VANS Combi 2016

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Vans Combi Contest. It was a full scale assault on the mind and body this year… I’ve written more words about this contest than virtually any other. History. Longevity. Participants. Legends. It’s all here under one roof. One day. Chaos. Random highlights included- Austin Poynter going higher than anyone… ever. Chris Russell destroying another board on another disaster. He does that and his punk points are at such a level, they won’t be eclipsed anytime soon.

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Austin Poynter

Austin Poynter

Chris Russell

Chris Russell

Chris Russell

Chris Russell

Bucky Lasek’s first run out of the gate was not for the weak-hearted opponent. The riders in his heat must’ve wished they were in a different building that day. His first six walls were ferocious and he didn’t let up. Pedro Barros- good grief. His speed was unmatched. I saw him go as high as Lincoln Ueda usually goes… and that is saying something. Pedro has raw, brutal power. Kiko Francisco has a backside ollie that is beautiful to witness. It looks like he fell out of a skylight in the ceiling or something. He’s like fourteen years old too… imagine the day when he’s gained some meat and potatoes on his body. He’ll need a bigger bowl.

Bucky Lasek

Bucky Lasek

Bucky Lasek

Bucky Lasek

Pedro means it!

Pedro means it!

Pedro Barros

Pedro Barros

Lance Mountain

Lance Mountain

Kiko Francisco

Kiko Francisco

Steve Caballero was polished perfection. Eddie Elguera once again showed why he’s a Legend in every way imaginable. Great lines and technicality were evident. Christian Hosoi was water flowing through the bowl. His runs were great. Zach Miller held some lines together in fluid form. Alex Perelson put some serious walls together and put in a good performance.

Alex Perelson

Alex Perelson

Christian, El Gato and Losi

Christian, El Gato and Losi

Duane Peters

Duane Peters

Chris Miller ran into difficulty during some seriously fast lines and found himself fending off some ultra-hungry opponents. One particular opponent was Lance Mountain. Lance came out swinging. He fought like he had extra arms. Few could stand against him and not marvel at what he threw down. It was the game changer. Lance ended the night with a top red banner spot.

Lance Mountain

Lance Mountain

Tony Alva

Tony Alva

Darren Navarette

Darren Navarette

Pedro Barros ate up his division though Bucky Lasek, Cory Juneau and Trey Wood were nipping at his ankles. Darren Navarette  grabbed the Masters Division with strong powerful skating and ended the day with a big smile and some cash. Pat Ngoho ended the contest with three complete runs, fluid stylish skating and placed –once again–rather lower than he deserved. Open your eyes guys… It was an overwhelming contest. Mind. Body. Soul. Always is and probably always will be.

Pro- 1- Pedro Barros 2- Cory Juneau 3- Bucky Lasek

Masters- 1- Darren Navarette 2- Bruno Passos 3- Jed Fuller

Legends- 1- Lance Mountain 2- Steve Caballero 3- Chris Miller

Thank you to Vans for everything, thank you to all of the riders, thank you to Orlando Welsh, Chris Ortiz and Anthony Acosta for the images. Skate – Ozzie

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Combi Contests

Tom Wally Inouye Pipeline Combi

Tom Wally Inouye
Pipeline Combi

In doing the William Sharp book, I looked through his archive of contest photographs. He had images from the Spring Valley and Upland contests of Hester I. He also had some amazing images from Hester II at Del Mar and Upland. The Combi contest is tomorrow at Vans in Orange, California. I’ve been to most of them over the last ten years. I’ve written about them and had others do guest posts on Blue Tile Obsession. From Eric Nash, Chris Miller, the Alba brothers, to Jeff Grosso, Lance Mountain and almost everyone in between, the contests have been compared, pondered and dissected with surgical precision.

Pipeline Skatepark Upland, Ca.

Pipeline Skatepark Upland, Ca.

Over the last few days, I’ve been posting some classic images from the Pipeline Combi pool in Upland. The park and its radical terrain, helped to create a wave of powerful skateboarders that seriously pushed the known limits of skateboarding at that time. The park lasted from May 1977 to November 1988.  After it closed, local riders rode the pool even as the heavy steel blades fell in swinging, frenetic motion. They almost couldn’t believe its end had come.

