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MALOOF MONEY CUP

Alex Perelson spins past the competition at Maloof Money Cup

He becomes only the fourth person to land a 900 in a major competition and wins the men's vert skateboarding title.

July 13, 2009|Pete Thomas

Meet Alex Perelson, son of a San Diego heart surgeon and new star of a vert-skateboarding universe long dominated by aging veterans.

He's 18, humble and polite, not powerfully built, and on a sweltering Sunday afternoon at the Maloof Money Cup in Costa Mesa, he became only the fourth person ever to land a 900-degree rotation at a major competition.

The 900, which is 2 1/2 spins above a vertical wall with skateboard underfoot, was one of many tricks Perelson stuck while en route to an unlikely triumph over established superstars Pierre Luc-Gagnon (second) and Bob Burnquist (third).

Perelson joins Brazil's Sandro Dias, Italy's Giorgio Zattoni and iconic Tony Hawk as the only people to have nailed a 900 at a major competition.

Said Perelson: "I wouldn't put myself up there with those guys. They're so much better than me at skating. I'm just a young guy."

Burnquist is a believer

Said Burnquist, 32, of Perelson: "I just love his humility. He's got no attitude. He goes out there and does a 900, first try for the first time. It's just beautiful. It just feels like vert skating is in great hands now. There's not so much pressure on our backs anymore."

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Mini-mega, maxi-debut

Perelson's victory was worth $75,000, which is not quite the $100,000 payday earned by San Marcos' Chris Cole during Sunday's marquee street competition.

Street skateboarding is more popular because virtually every kid with a skateboard is a street skater, while vert skateboarding is reinventing itself.

That involves the mini-mega-ramp, which features a 35-foot roll-in ramp leading to a 25-foot gap with a flat-rail, leading to a traditional U-shaped vert ramp.

Athletes competed in segments, utilizing the entire apparatus, and finished with a 25-minute jam session, during which Perelson hit the 900.

He said the jam format, versus timed routines featured at other competitions, helped him gather the courage to attempt the trick.

"It was so weird just because of the crazy situation it was in," he said. "But it just feels like I was either trying to kill myself or make it, so I made it."

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Cole rips for the fans

Asked how he'd spend the $100,000 (the highest first-place award given to a skateboarder) Cole said: "I'll save it and pay taxes. I'm a family guy. I have a wife and a son, so I don't really do any big purchases."

Some will be spent on ice packs and ibuprofen. Cole and fellow competitors spent most of a hot afternoon beating themselves against the concrete after missed landings.

Cole, however, was most consistent on the sections of the course featuring replicas of street obstacles, including stair-rails, ramps, ledges and a green picnic table.

He said it was all for the fans: "I know that the people that come to watch this want to see good skateboarding and I'm basically just trying to rip for them -- and that's what's in my head the whole time."

Tommy Sandoval finished second and Nyjah Huston, 14, was third.

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That's life

Pro skateboarders owe the long-running X Games a lot. But their best friends these days are the Maloofs, Joe and Gavin, who have built the best courses imaginable.

The Maloofs, meanwhile, claim they're not in this simply for the money. The owners of the NBA's Sacramento Kings say they've become true fans of skateboarding and notice similarities between both sports' athletes.

"Skateboarding is exactly like the NBA," Joe Maloof asserts. "Pros for the most part are 19 to 34 and they're great athletes. That's what I've learned the last couple of years: what fantastic athletes these guys are.

"It's like life. They keep getting knocked down and they get right back up."

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And finally

Leticia Bufoni of Brazil won the women's street competition and pocketed $25,000. . . . Adam Dyet of Salt Lake City won the street-skateboarding best-trick contest, worth $10,000.

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pete.thomas@latimes.com

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