Sean Malto barely pulled it off. After a day of nearly 100 percent accuracy, Malto capitalized on skater Chaz Ortiz's shoddy math skills and walked away with $150,000 first place prize money.
Sept. 11 was the second stop of Street League DC Pro Tour Fueled by Monster Energy at Ontario's Citizen's Business Bank Arena, and the contest boasts the biggest prize purse ever for a skate contest, a whopping $1.2 million overall between three stops.
The final is Sept. 25 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, perfect for the Kansas City, MO, resident Malto, who turned 21 just days before the Ontario leg of the tour.
The contest is Dyrdek's newest venture, utilizing his much-anticipated instant scoring device that he hopes will revolutionize the way street skating contests are run. He also wants to break down the action to where regular joes can understand the brevity of what's going on with the boards.
Inside the arena, home to the Ontario Reign hockey team, the crowd kept up with the skating trick-by-trick with the scores displayed on the megatron. Nyjah Huston, the 15-year-old phenom who took first at the first stop of Street League, likes the new scoring system, but admits the pressure is tangible between the rails.
"It makes you think a lot," says Huston, who splits his time between Huntington Beach and Davis. "But it's more exciting for the skaters and it benefits the crowd, too," he told OC Weekly.
Ortiz didn't need much to maintain his lead. He and Malto traded tricks, landing nearly every one up until the nail-biter ending, outskating seasoned pros. Malto's parents were in the audience to add to the pressure, their first time watching him compete as a professional.
Malto and Ortiz were up against the likes of 28-year-old Chris Cole (Thrasher Skater of the Year 2005, gold medalist at X Games twice, won Maloof Money Cup events three times), 26-year-old Paul Rodriguez Jr. (2008 Maloof winner), 15-year-old Nyjah Huston (who took the first stop of Street League in Scotsdale, Ariz.) and the San Clemente teen dream who needs no introduction, 21-year-old Ryan Sheckler (MTV's Life of Ryan, pictured).
Malto's final jab was a nearly perfect backside over crook on the outermost rail, bumping him to the top of the heap. But Ortiz had one last chance to retake the lead. He needed only 2 points to top Malto, which could have been easily accomplished by choosing a safe trick to land. Tricks are scored zero to 10, with zeros given for tricks that don't stick.
Ortiz lost by two points when he dropped a backside crooked grind on the same rail Malto chose, but Ortiz's truck got stuck, amounting to a big, fat zero score. The nearly sold-out crowd at the arena went nuts. "That was a $150,000 crooked grind," Dyrdek shouted into the mic, exasperated by Ortiz choice as skaters like Eric Koston and Torrey Pudwill grabbed the new champ lifting him up to the crowd.
"It (the final) was the most nervous I've been in my whole life," Ortiz, who is 16, said during a press conference following the finals in response to some good-natured ribbing by tour mastermind and MTV reality star Rob Dyrdek. "I guess I should have gone to school more. I'm not that good at math."
And math is key at Street League. Other than the podium stars, there are many notable achievements the instant scoring helps track.
Sheckler landed the highest scoring trick, a gigantic backside 360 over the big hubba ledge, earning him a 7.3. Malto had the longest overall streak of consecutive tricks, 40, during the two days consisting of qualifying and finals. During the finals alone Malto had a 19 trick streak. Ortiz landed 21 consecutive tricks in the finals.
Skater Greg Lutzka, one of the seven finalists, answered honestly when Dyrdek sat in as a reporter after the contest. "What jammed you up hardest?" Dyrdek asked.
"The pressure," Lutzka said. "My legs were shaking." The skaters talked about strategy, why they chose the tricks they did and the pace of the contest. Huston, who placed third for the day, said he was trying to land the most technical tricks he could pull off. Cole did the opposite, trying to build his score with consistency.
"To be two points down and be way down (in scoring) messes with your head," Sheckler said.
As can the crowd.
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"Did you hear them?" Ortiz asked the other skaters. "That's why I messed up." The crowd put the pressure on, and it worked.
That night, Dyrdek, Malto and others partied it up in Hollywood to celebrate twofold: Malto turning of age and Malto's first professional contest victory. The most he'd bagged before was third place. He walked away with plenty of Champagne money, and Ortiz left with $80,000, enough to at least buy Malto a congratulatory Shirley Temple.
Street League DC Pro Tour Fueled by Monster Energy finals air on ESPN2 Wednesdays, 5 p.m., through Sept. 29.