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In 1998, Vans opened the Vans Skateboard Park inside of a mall in Orange, California. In planning it, Vans had brought in Dave Duncan and Rick Carje — among others — to bring about a return of the Combi pool. Rick Carje had built Kelly Belmars and Chicken’s pools and had worked with Dave Duncan building ramps and things. They met with Vans and Don Hoffman of the original Pipeline Combi.  Duncan, Belmar, Carje and Chuck Hults all put their heads together to decide how to rebuild the Combi pool. Rick Carje said that with a crew of about twenty workers, they finished the Vans Combi in about a month.

Vans Combi pool / 1999

Vans Combi pool / 1999

Eventually, Vans decided on having a pool party contest in the Combi pool. A few guys that rode the pool regularly, had a bit of an advantage. The Vans Combi was plaster. It was lumpy and the coping stuck out. According to Omar Hassan, “You had to put the time in to ride the Combi well. The regular sessions were made up of only people who really wanted to ride it. It was bumpy and slippery… we loved it.” Brian Patch, Bob Burnquist, Omar Hassan, Rune Glifberg, Jeff Grosso, Steve Alba, Lance Mountain, Chris Miller and a few others knew where to draw the lines and how to maintain speed. They rode it often and they rode it well. Vans didn’t realize the impact these early contests would have. No one did. According to some of the early contest riders, it was a return of the big bowl riding contests that they recalled from their youth.

Alex Perelson

Alex Perelson Vans Combi – plaster version

Chris Miller Vans Combi plaster version

Chris Miller Vans Combi plaster version

The Vans Combi contests were held every spring and continued to grow. The contest is now considered the High Holy Day for bowl riding enthusiasts. Vans has a live webcast that is seen all over the world. To place well at the Vans Combi contest is considered a major achievement in a skateboarders career.

Vans Combi Refurbishing 2010

Vans Combi Refurbishing 2010

Vans Combi - Refurbished 2010

Vans Combi – Refurbished 2010

Fast Forward. 2010. Vans decided to refurbish the Combi pool. Some alterations were made to the shape and a new surface was put onto the pool. New coping and tiles were placed onto the entire pool as well. The Combi refurbishing made the pool much more ‘user friendly’ and an entirely new crew of young skaters began competing and riding the Combi on a regular basis. Lines that Steve Alba, Chris Miller and others had laid down years before in the original Pipeline Combi pool, were mimicked and copied… Trick combinations put down by Rune Glifberg and Bucky Lasek were usurped as well.

Josh Rodriguez

Josh Rodriguez

The young upstarts failed to consider a simple time-honored truth. Glory gotten on the backs of others, is no glory at all. Etiquette would often be lacking. One year during practice sessions,  I watched groms brazenly drop in and snake Bucky, Salba and Omar. They shook their heads in annoyance. I bet that when Bucky, Salba and Omar were young, they would’ve never dreamed of snaking one of the greats. It simply wasn’t done.

Combi Contest Morning

Combi Contest Morning

The Combi contests have evolved in the past few years. There has been a changing of the guard in a way. The format has been changed. Pro, Masters and Legends divisions separate the riders… big money drew some skaters out of a sleepy, big bellied ‘retirement’ and the hunger for Vans cash, accolades and Vans Combi Banner credentials started watering down the pure punk-ass debacle that once was the Vans Combi Contest. We’ll see where it goes… for now, I’ll sit back and watch my favorite skateboarders draw lines and throw themselves around all day. The energy level in that building, on that day, during that venue is consistently crazy. It is insane. I’ll take insane over mundane any day. Thank you to MRZ and William Sharp for the images. Skate- Ozzie

Eddie Elguera

Eddie Elguera

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Friendship

Gopa, Rick, Shawn, me

Gopa, Rick, Ripperside Shawn, me

Ripperside Shawn moved to West Virginia a few months ago to work a farm there. We have scouted, drained and cleaned many pools over the past few years. I missed him when he moved away. He drove across country this past week and arrived in Escondido Saturday night.

