It was an insane year for skateboarding. There were more tours, more contests, and more prize money paid than ever before. Ninety-eight saw the X-Games peak in popularity, and the birth of another extreme-sports Olympiad – the Gravity Games, which will debut in Summer ’99. There were the televised compedramas, and there were the ‘roots events like March’s SkatePark of Tampa contest. There was also the MTV Sports And Music Festival, which wasn’t really a contest at all (and thanks to the rain, was itself a wash).

Skateboarding, if you think about it, can fit into just about any format, and be choreographed to suit any audience. But what about the skateboarders? How about a few more events just for them? And I don’t just mean the pros on the ramp, but the skaters who come to see them – the skateboarding public.

So there we were, winding down the 1998 contest season, the media events of the summer long over, and the snowfall having already inaugurated the winter of ’99. Pro and am skaters alike were tired from the busy year of touring and competing, and it seemed like the last thing anyone needed was another contest. But the Skate Street contest promised to be different from the summer media circus. And it was. The Etnies Adventures in Plywood Paradise II seemed at times more like a session than a contest. As a spectator, it was hard not to pad up and join them.

Skate Street is a behemoth of a park. Tucked against California’s central coast, it’s hours from any urban center, and a good backdrop for what’s become as anticipated a closing ceremony to the year’s contest season as the SPoT contest is the season opener.

Skate Street’s “street” course is huge. Swallowing about half of the park’s 29,000 square feet, it wraps around the vert ramp and bowl in a giant L shape. Judges sat at the elbow in order to have a view of the entire course, and skaters were hard-pressed to hit every element at their disposal.

The Skate Street course is probably the most difficult to judge. With ledges, a five-sided pyramid, funbox, flatbanks, three rails, as well as a fifteen-foot vert wall, ten-foot quarterpipes, and the over-vert wave wall, it accommodates a huge range of styles. Just as there is no one way to ride the course, there is no one way to judge it, either.

It’s enough to scare the street purists away, and there were some contestants notably absent. But it was a great event to see as the course was attacked by each skater with an entirely different strategy every two minutes from Friday morning to Saturday night. Plywood Paradise veterans like Chris Senn and Eric Dressen worked the big stuff with ferocity – Chris grinding everything in sight, and Eric flying down the chute and nearly to the rafters up the opposing flat wall. Rookie Tony Trujillo joined the speed club with huge transfers, and some of Sunday’s vert competitors found a strategic ally in the course’s larger trannies. Bob Burnquist even pulled a backside tailslide on the wave wall’s overhang. But how does one judge that against Dylan Gardner’s nollie flip to frontside noseslide down the funbox ledge?

Skate Street locals Mike Santarossa and am Eric Burk had the advantage of familiarity with the course. But in the end, localism had nothing to do with it. Having ridden the course just a few days prior to the contest, Finland’s Arto Saari managed to eclipse the impression the speed freaks made on the judges with his insane display of technical consistency. “I never skated that many obstacles before,” said the winner, suggesting the smoothly run event allowed him to focus on his skating. “Always in Finland the contests are too long.” Although technically still an am, Arto accepted the 4,000-dollar prize and said he doesn’t plan to turn pro for a while.

Second-place street-finisher Rick McCrank isn’t Finnish, but he ain’t no Yankee Doodle Dandee, neither. The Pride of Vancouver, Canada, Rick hit the course like a hammer, exhibiting the excitement and unique approa that made his video part in Birdhouse’s The End so remarkable. Except he did it on cue, over and over again. “Everybody says I should live in California,” said Rick. “But if I lived in California, I’d just be doing the same things everybody else is. In Vancouver, there’s different scenery and different everything.”

Because the spectator seating for the vert contest actually covers part of the street course, the entire vert contest started only after the winners were announced for the street event. As you might guess, only a couple-hundred spectators showed up Sunday to watch vert. But these were hardcore vert fans who deserved a good show, and were obliged. Noticeably absent, however, were Tony Hawk and Bucky Lasek, which left a couple top slots open for the taking.

The Skate Street vert ramp was built a couple years ago, meaning that the surface is a little mushy and, as vert ramps go, it’s a little small. But for the building, it’s perfect – if it were bigger, the skaters would be punching holes in the ceiling. Compared to the contest ramps they’ve been skating this year, some competitors found it a little slow, and a little low. You know vert skating is evolving when you’re told that an eleven-foot-eight-inch ramp is too small.

