When Alec Majerus competes, his hometown supporters come along for the ride
On Thursday afternoon, when Motocross “braps” first echoed off the glacial glass panes of U.S. Bank Stadium, they even drowned out the chaotic din of a men’s street skateboarding practice session, where Alec Majerus, Rochester native and pro-skateboarder, was testing the limits of a recently-recovered foot injury and nailing wallie crooked grinds on repeat. As he skated, other professionals flew around him in a flurry of excellence, stomped tricks and camera shutter-snaps.
Immediately after practice, he and a little crew of close friends were shepherded onto a special access platform where they could watch the moto-x athletes huck themselves several stories into the air, and Majerus seemed to relax a bit.
That same dynamic played out during Sunday’s finals, too. After every run, Majerus ducked off the course and into the stands, where a big block of seats sat reserved for his friends and family, pre-loaded with massive cut-outs of his face. He’d hunker down with some of his old skate-rat buddies and wait until it was time for the next run.
Last year, that same approach garnered him a second-place finish, which Majerus is quick to credit to the energy of his supporters (though he’s won plenty of contests off of Minnesotan soil).
And though this year’s X-Games write-ups won’t feature hometown hero Majerus hiking up a podium (Majerus finished seventh in a field of eight after not putting together a full run), no one seemed to mind. The pride emanating from the stands toward Majerus is unconditional at this point. It’s a dynamic the skater is keen to maintain.
“I sometimes feel like your intention behind things is almost more important than the thing itself,” said Majerus. “If you give it your all and you’re really going that extra mile, the universe gives it back.”
That philosophy seems to apply doubly to the relationships Majerus values. As he made his way through the mammoth production swirl of ESPN’s X-Games weekend, he kept an entourage of roughly 20 of his closest friends at his side. For one weekend, people who maneuver through Rochester as waiters, baristas or sub delivery men found themselves credentialed VIPs at parties, concerts and everywhere else.
Ironically, this is a crew of friends more used to having their images on security monitors than jumbotrons. Especially street skateboarders, who are more vandals than athletes as far as most property owners and laws are concerned.
“It is weird having like a pass or whatever to get passed," said Jace Torkelson. "Usually we’re getting kicked out of places, not welcomed in. It’s a little different."
“Back at Top Shop days when we’d be at Third Lair, there’d be like fifteen of us, thirteen, fourteen years old, crammed into a hotel room, dude. It was crazy being here. It was literally all of us in a tiny room, and now there’s like suites and VIP tickets. It’s a gnarly come-up,” said Jessie Wong, another longtime friend. “At the end of the night he’s there in the hotel room with us, chilling, getting us where we need to be, making sure we’re taken care of."
Everything comes with a cost, though, and on Sunday afternoon before the finals began, Majerus was paying it. He posed for the portrait accompanying this article and said he was feeling nervous; a feeling that plagues him at nearly every competition. He’s uncannily good at contests, but ranks them among the very few stressful parts of his job.
“I try and make it fun, but usually it’s nerve-wracking,” said Majerus.
“I feel like it just hurts your soul to be compared to other people,” added his friend Dakota Edward VanDemmeltraadt.
“When you do bad in a contest it’s just so much self judgement. It just eats you away, and I don’t like that because I don’t think you should ever feel that, because some days you don’t skate good,” said Majerus.
But to the skate-moms, little kids who’ve met him at the yearly Salute to the 4th contest, and others who’ve known him throughout his life, he’d already done enough by making it to skateboarding’s biggest stage. Even the old-heads of Rochester’s skate scene, who tend to judge with the crustiest edge of anyone, approved of Majerus’s performance.
“He’s getting more comfortable after surgery man, he’s just getting back in the groove," said Collin Gaul, founder of Keep Pushing Forward. "They kinda threw him into to it."
“He performed really well with coming off an injury on a broken foot," said Phirum Pheak, another of Rochester’s older guard of skaters, who sat just behind former Skater of the Year Ishod Wair to cheer on his friend. "Once he’s 100 percent, I expect different results next year."
Internationally televised wallie crooks, VIP parties and front-row passes are one thing, but the 2018 Minneapolis X-Games will live on in this crew’s memory for what happened between the events.
“The highlight outside of the contest? Probably skating back and forth. Yeah, the journey back from to the hotel to the venue here,” said Torkelson.
Bryan Lund is a freelance writer from Rochester. Fresh off a two-year stint on the editorial board at the Post-Bulletin, he covers politics, art and gnarly feats of grace. Follow him on Twitter.