Ripperside Shawn

Ripperside Shawn

Gopa

Gopa

His son — Gopa — celebrated his birthday and Shawn drove into town. He asked me to set up a pool mission for them. Easy. One of the pools I had set up was a new little Blue Haven kidney. I was pretty stoked to be taking them this weekend. The owner text me yesterday and said they’d be gone all day, so it was off the list. I thought of the Pink Motel. I knew that Shawn and Gopa had never ridden there.

Rick Stine

Rick Stine

Me

Me

Rick and MRZ drove over and we met up and had the place to ourselves for awhile. Good friends. Fun. No other reason to be doing this…Happiness. Happy Birthday Gopa. Thank you Rick, Shawn, Gopa and MRZ. Excellent. I value your friendship. Skate – Ozzie

Friendship

Friendship

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Raining

_DSC0568Jon Bolduc
Andy and I had just flown into LAX the night before, the weather for the weekend looked bleak…a rarity in Southern California. So we knew despite our jet lag from our cross-country travel that we needed to get on it right away. We had already hit two pools that morning before the skies opened and rain ended our session.

We had taken cover and a much-needed food break at a nearby taco stand and planned our strategy for the following day. Ozzie, Rick, Andy, and I knew our only chance to avoid the rain on Saturday would be to head east into the desert. There was a chance it may storm out there as well as it seemed rain was inevitable for many parts of the Los Angeles area.   Although, we didn’t really have any other real options since riding an indoor skatepark never seems like a good idea. In fact, it would be a bummer to fly to California to ride in a cage with a bunch of jocks working on their stunts, we could most certainly do that on the east coast. But that’s not skateboarding…or at least the kind of skateboarding I’m interested in doing. So with that, it was decided pool mission in the desert and we were going to go for it!

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Saturday morning at first light our crew assembled to head east. Marlon had to bail on the pool mission since his wife had made plans to attend an all day rock concert (or something like that) leaving him on dad duty for the day. Corey and Ray rounded out our solid six man crew.

Bulldog

Bulldog

Corey

Corey

The skate gods smiled upon us that day as we didn’t see any threat of rain until dusk. We moved quickly and swiftly from pool to pool.  We looked at some and passed, we drained and cleaned others, and of course we skated as many as we could. Who did what, who ruled the pool, which pool was better, etc. These details are unimportant…what matters is that we all had a blast, skating, laughing, and sharing the stoke. It was beyond a rad day!  It was perfect!

Rick

Rick

Pool riding is all about finding perfection in the imperfection. Backyard pool skating was and will continue to be 100% pure skateboarding.  All day, everyone was stoked.  We were with friends riding backyard swimming pools that had never been intended to be ridden. How rad is that?

The feeling of riding a backyard pool is hard to describe (or at least for me it is difficult to put into words) but what I can say is that it is a feeling that I have never experienced riding in a skatepark and for that reason alone I will always be a pool skater. – Bulldog

Andy Neal

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Skateboarding is fun.  The first time I stepped on the wooden toy was in 1984 and I was ten years old.  The feeling that I got from skating was pure joy and happiness.  Not much gives me this feeling other than my family, my daughter, and some of my friendships. In 1984, my terrain was the streets of Poolesville, MD and my grandmother’s long asphalt driveway. Eventually, the terrain progressed to ramps built by me and my skateboard family of that time.  I would look at my idols in Thrasher and Transworld and read every word in every issue.  I was always drawn to the images of skaters riding in backyard pools and all I wanted to do was ride them.  A few years later I rode my first pool in Poolesville.  Fast forward to 2016.

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Skateboarding is still fun.  I can’t stop.  At 41, I still feel like that ten year old smiling from ear to ear from that pure joy and happiness that riding provides.  I go to California once or twice a year now to search for the plaster and to hang with the owner of this blog who has become one of my dearest friends and my personal SoCal meteorologist.  Pretty easy job, it hasn’t rained in LA since 1935 and it’s always 78 degrees, right?  Wrong!  “And then the rains came.” But, we outsmarted old man Nino by heading into the desert to ride some sun parched plaster.  At first entry, not a word was spoken; every part was perfectly played out by those in the crew, who just, knew what to do.  A well-oiled machine.