It didn’t hinder the competitors, though. Giorgio Zattoni was floating 540s (the slow, tumbling kind) way overhead and just under the roof line. Lincoln Ueda can hit the ceiling on an outdoor ramp, and he was bouncing off the rafters at Skate Street, too. Bob Burnquist rode back and forth, forward and switch, seemingly deciding on his way up the wall what his next move was – spontaneity at its finest. Threatening to keep the vert title from the North American riders, Bob and Lincoln were just two of Brazil’s lethal imports. Cristiano Mateus and Sandro Dias were also turning heads south toward Rio. While street skating is universally adaptable to almost any developed region of the world, it’s interesting to see more international skaters in vert-contest finals than in street. In fact, eight of the top fifteen vert finalists at Skate Street are from abroad.

But the Etnies Adventures In Plywood Paradise II vert title went to a certified Yank. Boston/San Diego’s Andy Macdonald skated two-to-three-minute runs consistently to log in near-perfect scores and exhaust every varial and flip variation known.

One of the contest surprises was Danny Way, who managed to pull every trick out of his bag and stuff them into one run. In the finals ten skaters took three untimed runs each with their best run counting. That meant they could skate as long as they liked, or until they fell. Danny slammed pretty hard on a couple runs, but held onto a rodeo flip and a fakie 360 noseslide to perform what was probably his best contest run to date. “I had fun,” he said. “I’ve been skating a lot lately, so I actually showed at the contest that I’m motivated to try to do good. I haven’t had that feeling in a while.”

Danny and Andy tied for first. Each of their best scores were identical, and the idea that they skate one more run was suggested before it was eventually decided to use their next-best scores to determine the winner. Neither really wanted to skate another run, anyway.

Winner Andy Macdonald has skated just about every vert contest this year. He’s seen the overproduced media events as well as the grassroots contests like this and says he enjoys both types for different reasons: “The good thing is that it’s more of a ‘roots contest – for skateboarders by skateboarders. The bad part about it is that it’s less organized. When Danny and I tied, they said, ‘Oh, should we have a skate-off?’ There’re no rules. At the X-Games, the head judge makes the decision according to the rules. Here it’s kinda ad-libbed. I don’t care what the rules are, I just want them to stick to them so you can skate accordingly and plan your runs.”

Danny was a little bummed about the results when he realized that second place received less than half of what first paid. “I wouldn’t be bummed if I didn’t tie for first,” he said. “If I got straight second, then no big deal. But they go to second scores, then cut the pay in half.”

He said he was able to focus more on his skating because the overall atmosphere at Skate Street was more relaxing than at other contests. “It was a little more of a hardcore skateboard contest – just a lot more fun for guys who don’t like all the glam bullshit. I don’t do good with that stuff.”

The contest was produced by World Cup Skateboarding, who run most of the pro events during the year – big and small. World Cup’s Don Bostick said that he enjoys ending the U.S. contest season at Skate Street because the area draws a good crowd. “What’s cool about this park is that they’ve got a ton of kids, and kids mean the future.”

Controversy, he said, will always surround the results of skateboard contests, but that the free-form judging system WCS employs is still the best for the sport. “No one’s ever going to be totally happy,” he said. “There’re five different opinions up there, and those opinions are formed by the backgrounds of those people, their knowledge, and their feelings on skateboarding. I’m involved in mountain biking and snowboarding which have compulsory judging systems. I hope that we stay with the system we have in skateboarding because overall impression and putting five or seven people up there gives judging much more freedom than saying, ‘Okay, we’re gonna give .3 difficulty to this trick.’ I hope it never gets like that, and that’s how it’s gotten in snowboarding – the whole compulsory thing.”

The Etnies Adventures In Plywood Paradise II brought 100 skaters, pro and am, together before hundreds of spectators who witnessed the last great display of collective skateboarding talent on these shores for 1998. Etnies’ Don Brown had a good time and didn’t fret that this event didn’t give Etnies the television coverage some contests could: “As long as everyone leaves with a smile, it’s good.”

