I’ve been writing about the Vans Combi and its contests for a long time. It is the ultimate canvas for creativity and self-expression. It is the ultimate challenge. It is the best battlefield because a skater really must be prepared in order to fight the competition. If one doesn’t ride the Combi, the Combi can end up riding you. I’ve seen it all. At least I thought I have. Until today. This isn’t a ‘blow smoke up your backside’ contest report… make no mistake. I speak truth. I must. Today, I saw history. It was a brand new day.
I watched on the deck. I sat next to Christian Hosoi, Neal Mims, Aaron Astorga, Dave Duncan, Sergie Ventura and Mike Taylor. We all watched.. We were all… well, in awe. The first heats began. World Cup Skateboarding started the whole thing moving right on time, in organized fashion. Everyone was hyped. The 14 and under Division started things off. Each rider received a timed first run of thirty five seconds and then they had jam format in order. What quickly put us in awe, were the runs the skaters were taking. Twenty five runs into the contest, someone finally fell. Yes… I said it. No jitters. No nerves. No bails. It was heat after heat of flawless, hard-charging skateboarding. Lip slides, big airs, bonelesses, hip transfers. disasters, inverts… it was all there and it was all or nothing, all morning long. We were amazed.
I’ve been around skateboarding for a very long time and started riding in 1973. I’ve seen an incredible number of contests and I’ve never seen anything like today… ever. I think that the mainstream skateboard media missed out. They don’t show up and they don’t care. More’s the pity. These young skaters were incredible. I suppose the magazines will say, “No kids want to see an article of skaters all padded up at a skatepark.” Well, that may be true to a certain extent. But there are probably many skaters out there that could identify with another eleven, twelve or thirteen year old that is doing huge airs and lip tricks in the Combi. They won’t know, if they don’t see it. Exposed. The clouds part and some people might see the light. There is more to skateboarding than flinging yourself down stairs… rad as that may be. Today was history. We saw a new spectacle. Nervous systems wired from a young age. Fed on concrete, adrenalin and skateboarding. Balance fine-tuned. Progression. It was evident today. The other thing that was very conspicuous was the progression. Every year, these guys get better and better. They are inventive as well.
There were skaters from California, Colorado, Washington, Virginia Beach, Florida, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Brazil, New Hampshire, Georgia, Ohio and Hawaii. There were so many different styles and trick combinations. One thing that was clear to me and the judges as well… these young skaters were using the Combi in a brand new way. Gone were the round pool carve, 50-50, square pool halfpipe runs of past Combi Am contests. Skaters were doing hip transfers, corner tricks and the entire pool was being utilized for optimum expression. The 14 and Under Division was exciting. Rylan Mancilla is nine years old and qualified in his first Combi contest. His runs were consistent and difficult. Trey Wood lit the building on fire… and that was that. He is extraordinary and the crowd gave him a sounding ovation after his runs.
Other standouts are too many to mention… but I will. C.J. ripped but couldn’t step up enough to make the cut. Seth Sanders was on a tear, Travis Rivera was unbelievably smooth, Kiko Francesco dripped style and power, Evan Doherty threw down 720’s and 540’s like he was eating Skittles after school and Asher Bradshaw skated far beyond what he looks like he is capable of. His tiny body was hanging in the air… Asher was amazing. As a side note, I really enjoyed watching Nick Wallace, Jake Wooten, Trent Bowman, Taylor Nye and David Branom skating. A real pleasure. In the end, the judges had the unenviable task of cutting the fifty plus skaters down to ten or so. Fourteen and Under Division results: 1st- Trey Wood, 2nd- Evan Doherty, 3rd- Asher Bradshaw, 4th- Kiko Francisco and 5th- Travis Rivera.
I’d like to say that the sledgehammer was held back for a final brutality once the young guns rode. I’d like to say that the 15 and Over Division dropped like avenging angels from the heavens to devastate the Combi pool with savage weaponry… but I can’t. At least not at first. The young groms were so amazing, that the older division seemed anti-climactic at the start. Maybe everyone needed a deep breath. Possibly everyone was simply overloaded. It didn’t take long however, before the older division started hammering with the sledgehammer and I had to rethink things a bit. There were more than a few talented bowlriders in this division and they soon stood apart. Archer Braun flowed like water through the bowls and his backtail revert was amazing. Falls kept him just off the radar. Titus Massinello from Florida was crushing the Combi as was Lucas Sanders.
Tristan Rennie was last years winner and he went straight to the finals. He had to skate cold as he didn’t really ride all day. His first run came up a bit short and he left a window for the others. Toby Gummeson was red hot and hit the switch. He gave all. Inspiring. Max Jenson dropped snowboarding last year and rides his skateboard all of the time now. It shows. His McTwists, BS and FS Bluntslides and corner Madonna’s were a beautiful thing to watch. Clay Kreiner stood out all day. Huge airs, maximum use of the bowls and power were what he offered up. Griffen Chase is Teflon. Nothing sticks to him. He glided across the pool like a ghost. So fun to watch. Lester-esque flow was in his every move… The final ten or so were chosen, though only the Gods know how. Fifteen and Over Division results: 1st- Tristan Rennie, 2nd- Toby Gummeson, 3rd- Max Jenson, 4th- Clay Kreiner and 5th- Griffen Chase.
When all is said and done, these results are etched in stone. This day is one for the books. Sometimes you just can’t go back. A harsh word. An ill deed. Something magnificent. Inspiring. We can’t take back some things… all is fled, all is done. This is one of those things. These young guys changed the game today… the past is just that. It is a brand new day. Thank you to Vans, World Cup Skateboarding, all of the skaters and parents and thank you to Dan Bourqui, Naka and Lorrie Palmos for the images. Skate- Ozzie