The British Vert Invasion
By the time Paul-Luc Ronchetti and Sam Beckett rolled their way to the podium at X Games Austin 2015, nearly 400 Skateboard medals had been handed out since 1995. To be exact: Ronchetti and Beckett were SKB medals number 396 and 397.
But they were the first Skateboard medals earned by athletes from Great Britain. Ever. Of the hundreds of skaters to compete in X Games Skateboard disciplines, only six have represented GBR.
"Must be something in that Norfolk water," jokes Beckett, referring to the county in which both he and Ronchetti grew up. Despite being 114 miles northeast of London and two hours by car from the nearest full-sized vert ramp, Ronchetti, now 22, and Beckett, 24, found each other through a show-and-tell school assembly and created an alliance that contributed to their later successes.
Living less than 11 miles apart, their parents took turns driving the boys to the rare English parks and ramps. Along the way they met Pete King, a U.K. skate legend and ambassador who now runs a ramp production business -- King Ramps -- that operates all over Europe. King helped pump life into vert in England, providing opportunities for Ronchetti and Beckett to skate.
"We went into the vert scene at a good time," Ronchetti says. "It was the early 2000s, and it was going really well in the U.S. and around the world. It was a good time to come up; there was a lot of inspiration. But we weren't thinking about that -- we were just excited to skate vert."
Skateboard Vert: Looking Back on 2015
A longtime staple at X Games events, Skateboard Vert is one of the few disciplines contested at the first Extreme Games that is still being contested today, over twenty years later. And for X Games Austin 2016, Skateboard Vert is back. But before that happens, XGames.com is looking back at last years Skateboard Vert event, in which vert legend and X Games veteran Pierre-Luc Gagnon returned to the top of the podium.
When Ronchetti's father was hired as the general manager of Legoland in Carlsbad, California, in 2008, the boys were forced to split up. While Beckett remained in the U.K., Ronchetti had access to multiple nearby vert ramps and regularly sessioned with some of the world's best skaters. Still, their careers stayed on a similar trajectory. They both competed in X Games Vert Ams in 2008, made their X Games debuts in 2011 and earned their first medals in 2015. Beckett added a second bronze medal in 2015 in Vert Best Trick.
Besides the X Games success, both Brits have won the prestigious Vert Attack in Malmo, Sweden. Paul-Luc took the title in 2014 (Sam was fourth), and Sam won in 2015 (Paul-Luc was third).
Today, Beckett travels back and forth between Great Britain and the United States, spending more than half of the year in Vista, California, just east of Ronchetti's home in Carlsbad. Beckett stays in a former goat barn on fellow XG skater Alex Perelson's property. Beckett and Ronchetti still skate together; there is a friendly competitiveness about their practices. They feed off each other -- and off the vibrant vert landscape in San Diego County. "We needed other people too," Ronchetti says.