Vancouver, British Columbia – Just after 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 29, 1999 some 450 members of the skateboard industry crowded their way into the Waterfront Centre Hotel’s ballroom on the shores of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet. Seating had long since been occupied, and those attendees who lagged in the lobby found themselves lining the walls five-deep. They’d gathered to find out who would take home top honors at the first-ever TransWorld SKATEboarding Readers’ Poll Awards.
The invitations requested attendees to “take a shower” – the event coordinators obviously assumed everyone would have spent the day practicing for the Slam City Jam VI – and, strangely, it appeared most had listened. Andy Macdonald wore a zoot suit, complete with hat and yellow tie. Steve Caballero, who said the last time he’d dressed up was for his wedding several years ago, looked dapper in a beige suit he’d brought for the occasion. MC Dave Swift and award presenters Jason Ellis and Don Bostick even donned swanky black tuxes.
The lights dimmed as Swift took the stage to get events underway. Glancing around the room, I remember thinking, “If a cruise missile hit this building, the skateboard industry would take it in the teeth.” But one group was noticeably absent – or at least tardy – namely Chad Muska and the Shorty’s team. A table had been reserved for them in the back, and its emptiness seemed awkward with so many in the room standing.
After a brief introduction, Dave handed the mic over to Don Bostick to present World Cup Skateboarding’s awards for the highest contest-point totals of 1998. Don and his wife Danielle have been running professional and amateur skateboarding contests – a thankless but essential part of skateboarding – for the better part of two decades. Don spoke passionately about his love for the sport and the skaters he deals with on a daily basis, and concluded by saying people always ask why he and his wife have taken on such a masochistic job. With emotion in his voice, he told the audience, “We do it for you guys.” For which he received a standing ovation.
As it turned out, Chris Senn had accrued the most points in street, Tony Hawk in vert, and Andy Macdonald the most points overall by a long shot. Andy was the only recipient of the first round of awards present, and since Jay Sticland (who’d accepted the award for Tony) and Ed Templeton (who received for Chris) had opted for the two-word acceptance speeches, Andy ditched his prepared speech and made it short and sweet.
Just as World Cup’s awards were wrapping up, the doors of the ballroom opened and in rolled the Shorty’s posse: Chad Muska in the lead with his girlfriend on one arm and a Run DMC-sized ghetto blaster barking out hip-hop music in the other. Everything stopped for a moment, as it often does when Chad arrives, and the group made its way through a barrage of handshakes and half-hugs to their reserved table.
When the commotion died down, the floor was then turned over to fluf band-member/skate-photographer Otis “O” Barthoulameu for the presentation of the Riders’ Poll Awards. The Riders’ Poll – voted on by 75 pro skaters chosen at random – saw Bob Burnquist take home plaques in the categories Best Vert and Best Overall and deliver acceptance speeches in both Portuguese and English. Fourstar Clothing-sponsored skaters didn’t do too shabby: Eric Koston won Best Street, Andrew Reynolds won Best Video Part in Birdhouse’s The End, Mark Gonzales won Best Style, and the Girl team (several of whom ride for Fourstar) took Best Team.
The Riders’ Poll contained two additional categories that weren’t part of the Readers’ Poll: Best Street – Female and Best Vert – Female. Female street-phenom Elissa Steamer won Best Street, and skate/snowboard veteran Cara-Beth Burnside won Best Vert. Neither girl was in attendance to receive their award, which somehow seemed sadly representative of the noticeable lack of females currently making their presence known in skateboarding. Jen O’Brien accepted Cara-Beth’s award for her, assuring the crowd the absent Burnside deserved the honor.
Finally, the mic was passed to Jason Ellis for the presentation of the Readers’ Poll Awards. To the surprise of no one except those seated at the Shorty’s table – where the ghetto blaster provided an alternative soundtrack to the ceremony – Shorty’s-sponsored skaters won four of the six categories readers were polled in. With each win, the group of nearly a dozen – including a suit-and-sunglass-wearing Chad Muska, Peter Smolik, Tony Tieu, Sammy Baptista, Brandon Turner, their girlfriends, other members of their vast entourage, and the giant radio – would explode into jubilation, then slowly make their way to the podium with ghetto in tow.
Shorty’s pro Peter Smolik made off like a bandit, winning Best Style, Best Video Part, and as a member of the Best Team. Peter may have set a new public-speaking record, saying a total of four words in three acceptance speeches. Chad Muska, the Best Street winner, and by far the most talkative speaker of the evening – which required saying at least five words – may have said it all as he stood elevated above his peers, his shirt unbuttoned to the middle of his chest, his sunglasses dimming the camera flashes from the skateboard media, surrounded by a wrestling match comprised of his team and friends, and announced, “I’m just so happy to have won this thing … whatever it is.”
The following are the winners and runners-up of the 1998 TransWorld SKATEboarding Readers’ Poll Awards:
Best Street – Chad Muska
2. Jamie Thomas
3. Andrew Reynolds
Best Vert – Tony Hawk
2. Bob Burnquist
3. Andy Macdonald
Best Overall – Andy Macdonald
2. Chad Muska
3. Tony Hawk
Best Style – Peter Smolik
2. Chad Muska
3. Eric Koston
Best Video 1998 – Shorty’s Fulfill The Dream
2. Birdhouse The End
3. Toy Machine Jump Off a Building
Best Video Part 1998 – Peter Smolik: Shorty’s Fulfill The Dream
2. Chad Muska: Shorty’s Fulfill The Dream
3. Andrew Reynolds: Birdhouse The End
Best Team 1998 – Shorty’s