Scooter Has Officially Grown Up
First, we'll tell you what we know. The sport of scootering has absolutely blown up around the world, and with good reason. In the decade and a half since Razor Scooters took Christmas by storm, the scooter has evolved from children's toy to action sports athletic gear. In May, 16 of the world's most skilled and fearless scooter riders came out to Southern California and attempted to qualify for the 2017 Nitro World Games on a ramp setup that was unlike anything most of them had ever ridden. They practiced for hours leading up to the event, and they took to the setup immediately. The tricks they landed were enormous, and the level of excitement and energy they brought with them was virtually unmatched. June 24th can't get here soon enough. Rather than try to explain how big they went, we thought we'd just show you:
Where did this come from? Nitro World Games commentator and scooter veteran Jake Hershey says, "Naturally when you have a sport where athletes can constantly push the limits of what is possible, you are going to have athletes that want the title of 'world's best.' I’d call it human instinct." In a way, you can chalk the rise of scooter up to being born into a world where action sports like skateboard and BMX had already laid a solid path to progression. Hershey's "human instinct" observation calls to mind the evolution of Nicaraguan Sign Language, if you're into that sort of thing. Stick with us here. In short, sign language in Nicaragua emerged as the result of a new generation of deaf children taking a bunch unofficial gestures and creating a complex language with its own grammatical structure and rules -- effectively inventing something completely new out pieces of something else. It's slightly more complicated than that, so read more here if you're interested, but that's the gist, and here's how it applies to scootering: A new generation of action sports athletes used the influence of existing disciplines and adapted the fundamentals of progression to create a completely new discipline in record time, complete with much more complex and nuanced parts than had ever existed before. In short, we now have video game tricks before the video game even exists.
The first Razor Scooters came out in 2000, and they were an immediate success. People who took to them realized the potential right away. The first recorded backflip apparently happened the same year they came out, and the sport has been evolving ever since, to the point where there are global competitions in several different freestyle categories. "I couldn’t imagine it getting this far when I was riding my Razor Scooter in 2002," Hershey says, "We have been on the up and up for almost 20 years now. So I would say we are going to keep that pace going and just keep blowing the minds of the mainstream who have never seen what can be done on our toy of choice."
NWG focuses on best tricks over a huge gap, but in addition to air contests, scooter riders are hitting the park, bowls, vert, you name it. And there are contests everywhere. "When the sport of scootering first came to light at the turn of the millennium, there were only a few contests on the West Coast of America," Hershey says. "It wasn’t until 2006 that the East Coast saw their first competition. These competitions, however, were small and usually at skateparks. There was nothing to the scale of NWG." NWG also puts scooter next to FMX, BMX, and skate, stalwart disciplines in a world where new entries are rare. "This is the first event of this scale, on national television, to include scootering," he says. "If the world sees scootering on the same stage as all of these other sports, they won’t even think twice about us being underdogs."
When he says "underdogs," Hershey is referring to the tendency of some armchair action sports commentators to dismiss scooter as a trend or something less than a true action sport. But, he says, scooter riders are up for the challenge of breaking into this world. "We’re the new kids on the block! Gotta take some heat and earn some respect before we are accepted as one of them," he says. "I know a lot of professional BMX riders and skateboarders that have the utmost respect for what these guys do." We know a lot of professional athletes in other disciplines who feel that way too. There's no doubt about it, scooter athletes are going to get some grief for loving something that not everyone is prepared to accept, but that obviously isn't slowing them down, so who cares?
The only question that remains is how big is this going to get? Will scootering be the biggest action sports headline of this generation? We asked Hershey where the most progression is happening in the scooter world to at least give us somewhere to focus while it all unfolds. He says, "Every aspect of scootering is progressing at an exponential rate. Athletes are going faster, airing higher, doing bigger tricks, and grinding bigger rails. Every competition I go to, I am amazed at the level the riding has reached." Fair enough. Can he at least tell us what it's going to take to win Scooter Best Tricks on June 24th in Salt Lake City? "I can tell you it's gonna take guts. These guys need to land two BIG tricks. Not just any tricks. They will need to land never-been-done-before tricks. Judging by the way qualifying went down, the judges are going to have a really tough job. Go big or go home. I’d say if you aren’t going upside-down, you’re in the wrong competition."