Trevor Colden wasn’t supposed to be there. The 20-year old Virginia Beach native -- who currently resides in Southern California -- hadn’t even entertained the thought of traveling east for the 10th anniversary Dew Tour held in Brooklyn last weekend.
That is until two weeks ago when he received an unexpected phone call offering him a spot in the event.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, why not, I’m not doing anything,’” Colden says, recalling the conversation.
Standing atop the champion’s dais on Sunday evening, Colden was happy he made that decision. Although you might not have been able to tell.
“I guess it worked out,” Colden said, with a boyish grin. He then quickly added: “I’m freaking so stoked right now, I can’t even talk.”
Colden -- in his first Dew Tour appearance -- had just won the much ballyhooed skate ‘streetstyle’ event, and thus was three stacks of high society richer. A day earlier, he had come in second -- behind Ishod Wair -- in the ‘street’ event, earning him another $15,000.
Colden and Wair were two of only a handful of skaters who participated in both events, as the separate courses posed vastly different challenges to riders. And in the end, Colden was the only one who placed in the top three in both.
The street event held on Saturday took place in a typical skatepark setting, within an open-air courtyard inside the House of Vans warehouse. The area was small and the course cluttered, and the contestants were surrounded by fans and family, giving the event an electric, yet still intimate feeling.
The 16 riders who participated were broken into three groups, and the course was broken up into three zones. The groups skated each zone separately, but the riders within each group skated together in eight-minute sessions, alternating runs -- off the quarterpipe, on the A-frame, down the eight-stair rail or hubba. The riders then received individual scores in each zone and the three scores were averaged to determine the overall winner.
The format gave the competition the feel of a casual afternoon “jam session,” making the riders feel at home and underlining the fraternal nature of the sport. When one rider landed a trick, his competitors would cheer and smack their boards against the ground in approbation.
“It was pretty much like you were just skating the park when it’s practice with your friends,” Wair said after winning the event with an overall score of 89.58, one and a quarter points ahead of Colden. “Just real mellow.”
It was Wair’s score of 92.75 in Zone 3 -- the second highest for any rider in any zone -- that sealed the win. Jumping from the top of the eight-stair rail, Wair attempted a backslide flip -- flipping his board one way, while his body rotated the other.
“I didn't think I was going to land it,” Wair said. “I really thought it flipped weird. But [the board] just somehow came to my feet.”
That turned out to be only half the battle.
After Wair landed the trick, an ill-placed waist-high ledge -- a remnant from Zone 1 -- was waiting for him, prompting an audible gasp from the crowd. Wair, still traveling at top speed, somehow managed to simultaneously smash into, and effortlessly barrel roll off of, the ledge. He eventually landed, safely and on two feet, much to the delight of the fans; a display of dexterity that capped the win.
It was, however, the streetstyle event the following day that left riders and fans buzzing. This event, which the Dew Tour started in 2012, is supposed to simulate gritty, back-to-your-roots street-skating, in which riders freestyle off of whatever their environment provides.
To achieve this, contest organizers closed down a three-block segment of Franklin Street for most of two days; transforming it into a straightaway, high-speed, House of Horrors where different obstacles awaited riders everywhere they looked.
The contestants began their runs on top of a large metal storage container, traveled down a ramp, and were almost immediately confronted by a Toyota in the middle of the course. The car was iridescent, having been spray-painted by local graffiti artist Vizie, one of the many efforts taken to incorporate the Brooklyn neighborhood into the event.
Throughout the three-block course, there were more than a dozen ramps, rails, tables, street signs, a Mountain Dew vending machine turned on its side, and even a white picket fence -- an eclectic menu that presented riders with innumerable possibilities for how they wanted to put together their run.
The course brought out the creativity in the contestants -- as well as some real anxiety.
“In practice, it look extremely scary,” Colden said. “I didn't even want to enter it. I was like, ‘I don’t know what the hell I am going to do.”
Even among skaters, the streetstyle contestants constitute a particularly thrill-seeking subset. “You got to be about that life, because that’s no joke,” said skater Travis Glover, who did not participate over the weekend. “I’ll leave that one to them.”
Aside from the layout of the course, the structure of the competition was different as well. The skaters rode the course individually, with no time limit. They were given three separate runs, and their best score of the three was the only one that counted.
It was impressive enough when a skater made it from one end of the course to the other -- choosing what obstacles to engage with and which to ignore— without falling. It was also quite rare. Colden did it on all three of his runs.
After the 15 skaters competing in the event completed their first run, Colden was comfortably in first place. He then added to his lead with his second run, but had his total narrowly surpassed on a near-perfect run by Evan Smith minutes later.
Of that moment, Colden would later say, “Already in my mind, I lost.”
He had one run left to regain his lead and salvage the title. Standing on the storage container at the start of the course, waiting for the signal to begin his final run, Colden was nervous and visibly trembling.
His third run started off just like his first two -- he would later say that he wanted to play it safe in the early goings of the course to get his rhythm. But knowing that he couldn’t win with the scores from his first two runs, Colden said he tried to “make it a little harder” for himself.
So he finished his final run with a salvo of perfectly executed, highly intricate moves; a noseblunt on the jersey barrier, a backside smith grind across and down the pyramid rail, and, finally, a 360 on the final gap at the end of the course, just to rub it in. And he landed them all in succession, with no moment taken to pause and gather himself or build speed.
The diffuse crowd -- which spanned the long course on both sides of the street — responded heartily, whether they knew the particular names of the moves he landed or not. And the judges responded in kind, awarding Colden a 91.25, good enough to claim the title.
But Colden himself seemed unaware of what he had just accomplished after finishing his magisterial run, casually wiping the sweat from his brow and shrugging while waiting for his score. Even afterward, as he was being handed the green Dew Cup trophy, he seemed somewhat nonplussed, still seemingly unable to wrap his mind around what he had just done.
“I tried to switch up a little bit in that last run, and it just happened to work,” said Colden -- besieged by cameras, recorders, and the outstretched arms of fans presenting him their boards to sign. The newly crowned champion in an event not meant for the feeble or risk-averse, an event that two weeks ago he didn’t even think he was competing in.
“It just happened to work,” he said.