2016 Damn Am of the Year: Zach Saraceno

Posted on Thursday, September 22, 2016 by Paul

Sadly, the 2016 Damn Am series is officially over. It’s always hard to let go of the good things in life, and the Damn Am NYC stop from last weekend included pretty much the best things all rolled into one. There were skateboarders in droves, from all over [Brazil, Thailand, Uruguay, Australia, Mexico, etc.], the weather was hovering around 75 degrees the whole time, sun shining, and then of course the LES park with it’s smoooooth blend of small transitions, ledges, stairs, and rails, with just the right amount of flat ground, made for a ridiculously rad couple of days. Then there was Karl Watson, Billy Rohan, Steven Cales, Jeff Pang, and all sorts of other movers and skaters on hand, all playing their parts. And come on, NYC in general is enough to keep even the haters stoked for the rest of eternity. At least until the snow comes.

NYC, as the sixth of six Damn Am stops, was also the last chance for skaters to guarantee a spot in Tampa Am this November, which is no small thing when you consider the hundreds and hundreds of ‘em that’ll be trying to sign up over the next couple months. And on top of all of that we’d also whittled down the 750+ skaters who’d skated the Damn Am this year to just 13 who still had a shot at becoming Damn Am of the Year [DAotY]. You only need to look at the list of past winners to get an idea of how big of a deal this can be: Luan Oliveira, Felipe Gustavo, Ishod Wair, and Alex Majerus to name a few. But over the last couple years we’ve bumped the stakes up even higher by guaranteeing the DAotY a spot in the SLS Pro Open, and now for the first time ever this year he’s also prequalified directly into the Finals at Tampa Am. So yeah, not a bad bonus.

128 skaters were on hand Saturday to give it a go. Since doing individual runs would keep us there for 13 hours, we ran qualifying as three minute jams of three skaters. Some jams were amazing, some weren’t. But at the end of it all only 12 skaters were going to the Finals. That’s a bummer since guys like Alex Midler, Marcus Sarsycki, and Carlo Carezzano looked like they skated well enough to be in the top 12, but they were in the company of 25 or so others who would have to depend on the judges, and the scores just weren’t there. But don’t hate the judges, hate the game, because the 12 that did make the cut all absolutely smashed it. Of those 12 skaters, six of them were DAotY contenders. Yoshi Tanenbaum, Jereme Knibbs, and Zach Saraceno could wrap it up with a win, while Zion Wright, Tyson Bowerbank and Niko Howard would need to win it and get a little help.

The format for the Damn Am Finals are set up in the traditional Tampa Am style, with each skater getting three one-minute runs to see who can put in the best 60 seconds of shred. All twelve inspired moments of shock and awe, some just a little more than others. Things that come to mind in the awe department: Niko’s frontside crooked grinds. Knibbs’ backside tailslide pop outs on the escalator every try and his general feather footed approach to everything. Santiago Rodriguez from Montevideo Uruguay, winner of the TWS CUT series, skating in his first ever Damn Am and doing the choicest moves in the best imaginable style, including switch heels like you’d expect maybe from a ninja? Derek Holmes, local NYC ripper just killing it in general and getting the crowd GOING. Yoshi Tanenbaum, last year’s DAotY, coming this close to winning it again but bailing the kickflip fakie over the channel at the end of his run. Maurio McCoy, starting his run with a kickflip down the double set. Bolts. And Dashawn Jordan, best laser flips over the pyramid I’ve ever witnessed.

In the end it came down to Zion Wright and Zach Saraceno. Zach was coming off a win at Damn Am Woodward West only two weeks prior. Zion was coming off a 2nd place finish at Volcom, a 2nd in Chicago, a 3rd at Woodward, and lets not forget that he won PHX Am earlier this year. Zion did the nosegrab three over the hip, blasted the tre over the pyramid with ease, and looked like he was having a good time doing it. But he fell once or twice, which is usually at least one too many times if you’re trying to win. Zach on the other hand did it all, frontside flipped the big apple, frontside aired the hip so high we lost him in the clouds for a minute, nollie varial flipped the wedge to wedge, which raises the question: Who else has a nollie varial flip like that?! He also did a bunch of high speed flat ground tricks in his run, which, if you’ve ever tried to do can go really wrong really fast. And then…he did it all again, and more, and better, in his next run, essentially winning twice. And with that he skated away with his second Damn Am win in a row, and the title of Damn Am of the Year.

A huge thanks to all of the sponsors that made the 2016 Damn Am possible: Nike SB, Santa Cruz, Independent, Bronson, TWS, and Dakine, plus all of our peeps at SLS. And a big congrats to Zach for the win, he’s in the Tampa Am Finals, which you’ll be watching live so you can see him skate for yourself. You’re stoked!

Video: Frank Branca