Party of 60?
No, not for Tony Hawk or another X Games legend. This crowd that required 60 reserved seats inside U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday was here to see Stillwater’s best skateboarder, 19-year-old Nicole Hause, compete as one of 26 women invited to the X Games.
She’s kind of a big deal.
“It’s just bizarre, it’s so crazy,” said Jeff Hause, Nicole’s father. “I’m more proud of her character than anything. I’m proud of the way she handles her victories and losses. She just came off first place in Sweden a couple months back and her attitude never really changes.”
Nicole’s attitude was still chipper despite just missing a bronze medal in the women’s Skateboard Park event on Saturday night. Her cheering section roared as she put together an early run that ranked near the top of the pack. But she finished fourth with a score of 81.66, two points shy of her first X Games podium finish.
The winner was Brighton Zeuner, who turned 13 Friday. She is the youngest gold medalist in X Games history.
“Man, it hurts. It hurts, but it’s OK,” said Nicole, smiling after her run. “I’m going to move on and see what happens next. I should be here next year.”
That’s the expectation for the skateboarding phenom.
Maybe she’ll draw an even bigger crowd in 2018. Signs, including one that read “Skol Nicole,” and shirts boasting Nicole’s name populated the rows right in front of the X Games park course where she competed. Family and friends, including state senator Karin Housley, didn’t want to miss a chance to see Nicole live out her dream right in their backyard.
“It’s surreal,” said Missy Hause, Nicole’s mother.
After all, her skyrocketing career began in her Stillwater backyard. Nicole’s path started after a local skatepark closed down. So the 10-year-old Nicole convinced her dad, a custom homebuilder, to craft her a miniature version of a halfpipe on their property.
“I looked at her and said, ‘Listen kid, you’re going to help me put every screw in this ramp and you’re going to wear all your safety gear,’ ” Jeff Hause said. “And she did.”
As Nicole grew, so did the ramp. The 8-foot-tall halfpipe eventually morphed into a full-size ramp, towering 14 feet high and 48 feet long inside the family barn, where her brother, Scott, fondly recalled many competitive basketball games before it was torn down and converted into an indoor skate ramp.
Where else could a Stillwater kid have chased a skateboarding dream in frigid Minnesota?
“It was probably the right move,” Scott Hause joked.
The barn is where Nicole would practice, day or night, summer or winter. She didn’t take to gymnastics too well, her mother Missy recalled, and she eventually quit the Stillwater basketball team to put her full focus into skating.
“She used to always skate in the barn,” said David Paulson, Nicole’s cousin. “It’s crazy how much her career has taken off.”
It has taken Nicole all the way to Oceanside, Calif., where she’s lived since she graduated last year from Stillwater High School. That’s where she can best hone her skills with fellow skaters in California, where you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a skatepark.
Her family and friends have already seen the difference.
“I think in another year here, you’re going to see a real animal,” Jeff Hause said. “Nicole is a vicious, hard-charging skater.”
She doesn’t mind the crashes as much as her parents do, posting wipeouts on social media where she chronicles practices on the ramp inside the Hause family barn. Mom might cringe every once in a while, but she has proved to anybody watching that she’s for real.
Her parents have assured themselves she can always fall back on a “regular job,” but their support has fueled Nicole’s passion into a career that is anything but regular.
“I’m not very artistic, I can’t draw,” Nicole Hause said. “But I guess this is like my art, so it’s just what I love to do. I’ve never really wanted to do anything different.”