What’s up with downhill racing? Hell if I know? But things are definitely changing on the event-side of the industry this year as we are seeing a handful of races not on the current event schedules, while other events are changing organizers, names, as well as adding freerides into their otherwise race-only itineraries. So yeah, I’m interested in what that means and where things are going in the downhill skateboarding community these days. My intent via this new Action Now weekly column is to rally together the DH community so we can conversate in regards to the very clear changes going on in the scene this year and beyond.
Lee Cation of the IDF just released his annual North American Downhill Event Calendar and I could not help but notice that the Catalina Island Classic, Pikes Peak, Boneli, Angie’s Curves (That one we already knew), Gravity Fest, that rad Mexico race (Masa De La Tables / MLF), as well as a couple more races are nowhere to be found on the list of this year’s events. Overall, the list has nine less events than last year with half as many IDF races. As I look at this new schedule a bit closer I can’t help but notice that some of the races that are still included are now scheduled to include freerides in them, or they’ve been changed from a race to a freeride altogether.
So yeah, change has arrived and I’m putting this discussion on the table, because that’s the whole idea of my new weekly Action Now column. I have some personal ideas about such things and I’ll share a few of them below, but ultimately, I want to hear from you—I want to find out what my fellow skaters out there think about it all. Anyway, let me kick things off with some of personal thoughts as a fellow DH skateboarder and as someone who has owned and operated a magazine in this side of skateboarding for the past 5 years. First off, I love downhill skateboarding and covering races—it gets me and my crew out traveling, skating hills, sharing skateboarding with others, meeting new skaters, and of course watching some of the best riders in the world. That said, I think we need to embrace change. Basically, races are super expensive for riders, brands, and organizers; currently many of them tend to over-simplify skateboarding to a mentality of sports, many race events do not accommodate beginners/new riders, and a grip of them are held in places that do not accomidate spectators or affordable broadcasting, and thusly, they do not attract any serious corporate backing. That being said, I believe that for the sake of the growth of downhill skateboarding as a culture we might consider looking at some different event models for racing and downhill skateboarding in general. Do not get me wrong though, I whole heartily believe that downhill racing has a place in skateboarding, but I just think we need to make some tweaks and adjustments—maybe even some really big ones.
Here’s some shits I’ve been pondering lately:
1. What if we were to shrink the Pro DH circuit signifigantly? Not sure how to do that? But the idea would be to create a clearer line between pro and amateur riders and events, and then shift the focus to growing the grom and amateur riding contingency and event line-up significantly, giving a larger range of riders more time riding the hills, and something to aspire to and grow with long term. My thought is there being a smaller, tight pro circuit that races at the end of an event—more like a demo/exhibition.
2. Consider also a shifted focus away from traditional competition-only events and focus on incorporating many more local freeride and slide jam events in general. It’s of course more difficult to judge such things, but it might promote further creativity and excitement, and of course stroke the Stoke Donkey. The idea is more events that accommodate and engage with local communities and new skaters. My thought is more live music, festivals, and food. I’d also personally like to see way more crowd participation stuff like team slide jams with group performances and effort, similar to Red Bull’s box-car derby stuff. . . Ha ha! More dynamic more creative. FUN.
3. Asking the industry itself (skaters & brands & media) to work more closely together so as to hone their focus of support to only include events/races that bring new skaters in, retain their interest, are realistically scalable, culturally sustainable, easily to replicate for other skaters and organizers across the world (These new parking garage events are dope and can be done anywhere. Hint, hint!), and most importantly, retain the collective focus of Skateboarding’s founding tenets: Individuality, Creativity, Freedom. How rad would it be to ditch the “for marketing” hype-only events, where riders walk away with empty pockets and minimal riding time? Btw, I get this preceding gripe often within the DH community.
Ultimitely, all these above ideas are in flux, and I understand there’s so much to talk about and cover with this discussion, but I only have a week to gather my ideas for these columns, and ultimately I really want to hear from you. That said, in no way do I believe that my above pondering, or this column in general, are the end-all-be-all regarding the changing landscape of the downhill skateboarding community, it’s industry, and racing events specifically, but let’s get the gears turning, y’all.
Also, please make sure to spread the word about this and add any comments ya have below in the comment section so that we can discuss them on-air tonight once we go live. Shredlove and thanks for checking out Wheelbase Magazine and my column!
I just want to reiterate that the comments and ideas presented above are published with the sole purpose to create dialogue, not as instruction. If any of these ideas get your panties in a bunch please first relax, and then pluck and place said undergarments in a more comfortable position and let’s have a heathy skater-to-skater chat. The live streaming Periscope discussion for this week’s Action Now column begins at 5PM PST tonight (1/14/2016).