continued from Part 4. By Sean Mortimer.
AFTER THE RESULTS ARE READ
Who truly wins at a contest? A non-skater may assume that the podium chops the "losers" from the elite, but contests can also be a prime platform to showcase aspects of skating that don't win contests. Disregard a pre-planned run and contest rules to land a heavy trick and you can gather fans for life. (Tony Hawk landed his 900 after regulation time, which amplified his fame as much as his unprecedented contest domination. Skaters and non-skaters alike still talk about Jake Brown’s slam.)
LANCE MOUNTAIN “As a kid in the ’70s, when I looked at contest coverage in a magazine, the pictures affected me more than the placings, but a part of me thought, These guys must be the best because they were judged the best. But all that changed when I saw a contest live. It’s one thing when I’m not there and people or magazines are telling me who’s the best, but at a contest, you fully make the decision: That guy placed fourth but I thought he was great. When you see a contest live, it changes your perspective because you're drawn to what inspires you instead of how somebody else judged the skating.
“In golf or whatever, the only person who matters is the one who wins. One of the biggest changes in skateboard contests is when they became very impersonal and the winner wasn't the only one who mattered. Contests exist today because it’s a way to present skating to the public that makes sense and competing at the highest level separates people. Whether that’s the cool way to separate them is another question.”
RODNEY MULLEN “Contests absolutely stood in the way of my greatest joy—making stuff up. As compulsive as I am, I gleamed no satisfaction from doing tricks over and over again. It derailed me. I spent one-tenth of my time on making stuff up compared to getting tricks dialed for contests. It was just slavery. It just put my skating behind. I was so happy when I was just able to be free and do what I wanted instead of spending my time feeling like a circus animal: Do this on cue and don't fall.”
Damn, look what happens when you take contests away from some people. (clip link)
TONY ALVA “A lot of our skating didn’t revolve around contests, it revolved around image and attitude and that’s the important thing to a lot of skaters. They can give a f—k about the X Games. All they care about is finding a spot to do their thing and have fun with no rules. As skaters, we’ve always been such anarchists—we don't want anybody telling us what to do or have to adhere to rules. When we cram that into a contest format we lose our soul a little bit and end up depending on those to promote ourselves.
“A lot of skaters just want to be out skating, not being judged and examined. But competition is what the sponsors want and it’s a spectator sport at a certain level now. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A lot of contests don’t truly give you the best rider of the day. The cool thing that came out of skateboard contests was when guy a like Jay [Adams] didn’t give a f—k and got a lot of attention. You didn’t have to be the guy winning the contest to be the most popular guy there. He was really the guy who was number one but didn’t walk away with the trophy.”
GREG LUTZKA “One skater told me how he loved having that check in his hand. I understand that, but I don’t even pick up the check. My checks are sent to my parents’ house because I travel a bunch. I don’t even know how much I won in my last contest in Mexico City. I went to the Maloof Cup and it was 100 grand for first place. I got 9th place. That course was really good I could have done every basic trick down the handrail but I spent the whole time trying frontside 360 kickflip noseblunt. I was more stoked on trying that one trick than on 100 grand. I wasn’t going there to win a 100 grand, I was going there to skate.”
CHRIS COLE “The X Games are a circus, but it’s really good money for real street skaters to make. The more money that these corporations invest into skating and real skateboarders, then the more money is put back into real skateboarding. It puts the money into the pockets of the people that are going to start the core brands and continue skating when it’s not cool anymore.
“People were really shocked [when I skated the X games]. I explained that they had a best trick format and whoever rips the hardest wins. That’s awesome. I don't like 60-second runs but I love jam formats. It’s just like a demo. I get really bummed out on doing the same run over and over again. I don't want to think out my run, I want to go there and skate as hard as I can and have a good time.
“People told me that they were excited when I won some events because they considered what I was doing to be a different type of skating compared to what they normally saw at contests. There wasn’t any throwing arms up, spiking helmet, showing their sponsors’ stickers. I guess they considered me a real street dude with actual street cred winning corporate crap. The less I did of the song and dance you have to do when you win a contest, the more the core skaters seemed to appreciate it.
“The organizers asked me to raise the check above my head but I wouldn’t do it. The networks were not psyched at all. They’d ask me and I’d raise it an inch. They’d ask again and it might get up to waist level. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hold it above my head.
TONY HAWK “I like watching some skate contests on television. Sometimes I question the judging, but that’s just the nature of the beast: comparing apples to oranges. Skating is artistic and there’s not a clear winner. It’s all about the art of it and when you’re judging on a subjective level like that it’s open to all kinds of interpretations. It’s just a matter of personal preference. But coming from the perspective of somebody who actually does it, I know what tricks and combinations I think are harder. But whatever, that’s just how it’s always been.”
TY PAGE “The whole fame thing was so not what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to bring me happiness, but all it brought me was stress because you have to constantly strive to keep it. It felt good to stop skating in contests. I’m not kidding you, it felt awesome. I stopped treating people like they were competition and just as skateboarders alongside me having fun too. All of a sudden it got fun again. A group of dudes getting together showing off for each other on a basic level, not a contest level—that’s when skateboarding was awesome.”
Bring back the flutes! (clip link)
MIKE VALLELY “There wasn’t any money at contests. You didn’t make your living winning contests. Today, there are probably some skaters who can make a living winning contests, but most of those guys have no market value at all. A handful can cross over but a majority of them don't.”
CRAIG STECYK “It’s kind of hard not to want to make enough money [with contests] so that you don't have to work for a year. You get the idea of training for a perceivable, quantifiable result. Then it turns into a job.”
MARK GONZALES “I still like entering contests—who doesn’t like to be looked at?”
Look at Mark! One of the immortal video parts: 1991’s Blind Video Days. (clip link)