“Today was my day,” Kelvin Hoefler said, and that was an understatement.
The Street League rookie won skateboarding’s Super Crown Championship – and the $200,000 prize that came with it – on Sunday, defeating a field that included heavyweights Luan Oliveira and defending champ Nyjah Huston and completing a season that was light on hype but heavy on consistency: Hoefler qualified for the competitive tour earlier in the year by placing third at the Tampa Pro, and made the finals at every contest on the tour except Barcelona.
On Sunday, at the Super Crown in Chicago, Hoefler got off to a rocky start during his course runs, and fell to last place. But he managed to leap forward in the competition during the best-trick section, landing a beautiful kickflip frontside noseblunt down the handrail. Then he put up back-to-back “9 Club” scores with a halfcab nosegrind revert and then a fullcab backside tailslide to fakie that earned Hoefler a 9.3 and a standing ovation in the UIC Pavillion arena.
“I’ve never tried that trick on a round rail like that before. I can’t believe it,” Hoefler said. “I am so blessed and grateful.”
All stops were pulled during the best-trick section, including stylish runs by veterans Chris Cole and Shane O’Neill. Hometown hero Chaz Ortiz gave the Chicago crowd what they came for with a gnarly kickflip frontside feeble down the handrail, and Nyjah Huston, the most dominant skater in the league, nearly took home his second consecutive Super Crown with a nollie heelflip backside lipslide down the rail that should have earned him the 8.8 score he needed to win the title – but a sketchy landing cost him and gave the win to Hoefler.
Sunday also saw the inaugural Women’s Championship, where eight of the world’s top female skaters were handpicked to compete for the title. Lacey Baker, Alexis Sablone and Pamela Rosa each brought out their best, but it was top-ranked Leticia Bufoni who looked to have things sewn up after two stellar performances in her course run. But when Vanessa Torres took over the top position during the best-trick sections, the competition became heated. Under heavy pressure, Bufoni delivered the goods with a perfectly executed 360 flip over the midsection gap for the victory.
The crowd roared as Bufoni spiked her board down at the end of the course, raised her hands and broke into tears.
“I was so nervous,” Bufoni admitted later. “I thought I was too shaky to land the tre flip over the gap, but I knew I had to make it. This championship is all that I’ve been thinking about for the past month. I was having nightmares about missing all my tricks.”
Sunday was a very big day for Brazil – both Hoefler and Bufoni hail from the country – but perhaps an even bigger day for the future of skateboarding. Hoefler is the first rookie to ever win a Super Crown Championship, or any SLS stop for that matter. His victory denotes the first example of a more accessible competition, where skateboarders can earn their spots in the league via success at the Tampa Pro, rather than by receiving an invitation directly from the league.
“In the very beginning, we basically invited the best guys in the world to compete in Street League. But we knew we needed to create a more transparent and fair way for someone to make it into the competition,” Brian Atlas, Street League president, said. “In an effort to build that road to Super Crown, we’ve [created] a clear path to make it into Street League by qualifying at Tampa Am and succeeding in Tampa Pro.”
Adding a women’s division also brings skateboarding one step closer to its consideration for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. On September 28, the Tokyo Organizing Committee announced that skateboarding was on the shortlist of additional events to be proposed to the International Olympic Committee for the 2020 Olympics – with a final decision set to be made in Rio De Janeiro in August 2016. If accepted, the program will add both street and park skateboarding events, with 40 male and 40 female athletes competing.
In order for skateboarding to meet the requirements for Olympic eligibility, it needs to be transparent and equally represented by men and women. This is where Atlas believes that Street League is the best case study for skateboarding in the Olympics.
“We’ve worked incredibly hard over the years to add elements that would create exciting moments throughout the competitions. But we’ve also created elements of competition, such as the ISX system, where we’ve basically created values for every single possible trick on a skateboard, in order to provide real-time scoring for every trick,” he explained. “This allows our viewers and skaters to know exactly what place everyone is at throughout the competition, and the winner to be known at the very instant the last trick is scored.”