Part circus, part exhibition, part sporting event.
The AST Dew Tour rolls into Salt Lake City today for the Toyota Challenge the fourth stop on the action sport series calendar. It brings superstars in the industry like Ryan Sheckler, Bob Burnquist, Jamie Bestwick and even a couple Olympic medalists.
The event, which may be viewed by some as more circus than sport, is competitive nonetheless and has a massive audience. With a live NBC television time slot and interactive expo surrounding the competitions, Dew Tour organizers expect close to 65,000 people to watch the events live during the four-day visit.
Weather could change that with several events being held outdoors, but Salt Lake City has earned a spot as a favorite destination for the Dew Tour because of the crowds.
"I think we all love coming to Salt Lake," BMX Dirt star Luke Parslow said. "I got here a couple of days early for a change and I'm having a blast just riding around and checking things out."
Parslow and many of the athletes competing against each other embrace the "alternative" image of the sports. They often have lots of tattoos, body piercings and a devil-may-care attitude. But when it comes time to compete, the attitude changes to a much more serious tone.
After all, many of the moves and tricks they perform can result in life-altering if not life-ending consequences if the slightest thing goes wrong.
"This is serious business," Parslow, a 23-year-old native of Australia, said. "One of my best mates is paralyzed now. He has a wife and family. When I go out there, sometimes that's all I can think about. It's not easy to do this, and once you get a little older, you really start thinking about what you're doing and putting a little more style in without all the same risks."
That mate, Stephen Murray, may never walk again after suffering spinal injuries during a Dew Tour stop a year ago.
Accidents as catastrophic as Murray's are fairly rare but do happen on occasion. And while each athlete is chasing points and wants to win, they consider each other family.
This weekend's competition is the fourth stop on the five-city tour. It represents a chance for athletes to climb the overall standings, and the competition while sometimes looking casual and relaxed is fierce.
Skateboard superstars Ryan Sheckler and Bob Burnquist are considered among the best in the world at their sports. But one or two missed tricks is all it takes to allow another athlete to jump ahead in the points. Sheckler has two wins so far on the tour but sits in second place overall behind Paul Rodriguez after a seventh-place showing in Cleveland.
Burnquist, likewise, sits second behind Bucky Lasek, but the veteran was a winner last month in Portland and may be back at the top of his game after being able to focus on the Dew Tour following the X-Games during the summer.
Action begins today with preliminary rounds for freestyle motocross, skateboard and BMX events. It all wraps up Sunday afternoon inside EnergySolutions Arena with the Skate Vert and BMX Park finals.