Action sports have arrived. That’s the general message I got during day 1 of the 2010 Dew Tour Championships at the Hard Rock Hotel. There’s this slight inferiority complex that permeates the scene, where even the biggest athletes—with the possible exceptions of Olympic powerhouse Shaun White and skateboarding pioneer Tony Hawk—aren’t exactly household names. So, that the boys have rolled into Vegas, land of constant media alerts and A-listers, means they’ve also arrived on the national radar in a high profile, big boy, pro-sports kinda way. The Dew Tour is basically saying, “We’re in Vegas, baby!”
Professional skateboarder, artist and Fuel TV Green Label Experience host Chris Pastras didn’t use quite those words when we sat down for a chat in the temporary studio that Fuel and Mountain Dew rigged in the Festival Village Thursday. “To showcase skateboarding here at the Hard Rock, it’s a big deal,” the New Jersey native said. “It makes skateboarding look cool, and we need that.” Indeed, skateboarding and BMX looked extra cool from inside the Dew Tour grounds, what with the big name sponsors like Power Bar and Sony hocking their wares and the pro athletes wandering about the premises in brightly colored T-shirts and straight-leg jeans. At Dew Tour you suddenly wonder why you don’t own more Vans T-shirts or Etnie sneakers. You want to dress the part, even if you can’t ride it, because—dammit!—skateboarding is cool.
Pastras has been a skateboarder for about 30 years now and calls the sport “super open minded. It was more of a life choice than a lifestyle choice,” he explained. As a mixed race teenager, skateboarding fit his personal experience. “All different cultures—poor people, rich people, white people, black people. I just identified with it.”
Not that the Dew Tour is all action sports philosophizing. BMX vert competitor Ben Snowden joined this year’s tour for one big reason: Vegas. “This year honestly was the first year I was considering not doing the tour,” he told me as we watched BMX park riders warm up on the Lego Land-like course designed by BMX legend Dennis McCoy. “The reason I did the tour was because they announced that the finals were going to be in Vegas.”
The Orange County rider is a Vegas regular, who quite simply loves the town. He loves the clubs, the pool parties, atmosphere and the cement skate parks scattered throughout town. Snowden is so enthusiastic about Vegas’ charms he practically sold me on the city. And you know what? I live here.
Of course, Snowden also digs riding BMX. “We can’t go a day without riding. It’s not a choice,” he explained, calling the sport addictive. He even threatened to teach me to ride BMX. Anyone who’s seen me on a bike knows that would be a helluva job.
While Snowden isn’t towards the top of the pack for this year’s vert competition, he didn’t seem to mind. “No matter what competition I go to, I always have the same goal and it’s to have the most fun, to have more fun than anyone else out there,” he said. Imagine an NFL linebacker saying those words. A trade would be in his imminent future. Snowden just doesn’t feel the competitive need to dominate his fellow riders every chance he gets. “Other than the Dew Tour, all the competitions that I do are overseas,” he added, “because the only reason I compete is so I can check out cool places.” Somewhere down the line when you hear a news story about a BMX rider who just biked around the world, think about Ben. It’s probably this kid. (When I asked what he’d do professionally, if he didn’t ride BMX, Snowden said he’d use his height to play basketball. “For the Lakers?” I laughed. “No, for the Globetrotters.”)
So far, Snowden’s favorite BMX destination has been Shanghai. “One of the most fun things to do there is actually ride your bike around the city,” he said laughing. What? Dodging China’s notoriously bad traffic on a bike doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time? C’mon, live a little! “It’s actually kind of a fun game to ride your bike through the cars, and you can ride your bike on the freeways.” Snowden was in town with a number of riders, including Dew Tour park competitor Austin Coleman, earlier this year. “We left our hotel at like 8 p.m. and we got back at 5 a.m. We probably pedaled our bikes about 20 miles.”
Shanghai was also the site of Snowden’s biggest celebrity moment. A group of fans swarmed the BMX rider and literally pulled his shirt off. Snowden laughed. Didn’t seem to mind. Sure, that hasn’t happened here yet, but with the Dew Tour in Vegas and action sports getting all that big spotlight love in the biggest entertainment city in the world, Pastras and Snowden can rest easy. It’s official: Action sports are cool.