SAN DIEGO (AP) — Sometime Saturday evening, a professional skateboarder will throw down some big tricks at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, watch his rivals fall off one by one and walk away with $150,000.
If it's Nyjah Huston, Sean Malto or Shane O'Neill, they already know how to handle a check that big. If it's someone new, they'll reap the largess of Street League Skateboarding.
Street League Skateboarding, the brainchild of Rob Dyrdek, the skateboarder-MTV star-entrepreneur, begins its third season in Kansas City with qualifying on Friday and the semifinals and finals on Saturday. By the time of the $200,000, winner-take-all final in Newark, N.J., on Aug. 26, Street League will have paid $1.6 million in prize money in four contests.
"We're going to continue our legacy of making these young men very wealthy, very quickly," Dyrdek said in a phone interview.
Street League has expanded the field of competitors to 24, changed the format to allow skaters to fall twice and still have a chance to win, and tightened it so the final fits into a 90-minute window for a live broadcast on ESPN2.
All that "is making this field even more insane," Dyrdek said. "All these guys know how high the stakes are. They're training on a higher level. It's the most focused I've ever seen these guys for a contest in history."
The big reason, of course, is the hefty money the winner gets. The math is pretty simple.
"Nyjah has won four, Sean Malto two and Shane O'Neill one. They virtually exploded their income the moment they won. Each went on to sign massive deals," Dyrdek said, mentioning contracts with Nike, Gatorade, Monster and DC shoes. "Guys that win this go on to be millionaires. The other veteran pros understand the stakes of this. That's why they're focused and ready to try harder than ever. We're making millionaires here."
Besides Huston, O'Neill and Malto — who's from Kansas City — the field includes other top pros such as Chris Cole, Paul Rodriguez, Ryan Sheckler, Chaz Ortiz, and Torey Pudwill.
Cole has won his share of big pursues, including three straight $100,000 paydays in the Maloof Money Cup, which won't have a stop in the United States this year. Ishod Wair of Hamilton, N.J., who won the Maloof Money Cup Skateboarding World Championships in South Africa last fall and $100,000, made the Street League field as a qualifier.
Last year, Huston, now 17, was trying for a season sweep and to become the first pro skateboarder to surpass $1 million in career contest earnings before he was upset in the final by Malto, whose $200,000 payday was the biggest in skateboarding history.
Eight skaters will advance to Saturday's finals and two will be eliminated before the Big Section. Each skater will get six tries, with the top four counting.
"We're giving the guys in the Big Section a chance to fall in two tricks, so that we're sure it's won by the hardest trick instead of the most tricks," Dyrdek said. "For us it's more exciting to watch super-hard tricks than a guy doing some really hard tricks consistently."
Dyrdek said Street League has survived in the bad economy by having a smart business model, running a lean operation and attracting top sponsors such as DC and