Updated with event photos
from WW's Jennifer Newsted:
I suppose I represent the approximate target demographic for the Dew Underground action sports tour/contest/festival, hitting Portland this weekend. I'm white, educated, and youngish (28), with the scarred elbows and shins of a lifelong BMX rider. The amount of action sports media that I consume is enough to annoy my wife.
And yet, when I go to watch the competition this weekend, I will feel like a true outsider. The Dew Underground distills action sports to their bare components, pumps them up with money and pageantry, and produces a spectacular, surreal show that could never exist in nature, and which has nothing to do with anything I've ever experienced.
Passing through the various courtyards and arenas on my way to this morning's press conference, I was overwhelmed by the traveling carnival atmosphere. Facades and curtains covered snap-together structures and tents. Diesel generators hummed in the background, powering lights, refrigerators, air conditioners, bundles of power cords and speaker wire snaking underfoot. Every surface was plastered with graphics and brand names, sometimes camouflaged into simulated graffiti on simulated brick planters, filled with simulated dirt and flowers.
The strobe lights and smoke machines that fill a stadium with atmosphere can also turn ordinary people into celebrities. Two other factors will ensure that all performances are absolutely cutting edge and television-worthy:
1) Competition invites will be extended to seasoned pros only—no amateurs getting cold feet and taking up time or space.
2) The total prize purse: $3.5 million should be enough to bring out everyone's competitive side.
"Tricks, tricks, tricks. That's what I'm all about," said BMXer Mike Spinner in today's press conference. "I'm doin' 1080's and quad whips all the time, just tryin' to get dialled." If he can stick a 1080 and a quadruple tailwhip in a single run, Spinner will make history and have a good shot at the gold. Venezuelan rider Daniel Dhers, the current points leader, will draw from a deep bag of tricks that includes at least 15 variations on the 720. Skate-megastar Eric Koston, perhaps second only to Tony Hawk as a household name, will be competing, and reality TV heartthrob Ryan Sheckler draws a female crowd wherever he goes.
Mike Spinner in action:
I'm pretty excited to witness it all in person, even though I don't anticipate personally identifying with any aspect of it. And I guess that's not the point anyway. Should be fun.
Festival lasts all weekend. Gates open at noon, daily. Full schedule available here.
Tickets: $15 per day, kids 12 and under half price. Multi-day passes available. Buy 'em here.
Artist's rendering of skatepark course courtesy of Dew Underground. Look for Dew pics this weekend on WWire.