Fortunately for skateboarders, attendants, visiting media, photographers, and contestants alike, this year’s Slam City Jam contest was noticeably improved from those in previous years.
The Vancouver-held contest, first of the annual Vans Triple Crown Of Skateboarding contest series, is entering its ninth year and continues to stand as the most popular and well-attended of the Triple Crown events.
However, numerous issues arose in previous years that seemed to dissuade many people from supporting and even attending the event. Concerns ranged from the price of tickets and to an influx of photographers and filmers on the course, to poor management, and corporate sponsorship and influence. Riders complained of poor treatment, media attendees complained of poor access to facilities, and photographers complained of an overcrowded contest course.
So when the planning committee for the ninth-annual SCJ contest sat down to put the show together after last year’s event, they realized that changes needed to be made. And if they didn’t change things and do it right this time, then both the success of the contest and future interest in it could be jeopardized. Moreover, it could mark the end of what has been regarded as skateboarding’s largest pseudo-cultural event.
All of this, of course, was facilitated by the departure of Maureen Jack La Croix, the former producer of the event. La Croix established the event eight years ago as an offshoot or sideshow to Vancouver?s Music West Festival. “As a stand-alone event (the first SCJ contests inside Music West) it was a dismal financial failure,” says Jay Balmer, SCJ’s current Event Director. “But it had great energy and inspired the producer (La Croix) to continue to develop it.”
La Croix was captivated by the “culture” of skateboarding and founded the event with Don and Danielle Bostick of World Cup Skateboarding and members of the local skate community, including Ultimate Distribution’s Kevin Harris. The first SCJ in 1994 was also World Cup Skateboarding’s inaugural event.
Since the departure of La Croix, things at Slam City Jam seem to have changed significantly. Balmer is now directing SCJ, which kicks off the WCS contest series every year. Involved since it began in 1994, Balmer first operated a booth in the event’s festival area and later helped open Vancouver’s Clubhouse Skatepark, which included the vert ramp from the first SCJ. Over the next few years Balmer volunteered at the event as part of the ramp crew. In 1998 he joined the management team to help strengthen the focus on skateboarding, acting as associate producer and resident skater on the core team that assisted in putting the event together.
And things have worked well since then. “As the director of Slam City Jam this year, my focus was to empower the (event) team through clear communication and respect for their abilities,” he explains.
Clearly ensuring a strong focus on taking care of the skateboarders, industry, and media alike were all priorities of the contest management this year. Looking around, everyone seemed generally satisfied with the contest. The VIP lounge offered meals, water and beverages, and couches for riders to take a break away from crowds and ruckus. The skate lounge was another chill area for the crowds to lurk about and play video games, eat, watch videos, or enjoy some great art–away from noise and crowds.
“I want Slam City Jam to be good for skateboarding, good for the people who attend, and good for the community,” says Balmer. “It’s a hard balancing act, and hopefully we found the right balance this year.”