For the last four years, the Vans Warped Tour has taken a vert ramp, street course, a stage, and a host of athletes and musicians on an annual tour around the world to perform for a quarter-million fans. The tour has become the prototypical alternative skate-and-music festival, and starting in Phoenix, Arizona, the Vans Warped Tour 1998 will again travel for three months throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Japan.

This is the third year that the Vans Warped Tour will feature the Vans Amateur World Skateboarding Championships qualifying events. Winners from each of the Vans Warped Tour contests will receive all-expense-paid trips to California in November to compete in the Vans Amateur World Skateboarding Championships. Winners of that contest will receive pro contracts from Vans and a spot on the 1999 Warped Tour demo team. “There are great skaters all over the world¿not just in the United States¿and we want to give them all the same opportunities,” says Steve Van Doren, Vans’ vice president of promotions.

Featured pros on the tour include Steve Caballero, Neal Hendrix, Mike Frazier, and Jen O’Brien. There will also be several new activities this year, including the Ladies’ Lounge (a place to interact with some of the female creative forces in the music and action-sports industries), an independent-film tent, motocross demos, go-cart racing, and several educational projects and sponsor booths. “The Warped Tour is about fun¿it’s about good stuff, but we’re also trying to expand this lifestyle so it’ll grow,” says Kevin Lyman, The Vans Warped Tour’s creator.

The tour will feature its largest lineup of musical talent yet, including headliners Bad Religion, Rancid, NoFX, Deftones, The Specials, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Reverend Horton Heat, and Save Ferris, plus many lesser-known bands from the U.S., Australia, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Spain. Organizers expect crowds of up to 15,000 at most locations because the popular Lollapalooza festival will not be touring this summer. The only other sizable traveling music event, the OZZfest, featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Tool, and Megadeth, will join the Warped Tour for a joint show on July 18 in Minneapolis. This Ozz Gets Warped event is expected to draw 50,000 spectators.