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Andy

We handled the situation in ten minutes. Pure Fun… Repeat.  Wheels rolled, stories were told, and the tacos were bold.  I am grateful for skateboarding and my pool pals, both old and new.  The day, put simply, was perfection.  If there is one thing that skateboarding has taught me, it is not to take things too seriously and just have fun.     – Andy Neal

Rick Stine

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Saturday morning. 5:30 am wake up with a 7:00 am meet up. Palm Springs was on or radar this morning. Pulling into town sometime about 9:00 am, the attack began with almost military-like precision. Two pools were cleaned out and on the drying list by 9:30 am. This had to be one of the best executed double barge missions that I could remember, and this was only the beginning of a very successful barge springs mission.
I salute my brothers Ozzie, Bulldog, Andy, Corey and MRZ.  – Rick Stine
Rick

Rick

Corey Philips

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Bucket brigade the first pool like a tribe! The chief, Ozzie, synchronized a great crew to beat the rain in the valley and head to Palm Springs. I never met two of the guys (Bulldog and Andy) before, but after the first pool it felt like I’ve known them forever. 10:00 am double trucker slash grinds from hell, almost blew the quest by the main man Bulldog. Rick decides to back him up with a slasher and Andy gets super close on the second run on a frontal slasher in the shallow end, but we had to dip out as quickly as possible because of the gnar. We went to skate another pool close by and Ozzie does a one wheeler on some heavy tranny. The coping stuck the fuck out and Mrz got the epic shot!

Corey

Corey

By this time it’s only 11:00 am. We had two pools skated and had scouted several so we celebrated with — what turned out to be– the most expensive tacos in Palm Springs. We then drove further east and end up running into a very heavy crew. Me and Rick cracked open a couple of cold ones and watched. The crew was crushing things. We dipped out and got to this last barge that was super sick.  Rick got the grind so we headed out as soon as possible.  It was a wonderful day and I left with new friends and great memories. – Corey Philips

MRZ

MRZ

MRZ

This particular day was nostalgic in some ways. After Ozzie was arrested in 2011, he began trying to get more permission pools going. We’d still go out and barge from time to time, but it sure was easier on the nerves when we had permission to be there. It also made it better for shooting the skateboarding. I could set up lights, set up shots and the skaters could basically dial in the pool. On this day, the heavy rains had forced us east into the desert. Ozzie hooked up with some local friends and did his homework. He had several barges on the menu for that day. It was in and out. The fifteen minute rule was in full effect. We drove in, cleaned out several pools, then headed back to the first one after it had dried and checked them off one by one. It was exciting and fresh… it felt like the old days. – MRZ

Rick

Rick

Andy

Andy

Ozzie

Ozzie

Corey

Corey

Bulldog

Bulldog

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Blue

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A dirty sun had perched over the city as he reached the thickest part of its guts. The news was blue. A grey sky overhead colored his every word. Brain boiling black. Fingernails bit into his palm. The freeway was a blur of metal and motion. His dark eyes drifted left and right. Exhaust fumes were a balm to his troubled mind. At seventeen, he knew his end was close. No Medicare for him. The thought of growing old, church functions, ice cream socials and Viagra filled him with a raw red panic. His blood thrummed. He was the kind of kid that others called, “Strange”. Snorting in laughter, he changed lanes almost hitting the car beside him. Middle finger sign language passed between them. “Fuck. What’s so strange about Sigur Ros and poetry?” As far as he was concerned, they were the ones that were fucking strange… slaves to parents, schools, jobs and expectations. He had read a book by Talbot Mundy who said, “The only safe thing I know is to follow opportunity and leave others behind to do the worrying. More people die lingering, ghastly deaths in arm-chairs and in bed than anywhere.” He fully agreed.

