favorites

America's Navy, One of the X Games' sponsors, had family friendly displays
for attendees to check out. Here sailors help a young boy attempt pull ups.

One of the U S Navy's Special Forces vehicles on display for the public to view at X Games Austin 

The Navy SWCC watercraft on display in the family friendly festival area during X Games Austin

A Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman was on hand to speak to interested attendees

Festival goers took time out of the hectic event schedule to rest from the 90 plus degree temperatures at COTA 

Despite the warm temperatures, everyone seemed to have a great experience at the first X Games Austin. X Games has signed to return to Austin for at least three more years, through 2017, so if you didn't have the opportunity to see these high-flying, death defying, and a little bit crazy, but extremely talented, athletes compete this year, keep a look out for the dates for X Games Austin 2015. And if extreme sports aren't your thing, remember, Austin is still the “Live Music Capital of The World.”