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Action Sports Progression in a Serious and Safe Way

Action Sports Progression in a Serious and Safe Way

The Nitro World Games is designed to completely revolutionize action sports competition. It's a one-night televised event with an emphasis on progression, where seven world championships will be crowned in FMX, BMX, skateboard, inline, and scooter during a single three-hour broadcast live on NBC from Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. Nitro Circus Ringleader Travis Pastrana says it best: "When it comes to competition, I expect to see the best of the best going head to head, attempting tricks no one has ever seen before. With the Nitro World Games, we wanted to create an event that raised the bar and took action sports to the next level."
Nitro Circus is all about entertainment and action sports progression in a serious and safe way. Several years ago, Nitro CEO and Creative Director Mike Porra along with Travis started envisioning a way to bring those core values into a competition format. The mission began with a simple question: How can we use what we've learned to dramatically improve the action-sports-competition landscape? A key to answering that question was to compare how the sports had evolved to how the competitions had evolved. To Travis and Mike, there was a major disconnect there. In an extensive Facebook post, Travis broke down the things that will set the NWG apart from the pack, saying that the plan is to address the danger element, the evolution of the sports, the complexity in judging, and the competition timeline, among other things. Let's get into those in a little more detail.

EVOLUTION OF THE RAMPS

One of the priorities for Mike and Travis was to evolve the ramps while also innovating on safety. Obviously, bigger takeoffs were the focus, but increasing safety has to come along with that, or you've created a barrier to progression. To put it another way: If you give the best athletes in the world the biggest and best ramps in the world, you have to bake in features that also give them the confidence to go all-in when they hit those ramps. With giant one-off setups like those used for the dirtbike triple backflip and the BMX quadruple backflip, Mike, Travis and a dedicated group of athletes and builders have created some of the craziest takeoffs ever while elevating the safety to roughly match, which means the size of the ramp and the fear of career-ending injury are no longer the factor holding back the evolution of these sports. "Riders like Tom Pages figure out how to do huge tricks on specialty ramps in a relatively short amount of time, but it could take years (if ever) before they are willing to take those tricks onto a [standard] competition setup," Travis wrote.
This experience and mindset were integral to crafting the Games. "These athletes, combined with Nitro Circus’ dedication to continually build new ramps and innovate safer landings, brought us to the forefront of some of the biggest tricks/stunts in action sports," Travis says. "With every new innovation, Mike Porra and I have said, 'Can you imagine if there was an event on this ramp/this landing/this hill?!? That would be the most spectacular event ever held!'"
They decided to stop imagining and make it happen. They designed bigger competition ramps than ever before with those innovative safety features: "Nitro World Games' solution to the problem of safety is twofold: A) match the angle of descent to the angle of the landing ramp, and B) build the landing out of air or put a layer of hard plastic over top a layer of foam. Similar to a 'safer barrier' in NASCAR."

FOCUS ON PROGRESSION

Bigger ramps combined with these other major changes will jumpstart the progression that has plateaued in competitions in recent years. Travis, who estimates he suffered six concussions hitting the airbag off the ramp Josh Sheehan used to land the triple, is quick to point out the danger level is ever-present, even with improved safeguards. "Crashing still sucks. These sports will always be dangerous and there will still be injuries. But as a father, a husband, and a friend to people in these sports, I think it’s ridiculous for someone to get badly injured or worse when it could have been avoided."
In the current competition setup, Travis says, "Every rider throws the same run (their best) over and over again as they progress to the final. It doesn’t make the tricks any less dangerous or the run any less spectacular for the athlete. But for the spectators, it’s like going to a concert where your favorite band plays your favorite song ... but only your favorite song, over and over again. So, we are bringing new and innovative ramps that will test the riders and allow newer, bigger tricks. There has to be qualifying, but once the crowd is in Utah watching, only the best will remain, and it will be all or nothing, live on NBC primetime TV."
It starts to become clear how the overall philosophy will give athletes a platform to evolve their sports, and he also touched on a couple other elements of what makes the NWG different—namely, the format and competition timeline. "Nitro’s main goal is to make this a legit World Championship for these sports, but a close second is entertainment," he says. To that end, Travis and Mike started thinking about how to keep the integrity of the judging intact while making it more transparent and easy to follow for a casual audience, ultimately deciding that the primary emphasis needs to be on the level of difficulty and the execution, with a very clear judging system.

A VIEWER-FRIENDLY COMPETITION

"Viewers are quick to tune out when they don’t understand what is going on," Travis says. "So, with our event, every trick will have a maximum value and every judge will only have to score it 1-10. The judges will judge every trick as it happens and the computer will make the adjustments. So, the crowd and the riders (if they want to check the scoreboard before their final jump) will be able to see exactly where they sit and what they will have to do in order to win." The goal to make it super audience-friendly also led to the decision to have the entire event take place in one night, in a live broadcast. No more trying to follow days of trials before the main competition. If you're in the stands at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on July 16, or if you tune in to watch on that day, you're going to see seven world championships crowned over the course of three nonstop, action-packed hours.
Travis and Mike also decided to add a variety of disciplines back into the mix. "The philosophy that started action sport was 'Push the boundaries, test your limits, paint your own picture, and have fun.' To me, it really doesn’t matter if your paint brush is a scooter or a dirtbike," Travis says. So we'll have seven events spanning FMX, BMX, skateboard, inline, and scooter, meaning there's something for everyone in this competition—and again, it's all in one three-hour block. Opening the Games to a selection of disciplines with open-qualifying (you don't have to be a sponsored pro to compete in the qualifying events) is a direct reflection of the philosophy that's made Nitro Circus what it is today. So much innovation and progression come from athletes of different backgrounds comparing notes, and the variety makes for a much richer spectator experience.
"We are bringing new and innovative ramps that will test the riders and allow newer, bigger tricks. And, we'll see an unheard of amount of astonishing world firsts."

Mike and Travis's vision to bring action sports competition to a new audience while re-engaging the existing hardcore fanbase has all the elements for a freestyle revolution. Bigger ramps, an emphasis on variety and progression, clearcut judging, and a viewer-friendly format, plus all the most popular disciplines in one competition. The Nitro World Games is the best of all worlds: It will be a pure competition focused on innovation, progression, and never-before-seen tricks, and it was designed through the lens of a crazy entertaining show that will have the audience on their feet, whether they're hardcore FMX fans or casual scooter kids. "In my Opinion, Nitro World Games is the mirror of Nitro Circus. With any luck, one world will help the other, and in the end, action sport will win. Either way, it’s going to be one hell of a ride!”


Next, check out this exclusive interview with the mastermind himself, Mike Porra, about the inspiration behind the Games. And, remember, you can buy tickets here to see it all happen live.