Skate Street’s Scott Douglas noted that some changes will have to be made before next year’s event. The vert ramp, for example, will lose its escalator, raising the height to 11’8″ straight across. It will also earn itself a new surface.

Actually, some changes have already been made. Scott said that the Etnies Adventures In Plywood Paradise III will come a little earlier next year at the request of its title sponsor: “We’ve moved the date up because Don Brown’s wedding anniversary is on this weekend.”

So much for consistency.

Street

1. Arto Saari$4,000

2. Rick McCrank$1,500

3. Kerry Getz$1,000

4. Jaya Bonderov$700

5. Jim Gagne$600

6. Brian Patch$500

7. Chris Senn$400

8. Andy Macdonald$300

9. Mike Santarossa$200

10. Tony Trujillo$100

Vert

1. Andy Macdonald$4,000

2. Danny Way$1,500

3. Bob Burnquist$1,000

4. Colin McKay$700

5. Giorgio Zattoni$600

6. Pierre-Luc Gagnon$500

7. Max Schaaf$400

8. Brian Howard$300

9. Lincoln Ueda$200

10. Phil Hajal$100

For news, interviews, and a calendar of upcoming events, log on to our Web site at: www.skateboarding.com

For complete results and contest info, log on to the World Cup Skateboarding Web site at: www.wcsk8.com

received less than half of what first paid. “I wouldn’t be bummed if I didn’t tie for first,” he said. “If I got straight second, then no big deal. But they go to second scores, then cut the pay in half.”

He said he was able to focus more on his skating because the overall atmosphere at Skate Street was more relaxing than at other contests. “It was a little more of a hardcore skateboard contest – just a lot more fun for guys who don’t like all the glam bullshit. I don’t do good with that stuff.”

The contest was produced by World Cup Skateboarding, who run most of the pro events during the year – big and small. World Cup’s Don Bostick said that he enjoys ending the U.S. contest season at Skate Street because the area draws a good crowd. “What’s cool about this park is that they’ve got a ton of kids, and kids mean the future.”

Controversy, he said, will always surround the results of skateboard contests, but that the free-form judging system WCS employs is still the best for the sport. “No one’s ever going to be totally happy,” he said. “There’re five different opinions up there, and those opinions are formed by the backgrounds of those people, their knowledge, and their feelings on skateboarding. I’m involved in mountain biking and snowboarding which have compulsory judging systems. I hope that we stay with the system we have in skateboarding because overall impression and putting five or seven people up there gives judging much more freedom than saying, ‘Okay, we’re gonna give .3 difficulty to this trick.’ I hope it never gets like that, and that’s how it’s gotten in snowboarding – the whole compulsory thing.”

The Etnies Adventures In Plywood Paradise II brought 100 skaters, pro and am, together before hundreds of spectators who witnessed the last great display of collective skateboarding talent on these shores for 1998. Etnies’ Don Brown had a good time and didn’t fret that this event didn’t give Etnies the television coverage some contests could: “As long as everyone leaves with a smile, it’s good.”

Skate Street’s Scott Douglas noted that some changes will have to be made before next year’s event. The vert ramp, for example, will lose its escalator, raising the height to 11’8″ straight across. It will also earn itself a new surface.

Actually, some changes have already been made. Scott said that the Etnies Adventures In Plywood Paradise III will come a little earlier next year at the request of its title sponsor: “We’ve moved the date up because Don Brown’s wedding anniversary is on this weekend.”

So much for consistency.

Street

1. Arto Saari$4,000

2. Rick McCrank$1,500

3. Kerry Getz$1,000

4. Jaya Bonderov$700

5. Jim Gagne$600

6. Brian Patch$500

7. Chris Senn$400

8. Andy Macdonald$300

9. Mike Santarossa$200

10. Tony Trujillo$100

Vert

1. Andy Macdonald$4,000

2. Danny Way$1,500

3. Bob Burnquist$1,000

4. Colin McKay$700

5. Giorgio Zattoni$600

6. Pierre-Luc Gagnon$500

7. Max Schaaf$400

8. Brian Howard$300

9. Lincoln Ueda$200

10. Phil Hajal$100

For news, interviews, and a calendar of upcoming events, log on to our Web site at: www.skateboarding.com

For complete results and contest info, log on to the World Cup Skateboarding Web site at: www.wcsk8.com