As It Was: WST Dubai Park 2024

Written by Niall Neeson

Transitions always look smaller from an elevated viewpoint. Even with that said, the WST Dubai Park layout was obviously a behemoth- and when you get down to coping-level you quickly understand just what a concrete wave really looks like. The scale is such that skaters seem smaller against the depth of the pit; with no wall smaller than six feet high, there was a vertical volcano centrepiece (the ‘vertcano’ as dubbed by head judge Renton Millar) which looks like nothing so much as a factory chimney which most of us would not even drop in on.

Park Dubai WST 16x9

Even the inviting jump box lines hide massive split-level rollaway transitions and treacherous waterfall transitions the roll from horizontal to vertical in a way which can spit you to the floor if you don’t land perfectly balanced.Mexico’s Luka Barrena got absolutely bodied into the deep end in the process of finding that out.

Tate Carew gives board to fan crowd WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 45

Thus is an expert's park by design. A totally unique layout from the hand of Slovenian craftsman Davor Miljkovic, and as such it puts everybody on a level pegging because nobody has skated a design like this before. In that sense, the park tests not only the ability to make tricks anywhere but also to adapt runs at short notice.How these interwoven challenges played out was not just a pleasure to watch but also very interesting from a strategic perspective. It’s like somebody creating a new surface for tennis and then bringing all the best clay, hardcourt and lawn tennis players together and forcing them to compete against one another in an arena where nobody holds any advantage. So that was one part of the equation. For two other reasons, WST Dubai Park also seemed likely to throw up unanticipated storylines. Late in the Tour injuries begin to play a role, while others return from the subs bench having nursed themselves back from being hurt earlier on the journey (such as Kieran Woolley who we last saw in Argentina).

Naia Laso hugs Ruby Trew WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 45

Others like Luigi Cini and Jagger Eaton may also have elected not to enter for their own reasons, but in either eventuality the last destination before the cliff-face cut-down to 44 going forward into the two-leg OQS eliminator seemed bristling with opportunity for upsets come semi-finals time alone.

John Magnusson WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 5

Both semifinals and finals are available to watch in their entirety here, so let’s move right along to the finalists in each of two huge Tour-ending blowouts that crowned two new faces in first-place- but more about that, later.

Let’s start with the women, where every single skater made their preferred first run completely.

Jordyn Barrat indy WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 2

Jordyn Barratt

A first and richly-deserved finals for the fabulous Jordyn Barratt who had previously made Semifinals in the UAE back in early 2023. In some regards Jordan connects skateboarding to the roots culture of California with the classically-rounded trick repertoire that means she can adapt to anything quickly. Saran wraps as first trick is a bold, confident move and the frontside grind revert for giggles after the buzzer was something else entirely. In between she was fantastic and if she betrayed any nerves with the griptape and shoes ritual it didn’t show when she dropped in for either final run.

Bryce Wettstein tail grab WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 38

Bryce Wettstein

The skateboarder with the most stickability in the finals, Bryce is always the one who can just keep going beyond the buzzer for the sheer exuberance of being alive. Seemingly unfazed by the sheer size of the Dubai Park layout, she made her second UAE finals of the Tour with more tricks per run than anybody else and looked like she could have gone on forever.

Sakura Yosozumi fakie ollie one foot WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 22

Sakura Yosozumi

Although on the comeback trail from injury (having memorably travelled all the way to Argentina while still hurt just to drop in and take her runs) Sakura Yosozumi looks like she is having the time of her life. Albeit that Sakura hasn’t made the podium since WST Sharjah she has easily made the finals at the last two times of asking, and has done so with a measurement and control well within the limits of her capabilities. With an unmatched flow and minimum fuss, the Tokyo Olympic gold medallist appears to be timing her step-up late enough that nobody else will be able to counter-strategise against her ability. That’s how good she is.

Ruby Trew indy nose bone WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 31

Ruby Trew

Quickly proving to be an Australian secret weapon, Ruby Trew is a dual sport sensation, being as she is a member of the Australian national skateboarding and surfing teams. The adaptability that gives her was very much on display in Dubai, where the custom-built Park offered nobody home advantage. Praised by Minna Stess as having dialled in one of the best course lines and frontside rocking the convex exterior of the vertcano like a veteran, her second finals of the Tour after podium’ing in San Juan demonstrate her ability and intention to contend through the OQS and beyond.

Arisa Trew Mctwist 2 WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 24

Arisa Trew

The other (unrelated) Australian Trew in the final was the frighteningly talented Arisa, whose McTwists on the backside of the volcano were arguably the trick of the contest. Skating since age just seven, Arisa topped open qualification at the WST 2022 World Championships in Sharjah, UAE a year ago and made the finals in San Juan at the next time of asking. Comfortably throwing multiple 360 and 540 variations in every run while she is still only thirteen. Read that sentence back if you want to see what the future looks like.

Mizuho Hasegawa kickflip indy WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 6

Mizuho Hasegawa

One of two holy-moly stories of the women’s contest, it would not be unkind to characterise Mizuho as having entered WST Dubai as a virtual unknown. To be sure, she had entered the 2023 World Championship in Ostia last October but her modest 48th position there gave little clue of what was to come. Although seemingly having arrived complete as a skateboarder the thing which sticks in most people’s minds who witnessed her ascension in Dubai was the sheer poise. Lien airs, although an early trick in skateboarding’s lexicon, are a tell of greatness. They require fearlessness and an element of blind courage. Mizuho has a great one, already. Alongside Naia Laso she threw down big old 360’s over that vast jumpbox, frontside nosegrinds through corners and never fell off. If she is- as we saw in Street subsequently- the next new wave of Japanese skateboarding then everybody should be afraid, including all previous new waves. Phenomenal, in a word.

