There are many forms of prostitution, and it may be that among the least of them is that of women, bad though that is. I have seen men sell their souls more inexcusably than women sell their bodies — and with more disastrous consequences — to themselves and to the buyer.- Talbot Mundy
Sell yourself. The Vans Combi contest quickly approaches. Frantic practices and sweating sessions are played out in predictable fashion in the sprawling gray-colored concrete monstrosity known as Combi pool. Tucked up close to the white lights, crimson banners flutter. These are a constant reminder of past victories and those that reigned supreme on that particular day. It is a list of giants. In the beginning, the Combi contest was a gathering of bowl riders and vert skaters who were brought together to showcase this particular aspect of skateboarding that had long been neglected by the skateboarding media and world at large. Dinosaurs and legends. The past had been relegated to exactly that. A bygone time.
Protec Pool Party. Combi contest. The venue was appropriate. The money was comforting but not extravagant. The riders were all — without exception — over thirty years of age. There was no other game in town. It became bowl riding’s high Holy Day and for good reason. Duane Peters, Omar Hassan, Salba, Grosso, Lance, Eric Nash and others could be seen under one roof, for one day only, doing what they did best. The Hester Series skaters, Gold Cup Series skaters and pool and bowl-riding aficionados were given this one stage to play out the final act each and every year. They didn’t disappoint. Vans and Protec ponied up the cash and food. Music pulsed through the building. The energy was a palpable thing. One could watch and feel it oozing into each and every person. Over the ensuing years, the contest grew in participation and popularity. Enter the carpetbaggers.
Carpetbaggers are those that are opportunists or exploiters. I see them… they know who they are. We all do. Sell your soul for financial reward. Prostitution of skateboarding for your own gain is not a good thing. It angers most. Few will have the courage to say anything. They don’t want to be… contentious. I prefer to be that way. I sleep better when I speak the truth. So it goes. On and on. It’ll stay this way until a usurper comes. At least we have each other. On Combi day, this is truly all that matters. Skating. United. Victorious.
We sell ourselves in many ways. Exigo vestri. Daily, we are confronted with the monstrous society outside our doors. We put on a mask and blend in, hide or keep everyone at arms length. Some put on war paint and take a stand. Most do not. It’s easier to stay complacent… During the contest, skaters put together their best lines and tricks. They sell themselves to each other, the judges and the crowd. Concrete and paint. Energy and fate. It is poetry. Over the last several years, a new crop of bowl-riding terrorists have loomed horrifically on the horizon. Rune Glifberg, Zach Miller, Bucky Lasek, Josh Borden and Pedro Barros are taking the contest by the throat and literally forcing it into a new dimension.
I see a new age dawning in skateboarding. Good and bad. I see my anarchy-wrapped, counter culture being brought into the mainstream by virtually every single corporation and thick-waisted, money grubber out there, trying to gain ‘cool’ credentials. I see skateboarding and bowl riding becoming a spectator sport. I watch the flag being carried by the young. I look back with a certain nostalgia to November 1998. Opening day. Vans Combi Pool. There was no one on the deck or in the pool under thirty years of age. If you saw a twelve year old kid in the pool in those first years, they were sliding down the bowl like a playground apparatus or kick-flipping on the flat. Now, I see twelve year olds doing head high airs and 540′s. I also see a jock-mentality in parents. They see Junior’s bright and glittering future. Skateboarding was never meant for this. No future. No prize.
Have we been numbered and packaged? Sold. Is it so bad? Our pioneers are making money, traveling and being shown a respect that they clearly should be receiving. New age bowl riders are coming up strong and pushing the bar higher. Young kids are drawn to the magic of vert. The future seems to be in strong capable hands. I suppose we can lament over what was. Our thing. Mi numi. In the end, it’s up to each person just how much of themselves they are willing to give up. It is our thing. Only the individual can determine what is right. We all can agree on one thing however. The Combi contest is an exciting thing to witness and participate in. One can complain about the judging, format or sponsorship prostitution… but no one can deny the energy and level of skateboarding achieved in this building, on this day. Thanks to MRZ for the images. Thanks to Dan Bourqui for the overview. Skate- Ozzie