Going Big (Business)

If you’ve spent any time around a video game console, ESPN2 or someone under the age of 25, you’re probably aware that street skateboarding never went away. In fact, it became a juggernaut. But despite the various touring demonstrations and the X Games, the sport never had a proper competitive series, until Rob Dyrdek came along.

Dyrdek—who went pro at 16, founded a skateboarding-related business empire and has been the focus of two MTV reality shows—created Street League Skateboarding, a multi-city, professional skate competition whose final will take place on Sept. 25 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. “It’s a massive, massive industry. A huge mainstream sport,” Dyrdek says. “It’s just not been presented in a modern, organized fashion that makes sense.”

Dyrdek has fused several elements of skateboarding and traditional sports to create Street League, from bringing skateboarding indoors by constructing realistic street environments to developing a multi-category judging points system. He’s also rounded up an all-star roster of current talent—including P.J. Ladd, Ryan Sheckler and Chris Cole—who have all signed exclusive contracts.

And then there’s the money: With a total purse of $1.2 million at stake, the largest in the sport’s history, it’s nearly double the prize money of every other skate competition combined.

Dyrdek has no doubts that the league will become his sport’s equivalent of the NBA or MLB, and with an ESPN broadcast deal already inked, he might be right. Between Dyrdek’s league and Tony Hawk’s Stand Up for Skateparks event at the Wynn this November (for its second year), what is it about skateboarding and Vegas all of a sudden?

“Out of nowhere, in the span of one year, it’s become a skateboard city,” Dyrdek says. “It’s pretty funny when you think about it.”