Kokona Hiraki crail slide WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 2

Kokona Hiraki

Perhaps the greatest story of them all from this division is that of Konona Hiraki. Having made every final of the Tour including a pretty commanding 2023 World Champion performance in Italy late last year, the current OWSR-ranked number 1 has done so on the basis of consistency. Remarkably and against the orthodoxy of perceived wisdom that Park skateboarding would come to be dominated by second-generation surfers who had mastered low centre of gravity rotational tricks, Kokona has done it armed with a deadly, grabless backside kickflip that is a showstopper of its own. It is probably worth reflecting not he greatness of that achievement of itself at this juncture.

Naia Laso kickflip indy WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 35

Naia Laso

And then we have the trajectory story to end them all: Naia Laso. One half of a Spanish WST Dubai Park victory one-two punch alongside Danny Leon which also really speaks to a remarkable coaching job (Julia Benedetti was excellent as well, and also worthy of attention here), Naia is in a moment of becoming the likes of which you rarely see, improving noticeably from stop-to-stop. Having made Semifinals twice early in the Tour, her 5th in Ostia announced the arrival of a talent that was improving in real time, and that came to a conclusion here in Dubai.  Shy though she may be, there is no doubt that we are witnessing greatness already, there- and powered by Yoda socks all the while, as if not rad enough already. To think that Naia comes out of a skateboarding tradition which most people associate with street skating shows just how much cultural depth that skateboarding scene has. A new star born on the World Skateboarding Tour, then: Naia Laso, remember her name.

While from the men's side of things,  WST Dubai Park materialised as follows:

Alex Sorgente backside blunt WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 29

Alex Sorgente

Alex Sorgente’s first finals on the World Skateboarding Tour will be remembered for bringing the house down. As a well-travelled and immersed part of several skateboarding cultures, he had many fans among the crowd and came insanely close to making a blunt to backside tail stall going over the waterfall of the vertcano. Absolute madness.

Hampus Winberg madonna WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 25

Hampus Winberg

One of two Scandinavians to make their first finals on the WST here in Dubai, Swedish ATV Hampus Winberg also competes in Street elsewhere on the World Skateboarding Tour.
Able to execute 720’s and skating since age 6, he kicked off the finals by dropping in first and came up 45 seconds later 86 points up on the deal. That ability to deliver will take him far. Incredible to think that somebody so advanced at this type of skateboarding isn’t a specialist but that really is a sense of the magnitude of his talent.

Tate Carew hard flip indy 2 WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 24

Tate Carew

Having placed in every finals so far Tate Carew seems destined for greatness. Looking very much like the finished article all the way through qualification, the thing that you notice most about his skating is that he lands so perfectly that it makes less sound than everyone else. In a field of that much talent, that is really saying something. Is it, as he suggests, the Vert skating paying off? It is something, that much is for sure. Like Naia Laso, better from stop-to-stop throughout the tour and magnificent here. Definite contender in any circumstances from hereon in.

Pedro Qintas stale fish WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 11

Pedro Quintas

Another amazing sub-story of WST Dubai was the presence of Sao Paulo battler Pedro Quintas as the sole Brazilian representative in the Men’s final. If anybody represents their ability to turn up and deliver then surely it is he, and I think he will be satisfied that things gelled well for him when he needed them to and his runs rolled out to his clear delight. All skateboarding events benefit from the Brazilian dimension and WST Dubai Park was no different!

Kieran Woolley 5 0 WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 16

Kieran Woolley

A welcome return to full charging strength for Australia’s Kieran Woolley who sat out WST Ostia and whom alongside Liam Pace seemed most intent to get reckless. Opening run was wild from the ollie in off the platform onwards and good for 89 points which will have done his confidence no harm whatsoever. Fully back at just the right time, he brings a pulsing energy to proceedings every time he rolls in.

Viktor Solmunde kickflip indy WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 27

Viktor Solmunde

The second breakthrough story of WST Dubai Park was that of 16-year old Danish charger Viktor Solmunde. Having hitherto never progressed beyond quarterfinals, Rune Glifberg’s protege chose his moment to go and skated with wild abandon. Absolutely fantastic while mixing it with the best of a generation, he picked a wonderful time to arrive at the highest table. It will be incredible to see what he can build from here, because a leap of 17 positions on his previous best WST result will give him a sense of what now lies within his grasp. What a time to announce your arrival!

Gavin Bottger mctwist WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 19

Gavin Bottger

The other most consistent skater of the event besides Kokona Hiraki, Gavin Bottger just doesn’t bail. Not only did he do every single thing he wanted to do, but he also timed each of his three runs to perfection. If he can continue to do that, he will continue to be the man to beat because at this level of boundary-pushing skateboarding it becomes attritional and most people slip up sometimes. Really, a phenomenon to behold: he can seemingly do anything he wants on a skateboard.

Danny Leon backside air WST Street WCH OQS Dubai Bryce Kanights 7

Danny Leon
As we mention elsewhere with regards to Danny’s compatriot Naia Laso, both come from a skateboarding tradition where most skaters tend to skate street. Of course, Spain has a rich history of concrete skateparks and the legends who rode them- foremost among them all, Spanish coach Alain Goikoetxea- but it is worth bearing in mind just how solitary a path it can be to go down to pursue something in a way that even most of your friends within the activity don’t. 
To say that Danny has a rich international background in contest skating upon which to draw for experience would fail to do justice to just how well he is skating right now at this point in his career.Blasting method airs, consistency like never before both in practice and qualification and carrying the flag for a European space at skateboarding’s top table. It proved to be all the motivation he needed. Quite the night for the man from Mostoles who discovered skateboarding by accident when the council built a park outside his family’s apartment.