Every story needs a beginning, and here we find ourselves in the south of France on the shores of the majestic Mediterranean Sea for what is now the second-annual Quiksilver Bowlriders comp¿as far as comps go, it’s not a bad place to be. There’re more familiar faces than last year, which is nice. You may think it’s the warm weather and whitesand beaches that attract the skaters, or perhaps it’s the $30,000 USD put up by the sponsors. Some may even be happy with the substantial flow of refreshments supplied by none other than the boys from Heineken.
In reality there is no secret why skaters want to come to Marseille¿the answer lies in the park itself, which some say is the best in the world. Exactly who desinged the park is a little vague, but you can just imagine some college student painstakingly going over models again and again, looking at the lines, trying to make things flow. Construction of the Marseille park did not happen by accident; someone put a lot of serious effort into making this park, and their efforts have paid off. It makes skateboarders from all over the world want to come here again and again.
Rooming arrangements must have been coordinated by putting everyone’s name in a hat, giving it a little juggle, and putting whoever was drawn in groups of three. My roommates were contest announcer Dave Duncan and Skateboarder magazine photographer Lance Dawes¿top boys, as it turned out. Two happy girls who looked straight out of Orange County were also in our room, due to some confusion in the booking order caused by the NoFX management’s inability to make an effective decision about their rooms, but Double D was on it fast, and sorted it all out.
Day one saw seven heats go down. Most of the main contenders were in there battling it out. John Cardiel looked like a man on a mission, and Alan Petersen appeared ready to take it on. Runs opened up with Neal Heddings pleasing the crowd, his last run reaching the parts that other beers cannot with a sweet gesture to one of the contest sponsors¿those nice people at Heineken. An alcohol-fueled Chet Childress (or so Dave Duncan reckoned) was also looking good, getting used to the new lines with his headphones on, storming.
One of the highlights was the sight of Wade Speyer hitting the park’s curves, sporting a mustache that wouldn’t have looked out of place in any Southern rock band¿he was completely ruling. In fact, most of the best skating came from the Northern California contingent.
That night saw some furious partying, and casualties were numerous, including Big Brother’s Dimitry Elyashkevich, who took on one too many glasses and ended up puking his ring to the cheers of his peers. Where’s the T4 when you really need it?
There was definitely a “you can take the contests like X-Games and shove them where the sun don’t shine” feeling at the Marseille contest. It was almost like going back to the roots of skateboard competitions, before TV. But even in a ruling comp like this one, problems always seem to arise. One thing that was pissing off the photographers was a fat, general go-fetch guy, who happened to be the man in charge of goings on around the park. Most of us were not allowed to keep our camera bags in front of the banners, and he was passing them over into the crowd like they were freebies. Photographers were running from Fat like he was Deebo.
On the day of the finals we waited in anticipation of the jam. A dozen skaters had made it to the end, which was a pleasure to watch because there was never a dull moment. This part of the event was a bastard to photograph, though¿there was so much going on, it was hard to be in the right place at the right time. Everyone in the final was there for a reason¿they rip anything that appears in front of them.
All twelve were blazing¿Alan Petersen skated the park with ease and maturity, Chet Childress appeared to be everywhere at once, Omar Hassan did a lot more than people had anticipated, and Cardiel was simply on fire. With five minutes to go, the MC made the announcement that instead, five more minutes would be added to the jam. Alex Chalmers became bird-like, flying off the teardrop to the main hip, a transfer of epic proportion. Minutes later, Cardiel landed a backside 360 from the main hip to the nearest bowl on a broken board.
The crowd went bananas, and for many spectators the results were written right there and then with John winning in the heat of the moment. But it wasn’t to be. Cardiel came in a very suspect fifth, the boos from onlookers said it all. Cardiel could have been the only skater feeling cheated, but at the end of the day I doubt he’d even care¿coming to Marseille and skating what has become one of the most famous parks in the world probably means a lot more.