Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle

The viral double up challenge had wakeboarders around the world tuned in

Video by Bradlee Rutledge

Just over a week ago Rusty Malinoski found himself on social media thinking he might be able to give young buck Steel Lafferty a run for his money in a big air challenge. If you've followed either of their careers, you'll know both riders are more than well known for going huge, especially off of double ups. Steel quickly accepted the bet and the game was on - and quickly went viral. The smack talk back and forth had everybody on social media laughing, and excited for the showdown.

Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
Rusty kicked off the competition with a solid hit.Garrett Cortese

Yesterday the two met at Steel's house to put to rest who could go bigger. And it quickly became evident just how excited everybody was for this little battle to take place - friends/fans Glen Fletcher, Daniel Powers, and Pierce Homsey showed up in custom T-shirts looking to take in the action in person.

Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
Big air enthusiasts got front row seats to the action.Garrett Cortese

The parameters for the contest were loose: each would drive double ups for the other and there were no time limits - a rider could hit double ups until he felt he connected with a good one.

Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
There is nothing like watching a rider launch off of a giant double up. Rusty Malinoski has made a career out of it.Garrett Cortese

Using Steel's MasterCraft XStar, the two spent a morning launching themselves as high as possible. Rusty went first and opted to go with an indy tantrum to get himself as high as possible. By his third double up he was getting dialed in, and Steel was delivering some meaty launch pads. On his fifth and sixth hits, Rusty went absolutely huge. Probably higher than most were expecting, and the boat erupted in excitement.

Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
Rusty: full send.Garrett Cortese
Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
Reviewing his biggest hits.Garrett Cortese

Then it was Steel's turn. With the pressure on the young buck tried to get dialed in, but had the disadvantage of the wind picking up on the lake. Also opting with the indy tantrum to get the most height and hangtime possible, Steel got a couple solid ones under his belt, but felt like he had a bigger one in him. We headed across the lake to find shelter on the opposite shoreline and Steel hit a couple more. His first was unbelievably high, and resulted in the biggest crash of the day. He had the height to win, but not the distance to ride away - he came down right on top of the wake and collapsed. We thought he might call it after that one, but he went for another and caught a biggie. With that Steel had what he felt was his biggest, so we headed back in to review the footage.

Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
The young buck's turn.Garrett Cortese
Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
Steel doing what he's become famous for.Garrett Cortese
Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
This is one way to get a nosebleed.Garrett Cortese

What happened next shocked everybody. Steel and Rusty knew it would be close, but as videographer Bradlee Rutledge pulled the clips onto his laptop for review, we soon realized it was really, really, really close. After determining each rider's takeoff and landing points of their biggest hits - which both Steel and Rusty agreed upon - some math was done and they were tied. Not by a hair or by 1/100th of a second. But tied, exactly.

Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
Reviewing the footage, and about to get a big surprise.Garrett Cortese
Rusty vs Steel - Big Air Battle
The still photos of Rusty and Steel's two biggest jumps - overlaid on top of each other for comparisonGarrett Cortese

Even the still photos were nearly identical when lined up and overlaid on top of each other. So after weeks of back and forth on Instagram, with polls and surveys and more hype than anybody imagined, the Rusty vs Steel challenge had come to a draw. There was no winner. While both riders were frustrated, they both laughed about it. And knew that they’d have to continue this bet at a later date to get an actual winner. Stay tuned, because Rusty and Steel will be going back at it and trying to charge even harder very soon.