2021 X Games Will Take San Diego for a Ride in July

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - AUGUST 02: Taka Higashino of Japan competes in Moto X Freestyle at the X Games Minneapolis 2019 at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 02, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The X Games are going back to their roots. Like, all the way back to backyards, even, dude.

After taking a year off because of the coronavirus pandemic, the X Games will be staged in three Southern California locations July 14-18. Fans won’t be allowed in.

The Slayground, a private compound owned by seven-time X Games medalist Axell Hodges in Ramona, northeast of San Diego, will host Moto X Best Trick, Best Whip, Freestyle, QuarterPipe High Air and a new 110s racing discipline.

The Dreamyard, which takes up all of Pat Casey’s backyard in Riverside, will host BMX Park, Dave Mirra’s Park Best Trick and BMX Dirt competitions.

BMX Street and Skateboard Street, Park, Vert, Vert Best Trick and Street Best Trick competitions will be held at the CA Training Facility, located in an industrial park in Vista in northern San Diego County. The CATF is the first and only high-performance training center developed for skateboarding and has full-sized concrete street and park courses.

Among the invited athletes are Sky Brown, Paul Rodriguez, Leticia Bufoni, Dennis Enarson and Jackson Strong.

Team USA’s first olympic skateboarding team was introduced Monday in Los Angeles.

Hodges, 24, said it’s “pretty wild” that the X Games came to him.

He remembers being a child and watching Travis Pastrana doing a double backflip “and all the crazy stuff he did. It was so fun to watch being a little kid.”

And now he’ll host the X Games.

“I did not see this one coming,” he said.

Hodges lives in Escondido and his Slayground takes up 15 acres of his 40-acre property in the hills outside of Ramona. He’s also sponsored by Monster.

“I’ve been saving up so I can go ride my dirt bike every day where I want to,” he said.

Hodges bought the property a year ago, put in a well and started building jumps. It’s a full compound including steep turns, quarter-pipes, kicker ramps, wallrides, manual pads and massive dirt jumps.

After X Games, he’ll put in a warehouse that will include a shop and an apartment. Eventually he’d like to build a house there and then the Slayground will truly be in his backyard.

The third and latest installment of Hodges’ Slayground video part series was filmed entirely at the compound.

“Everyone’s going to be fired up. We haven’t had an event in a while so it’s a good place to kick it off again,” Hodges said.

Bryce Wettstein,15, of Encinitas, is already on the Team USA shortlist for a shot at history. She has her eye on the Tokyo Games. NBC 7's Steven Luke speaks to the teen about how she's working toward her goal; much of her practicing happens in her very own backyard skatepark.

Casey, a two-time X Games medalist, has been building his course for a few years, with help from sponsor Monster Energy, and just filmed his fourth Monster video there.

“During the quarantine and all this coronavirus stuff, X Games didn’t really have anywhere to go and since I have the facility already they hit me up and saw if I was interested to keep X Games going, and yeah, I was definitely interested,” Casey said by phone.

“That’s insane. Like that was never even a thought to begin with but it’s amazing,” the 27-year-old Casey said.

He said organizers will revamp and upgrade his course to level the playing field a bit, so Casey won’t have a home-course advantage.

Casey, 27, said he bought his house on an acre of land when he was 18, with competition earnings and sponsorship money.

“I wanted to buy my own house instead of just spending money on cars or whatever, and I wanted to build the backyard,” he said.

He never could have imagined the X Games would use his backyard or Hodges’ compound.

“I just kind of built my course for myself and how I think it would be best,” Casey said. “It kind of evolved over the years. Having a backyard facility, I don’t know why other riders don’t do it all the time as well, but us doing that has kind of set a platform for this to be possible and the X Games come to us and continue. It’s really cool.”

ESPN knew producing a full-scale X Games would be a challenge, said Tim Reed, vice president of programming and acquisitions. But after pulling off X Games Aspen with no fans, it knew there were “some viable, impactful and fun alternatives” in the permanent facilities created by athletes, he said.

“These facilities are world class, and the athletes have had more training than they usually would for an X Games event, so I fully expect to see amazing performances and tricks that have never been done,” Reed said.

It's turning into a banner year for extreme sports in San Diego. Earlier this month, SIX out of 12 athletes named to the premier US Olympic skateboarding team turned out to have deep San Diego connections.

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