Kevin Peraza hops off the side of the street park during practice. | Credit: Hannah Weaver

Ventura’s seagulls have competition for the highest fliers with the X Games in town. The world’s best skateboarders, bikers, and motocross riders will take over the Ventura County Festival Grounds for the X Games California finals from Friday through Sunday, soaring over the halfpipes and dirt jumps on their way to the podium.

Host of the X Games, Selema Masekela, spoke to leading athletes from all three sports in a media panel before they went back out to the courses to get in their final hours of practice.

Gui Khury carries his board after a practice session in the halfpipe. | Credit: Hannah Weaver

Jagger Eaton and Gui Khury represented skateboarding as two of the most accomplished young athletes in the sport, at 22 and 14 years old, respectively. In 2012, Eaton became the youngest ever X Games competitor at 11 years old. He also won the first-ever bronze medal in Men’s Street Skateboarding at the 2020 Olympics — no big deal. In 2019, Khury broke Eaton’s youngest competitor record at age 10 and later also became the youngest X Games gold medalist.

Representing the older side of the age spectrum were 37-year-old motocross rider Josh Sheehan and 28-year-old BMX rider Kevin Peraza. Peraza comes from a BMX family and has medaled at all four X Games he’s attended, so expect nothing less this time around. Sheehan is perhaps best-known for landing what Nitro Circus called the “biggest trick in actions sports history” — a world-first motorcycle triple backflip.

Motocross is one of the most dangerous action sports out there, with an engine to shoot riders even higher into the air to perform daredevil tricks. As Masekala said, “The stakes each month … within the sport get higher and higher.”

As a veteran of the sport, Sheehan has seen it develop throughout the years as athletes work to one-up each other with the most death-defying tricks possible. Having been a part of that development, he now knows what to expect.

“The progression has been it’s felt like a steep, steep climb … [but having] the experience pays off,” he said.

On top of the intra-sport competition, there’s also the inter-sport competition between skateboarding, BMX, and motocross. 

“Skateboarding is, to me, the fastest, most progressive sport across the whole board,” Eaton said.

For Peraza, competing at the top level in BMX requires dedication and sacrifice.

“You really are not only taxing your body with injuries. It’s just years and years of practice,” he said. “But to me, the passion is everything, and the fact that I’m even an invited athlete again at the X Games already feels like winning,” Peraza said.

After the press conference, Peraza took his bike out to the street park to keep practicing. Before dropping in on wheels, he ran down into the concrete bowl to get a feel for the course. Then he dropped in for real, to his competitors’ praise. “Kevin, you’re killing it,” one person said.

The competitor panelists all spoke highly of the courses after trying them out — and also of Ventura itself.

“It’s a small town that people kind of drive by, like, people think about L.A., they think about Santa Barbara, like, ‘Oh, Opera’s over there, L.A. is popping,’ but like, Ventura is dope. It’s got history,” he said. “I think it’s the perfect place to host it, not to mention … there might be waves in the morning.”

Eaton said he could “feel the energy” of Ventura when he saw all the X Games posters.

“Me and my coach were walking around like, I don’t know if it’s gonna happen again, but if it does, this could be the best X Games venue I’ve been at,” he said.

Tune in to the X Games all weekend long on ESPN, YouTube, or Twitch, or buy tickets here to watch the action live from Ventura.

Motocross bikers fly over a jump before the official start of X Games California in Ventura. | Credit: Hannah Weaver


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