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Vert gets ramped up as big payday awaits

July 10, 2009|Pete Thomas

According to the "Joe Maloof Scientific Survey," 22 of 33 people interviewed recently at various skate parks had heard of the Maloof Money Cup.

"So I thought that was really good," said Maloof, who owns, with brother Gavin, the Sacramento Kings of the NBA and the Palms hotel in Las Vegas.

For folks who do not roll around in skate parks, the Maloof Money Cup is a three-day, five-event skateboarding competition that is the world's richest, with a purse of more than $450,000.

The event debuted last year amid rave reviews and, beginning with today's practice and preliminary rounds, it will again help kick off the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa. Finals in street and vert competitions are Sunday.

With this in mind, here's another pertinent survey query: How many people have heard of the mini-mega-ramp?

The stylish-looking contraption, which is a shrunken version of the mega-ramp used for the X Games' big-air competitions, will be a marquee attraction at this year's Maloof Money Cup.

Some athletes predict the new ramp will revolutionize the increasingly stagnant sport of vert skating.

Whereas traditional vert ramps are essentially U-shaped walls, the mini-mega-ramp boasts a 35-foot roll-in ramp, a 25-foot jump with an arced rail spanning the gap, and a 15-foot quarterpipe wall. At the Maloof Money Cup it will connect with a more traditional ramp and require a combination of skills.

"Everything in it is a just a statement of what we can do -- and we can always do more," said Bob Burnquist, X Games mega-ramp gold medalist and primary designer of the mini-mega-ramp.

Pierre-Luc Gagnon, who collected $75,000 for winning last year's vert competition, acknowledged that traditional competitions "can get kind of boring."

Gagnon explained: "Guys are doing the same runs, just in different cities, and the same guys always win. So by changing the design we've opened a new bag of tricks and different guys will be good at that too."

To be sure, vert skating needs a progressive infusion. Fans may recall the X Games fiasco last year, when the vert competition was canceled then reinstated because of an athlete rebellion.

Unfortunately for athletes, however, the mini-mega-ramp is a costly enterprise and these are difficult economic times.

The X Games, which begin July 28, will stick with a traditional ramp, and it remains to be seen whether the Dew Tour -- now in progress -- will incorporate a mini-mega-ramp next summer.

The skateboarders have praised the free-spending Maloofs, who hired California Skateparks to build the best street and vert courses and gave creative control to the athletes.

The street course, designed largely by Geoff Rowley and Joe Ciaglia, will have replicas of iconic obstacles, including the up-down corner ledge on Sunset Boulevard and the six-stair hubba-and-rails at UC Irvine.

"It's an awesome course," said Paul Rodriguez, who prevailed on a different course last year and won $100,000 -- the largest first-place payout in the sport's history.

Said Joe Maloof, who plunged into skateboarding after witnessing the growth of skate parks and the liveliness within: "What we do good today, we've got to do better tomorrow."

Of the sport's allure he added: "You don't have to be 6-6 and weigh 250 pounds to make a living in skateboarding. Now all kids have an opportunity to make a living through skateboarding, and that's what's giving me the most pleasure."

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pete.thomas@latimes.com

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Maloof Money Cup

When: Today through Sunday.

Where: Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa.

Schedule: Practice and prelims today and Saturday; finals Sunday beginning with women's street final at 1:30 p.m.

Defending champions: Paul Rodriguez (men's street); Pierre-Luc Gagnon (men's vert), and Lacey Baker (women's street).

Tickets: Available via Ticketmaster.com.

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