Curren Caples goes with the flow

Men's Skateboard Park at X Games Austin 2015 came down to the wire when Curren Caples and Pedro Barros battled it out to the end, with Caples ultimately taking home his third gold medal.

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Curren Caples appears to have figured out X Games Skateboard Park. He'll never admit it. He might not even know it. But two gold and a silver from the last four Park events prove it. Next up? Parlaying his immense talent into a Street podium.

X Games Skateboard Park contests showcase all-around skills, nodding to both the sport's roots in empty swimming pools and the current landscape of modern concrete skateparks. High speed carves, grinds and tech lip tricks, airs and rotations all come into play. It helps to have some vert and street skills, and a surfing background provides a stylish flow. Caples has all that and more, making everything look effortless.

The defending X Games Park champ doesn't think about any of that. He simply gets caught up in the moment. "Everything gets going, everybody's skating well, and the energy and adrenaline out there get so crazy you can barely stand it," Caples says. "You're stoked if you finish a run with your feet on the board. The rest shakes out how it shakes out."

Here and now with Curren Caples

Fans literally have watched Caples grow up in skateboarding and at X Games. He was 4 when his dad -- former pro surfer Evan Caples -- bought him his first skateboard. He was six when he began competing, the same year his parents opened Momentum Boardshop in Port Hueneme, California, and not much older when he began attracting media coverage and his first sponsors.

Curren was a 14-year-old amateur just out of middle school when he debuted at X Games in 2010. He was 4'10, weighed a mere 75 pounds and was the first X Games competitor born after the X Games began in 1995. He finished an impressive fourth in Skateboard Park that year. He didn't officially turn pro, for Flip Skateboards, until 2013, the same year he won Park at X Games Munich and -- 17 years old at the time -- used the prize money to trade up for a new car.

Now 20, a foot taller and weighing nearly twice as much as he did as a rookie, he enters Austin 2016 as a favorite. Cool under pressure, Caples won 2015 gold with his final run, just as he did at Munich 2013. In Austin, he used huge tricks like a frontside kickflip, hip-to-hip backside air transfer and an innovative 5-0 grind transfer from the spine back into the bowl to rip the top spot from 2014 champ Pedro Barros. The Brazilian had a chance to answer with the last run of the comp, but he fell late in his pass and settled for silver.

Though the Austin 2016 Park field is stacked with talent, the spotlight again will be on Caples and Barros. Pedro, 21, owns five gold and three silver medals in his eight Park appearances, an incredible start to an X Games career. The contrasts between the two are large: Barros is a cannonball, careening around the course faster and more aggressively than Caples while boosting higher, grinding harder and throwing 540s on vert walls. Caples exudes casual surfer calm, content to tweak out stylish tuck-knee airs and adding unique street-inspired tricks, all while skating with an appealing flow.

The hard-charging Barros believes he'll land anything he tries. Caples takes nothing for granted. "I never go in with a lot of confidence," Caples says. "Even last year, I thought Pedro had me on that last run before his fall."

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"I never go in with a lot of confidence," says Curren Caples.

Caples says that at Austin 2016 he'll be just as focused on getting a Skateboard Street medal as defending his Park title. In February, he made his first X Games Street Final at Oslo, finishing fifth behind classic street killers Nyjah Huston, Shane O'neill, Luan Oliveira and Alec Majerus.

While Park comes more naturally to him, Caples says he's been working more on street tricks at his private skatepark facility in Oxnard, California, and on recent filming missions.

"In Oslo, my goal was to make the Final, and to be honest I surprised myself," he says. "In Austin, I'd love to get on that Street podium. That's going to be a tough step to climb, but that's the next step."

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