Battle at the Berrics Yoon Sul

The beauty of a game like S.K.A.T.E. -- skateboard's version of basketball's H.O.R.S.E. -- lies in its simplicity.

The game requires the most basic act of skateboarding: skating on flat ground, without obstacles or "terrain." Every skater has done a trick on flat ground. Next to the act of pushing, doing a flip trick on a bare patch of concrete is the great equalizer. You don’t need anything for it. It's its own thing.

However, when you add decades of skateboarding progression and specialization to it, this simple game gets considerably more complex.

Basic tricks -- kickflips, heelflips, 180 ollies, shove its -- can be performed regular, switch, fakie or nollie, which means that every basic trick can be done four ways. Tricks can be combined, and those combinations can also be done switch, fakie, or nollie. Then factor in the myriad of personal styles and abilities and what you’ve got is, more or less, infinite possibility -- or what you'd find at Battle at the Berrics.

Battle at the Berrics is the most prestigious game of S.K.A.T.E. in the world. It's set inside the Berrics, a semi-private skatepark hidden in Los Angeles’ industrial wasteland. Founded by pro skaters Eric Koston and Steve Berra, the Berrics has become one of the de facto proving grounds for the gnarly/technical street-skating set.

Battle at the Berrics, an annual tournament going five years strong, is invitation-only and limited to street skating’s one-percenters. It’s round-robin elimination, with celebrity referees, arbitrary special rules, marquee sponsors and a not-insubstantial prize purse.

Berrics matches, almost without exception, guarantee very impressive -- sometimes jaw-dropping -- skateboarding. It could be considered the World Series of skating, if the World Series was only a bunch of dudes hitting homeruns.

But there is variation in identity. When considering a truly decent game of S.K.A.T.E. among pros, you have basically two kinds of skaters (neverminding the exceptions and overlaps).

There are the technical skaters -- such as Paul Rodriguez, PJ Ladd and Corey Kennedy -- whose video parts demand slow-motion replays. Then there are the amazing skaters who can step into the ring with the flip trick wizards but aren’t known primarily by the “tech” appellative; guys who are more often referred to in terms of style, speed, or gnar, such as Chris Cole and Dennis Busenitz (who gave us probably the greatest game of S.K.A.T.E. ever played, in the semi finals of Battle at the Berrics 2).

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We’re now nearing the mid-point of the quarterfinals of Battle at the Berrics V. It’s also called Civil War because there are two teams, selected by Berra and Koston.

While the first three incarnations of Battle at the Berrics were pretty standard, last year’s tournament was presented as U.S. vs. Them, with a team of American skaters taking on the rest of the world. A Canadian, Morgan Smith, an undeniable dark horse (in name if not in ability) came out on top. It’s skating, this happens.

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