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Hart Lines event celebrates skateboarding in Detroit

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Professional skateboarders will fly through the air at Hart Plaza this weekend, performing jumps, kickflips, ollies and other tricks at the Red Bull Hart Lines competition.

The two-day event was conceptualized by pro-athlete Ryan Sheckler. The 25-year-old travels the world competing in events like the one he's bringing to Detroit. Sheckler, along with nearly two dozen pro-skaters from around the world, will compete Friday and Saturday to be the first winner of the Red Bull Hart Lines. The competition airs on NBC in August, and Metro Detroiters can come watch the action for free.

A rendering of the layout of this week’s Red Bull Hart Lanes skateboard competition at Hart Plaza.

"I wanted to bring Red Bull Hart Lines to Detroit because I believe the skate scene in Detroit is huge, and I know that Detroit is just an amazing city," says Sheckler, who has 2.6 million Twitter followers.

"Skateboarders that come from Detroit, they have to deal with so much weather that when they do get to skate and go out, the passion is so real."

Local skateboarder Derrick Dykas helped Sheckler and Red Bull with the logistics of Hart Lines.

"We've got one of the best skateboard scenes in the country here and it's been great seeing it progress over the years," says Dykas, who has been skateboarding at Hart Plaza since the 1990s.

Dykas remembers a local skate shop owner explaining to him when he was younger the reasons professional teams didn't visit the Detroit market for signings or demonstrations.

"Detroit was too far away from the big markets and shops couldn't pay them enough, and now we have pro teams showing up unannounced and seeing the stuff that Detroit has to offer," says Dykas. "The local shops like Refuge, Plus, People and Launch have done a wonderful job over the years of taking care of the scene and selling Detroit to the rest of the skateboard industry. Nothing has changed, but now the rest of the world is seeing that outside the rough pavement, Detroit is a perfect city to ride a skateboard."

Felipe Gustavo performs at the Red Bull Bomb the Line in Berlin, Germany, in 2013. He is one of the competitors in this weekend’s Red Bull show.

Hart Plaza is especially important to the city's skating history, he says.

"It's been skated for decades, and every local can tell you who did what tricks on every obstacle there. For people coming to the city to skate for the first time, it's usually the first spot they go to further explore the city from there," says Dykas, who admits he has gotten ticketed in the past for skating there and has memories of meeting friends there on the anniversaries of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to skate while the rest of world (including law enforcement) was focused on other issues.

For the Hart Lines event, the two courses employ Hart Plaza's existing stairs, railings and ledges, plus added construction.

"We're doing tons of construction, but nothing to hurt the plaza," says Sheckler, who named the event after the Detroit riverfront landmark that was built in 1975 and named in honor of U.S. Sen. Philip Hart. "We're not changing anything. We're adding obstacles to create more of a skate park kind of vibe, and we've been working out the design of the course. It's going to look like a playground."

"Red Bull is pulling out all the stops," Sheckler says, adding that there will be a festival village with concessions and vendors, and jam sessions and demos for local skaters.

The qualifying rounds start at noon Friday. Every skater gets three runs: One run on a technical lane; another on what Sheckler calls the "gnarly lane;" and for the third, the skater can choose to run one of those lanes again.

The top judges' score from each run will be averaged to determine the athlete's overall score and decide if he makes it to Saturday's finals competition. The field of competitors will be cut down by as much as a half.

On Saturday afternoon the finalists compete using the same three-run system and a winner will be named. Some of the top skaters scheduled to compete include Torey Pudwill of California, Felipe Gustavo from Brazil, Riley Hawk (yes, Tony Hawk's son) and veteran skater Chris Cole.

A rendering of the starting area of this week’s Red Bull Hart Lanes skateboard competition at Hart Plaza.

Being the first year of the Hart Lanes competition, Sheckler says all of the skaters will be eager to show off to try to take home the top prizes — the title, $35,000 and a 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T.

"This is the first skateboarding contest of its type. It's a brand new style. We added the aspect of speed," says Sheckler. "You're judged on your time, the technicality of your tricks and basically your style.."

"The event speaks for itself," adds Dykas. "It's the most talented skateboarders in the world skating the most iconic spot we've got to offer. In a time where skateboard contests are stale, Red Bull and Ryan Sheckler blessed us with this unique format and course."

"Even if you don't ride a skateboard, it'll be worth checking out to admire the talent of the contestants and transformation of the plaza."



Red Bull Hart Lanes

Noon Fri.-Sat.

(Competition will air on NBC as part of the Red Bull Signature Series at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 2)

Hart Plaza

Jefferson at

Woodward, Detroit