WST Dubai Street 2024: Finals Report

Written by Niall Neeson

WST Dubai Street 2024 has come to a somewhat truncated conclusion after an uncharacteristic 24-hour storm front rolled over the UAE on what would have been Semifinals day- and which then vanished again overnight as quickly as it appeared. Thankfully- or with foresight borne of experience in such matters- the scheduling allowed for such contingencies, and the morning before the Finals allowed ample time for the Semifinals to go down, albeit twenty-four hours later than originally anticipated. In some respects, the downtime may have proved a blessing to the skateboarders involved since many of them have hectic skateboarding schedules with multiple overlapping commitments and responsibilities to sponsors as evidenced by the increasing use of muscle massaging equipment and physiotherapy staff throughout the Tour. So by Sunday morning, everyone on the Tour was rested and ready to rip; eschewing the convention of Men’s final closing out proceedings as has been the case thus far on the World Skateboarding Tour, this time around the Women’s contest was to be the event crescendo.

Kairi Netsuke back noseblunt 3 WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Anthony Acosta 20

With six Japanese men having made it to the Semifinal stage it was statistically possible but in reality highly unlikely that they wouldn’t make their presence felt in the Finals here, given that among their number were the Tokyo Olympic gold medallist and current World Champion. Sora Shirai made it through to the finals in first, but Yuto Horigome didn’t do enough to unseat Ryan Decenzo for 8th place and had to watch compatriots Kairi Netsuke, Yukito Aoki and Ginwoo Onodera progress without him. Second only to Japan in terms of numbers making it through the Semifinals- and this may surprise you- came not Brazil (who had only one semifinalist and no representation in the male finals) nor the USA (Jake Ilardi, same story) but instead Canada, who saw veterans Ryan Decenzo and Matt Berger make the last eight. Going into the finals, Sora Shirai looked like the man to beat; by the end of the Run section, Gustavo Ribeiro looked almost home and dry when Sora fell off a blunt flip out which was only a set-up trick that he could have left out. And yet, and yet. Almost un-noticed creeping up the leaderboard came Kairi Netsuke who had banked a solid opening run and then hit a bad patch before pulling a Nollie Inward Heelflip to Frontside Boardslide just when he needed some magic. The Portuguese star was magnificent throughout but missed out on the top spot by the tiniest of margins as a result of Kairi Netsuke’s heelflip heroics.

Sora Shirai ended the event with the  trick of the contest- a Caballerial sugarcane- which garnered the highest score of the Tour but even then was not enough to trouble to the top two who were separated by a fraction of a point. An intense, see-sawing conclusion to the Men’s Tour, then.

Mens Podium all winners WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Anthony Acosta 9

While it may have been theoretically possible to have no Japanese skaters in the Men’s final, it was an impossibility in the Women’s division, given that an eye-watering nine of sixteen possible places by Semifinal stage belonged to skateboarders hailing from the land of the Rising Sun. Six of those would progress including 11-year-old Tour newcomer Ibuki Matsumoto who made two full runs in the semi’s just as she did in the quarterfinals before that. So, another reason to be terrified if you are competing against the Japanese tide. Joining Ibuki in her first final was Nanaka Fujisawa, at 22 years old the eldest competitor in the finals by half a decade, insane though that may well sound.

Liz Akama 180 nose grind WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Anthony Acosta 13

Lying outside the cut for the Japanese women were World Champion Yumeka Oda for only the second time on the tour, and Olympic gold medallist and OWSR top ranker Momiji Nishiya who had hitherto never missed out on a final. Flying the flag for the rest of the entire planet in the women’s finals were Brazil’s Rayssa Leal and Australian prodigy Chloe Covell who entered the finals in second and first respectively, with the youngster from New South Wales setting a new Tour record by scoring above 90 in both Semifinal runs and then improving upon that in her second Finals run which left her in pole position going into Best Trick. Uncharacteristically, however, Chloe only landed two of her five chances there- and that left the door open for her to be overtaken for first. Lying in 3rd at that juncture in the Women’s Finals was 15-year-old Liz Akama who despite winning  at WST Rome 2023 last summer hadn’t graced a podium since but struck hard with 4 out of 5 Best Tricks to skip up the leaderboard for her second WST victory. Joining them on the podium was 14 year old Coco Yoshizawa from Kanagawa in Japan who despite having made it to the finals of the WST on 4 occasions had previously only made it to 4th place in Lausanne. A terrific result for her and certain to do her chances of progressing toward Paris no harm whatsoever.

Womens podium all winners WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Anthony Acosta 10

The women’s contest provided a superb climax for a killer fortnight of ripping on the boardwalk of the Dubai Marina;  we would once again like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the hospitality extended to us all by our hosts Arada.