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He went down an off ramp, slowed as he passed an accident and pulled into a line of glass-fronted buildings just off the freeway. Sitting in his car, he calmed himself. “Jesus…” He liked accidents. Hurt and happiness are one. Always. His reflection looked back at him. Empty eyed. He was a book with no pictures. Only mirrors. He reflected nothing and everything. He was whatever anyone wanted him to be. No identity. Cipher. Whatever caused him to end up like this, he didn’t know. He always felt dead inside. His one emotion was wrath… Going into a bookstore, he purchased a journal and paid for it with a stolen credit card. The clerk must’ve been stoned. He kept up some happy talk to distract him, commenting on the Phish t-shirt that the clerk was wearing. “Oh yeah, Phish bro…  great band.” Had the clerk looked closely, he would have noticed that the customer certainly didn’t resemble a female named Cynthia Dottingham. He walked out of the store smiling. Underneath his sweatshirt were two books of poetry by Baudelaire and Bukowski. “He had it coming. If you’re too dumb to do your job right, you deserve to be ripped off.” Driving across town, he spotted a young schoolgirl on a corner with her mother. “Not bad.” he thought. He stopped by his friend’s apartment and bought a shard and took the speed home to smoke it.

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Empty house. Empty street. Empty pool. His yard was full of trash and junk that his mom’s boyfriends left laying around. She’d come home from the bar with some shithead and he’d soon move in. A few months later, another. Then another. He didn’t even talk to her anymore. He’d be eighteen soon and he’d never allow “It” to tell him what to do ever again. He exhaled and looked out the back window. The dirty glass was cracked. His brain squirmed and his thoughts moved like ants on a hot summer sidewalk. The old pool squatted there in the weeds and grass. When he was a boy, they would swim in it. He shook his shaggy head. He couldn’t recall the last time. It was a shame… at least the neighborhood kids would come talk and hang out. It was the only cool thing about being a kid that he could remember. He mattered. He fit in. No more… Thumbing a stray strand of black hair from his eyes, he picked up the pipe again. Thank you to MRZ and Rick Stine. Skate- Ozzie

Al Brunelle

Al Brunelle

Brad Bowman

Brad Bowman

Corey Phillips

Corey Phillips

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Stripped Away

Ray Zimmerman taking one for the team.

Ray Zimmerman taking one for the team.

Why? Why do we seek out filthy, neglected backyard swimming pools? What compulsion drives us in a relentless search for others? We clean out rotting fruit, garbage, landscape debris, moldering grass clippings, endless beer bottles and cans, dog feces, urine and virtually any other putrefying thing you care to imagine. The stench is horrifying.

Al Brunelle and I

Al Brunelle and I

Al Brunelle, Rick Stine, me and Brad Bowman.

Al Brunelle, Rick Stine, me and Brad Bowman.

Final Countdown

Final Countdown

Dead animals, paint, oil drums, car transmissions, dead dogs, household appliances and — the myth that still lingers — a dumped homicide victim, have all been seen at one time or another. Pool skaters regularly unearth completely filled in pools. Jeremiah Risk and Rodney Rodrigues put it all on the line. Nude Bowl, Buena Vista, Pala… Action. Not words. They dug out the Nude Bowl and Rodney was responsible — I believe — for the others being rideable again. Devout. Pool skating is a minor religion.

Brad Bowman

Brad Bowman

Al Brunelle

Al Brunelle

Corey Phillips

Corey Phillips

Pool skating is difficult. I think it may be the most difficult discipline in skateboarding. You have to locate a pool. Drain and clean it. Figure it out. Every pool is a puzzle. Every single wall is different. Pools are humbling. I’ve seen some of the best pool skaters in the world, like – Tony Farmer, Ben Raybourn, Kevin Kowalski, Matt Dyke, Cody Lockwood, Mason Merlino, Brad McClain, Skreech, Mark Partain, Steve Alba, Robbie Russo, Shaggy Palmer, Chris Livingston, Sean Mazza, Al Brunelle, Grant Taylor… and every single one of these skaters have been humbled by pools.

Me

Me

Stripped away. Pride and ego. Pools are the great equalizer. So, why do we do this thing that we do? I think that it is a combination of things. It is the challenge of riding something that was never intended for skating, it is the lawlessness and excitement, it is the purity and it is the fun. The satisfaction that comes with going over obstacles in pools cannot easily be put into words. It is not a perfect wall, pristine surface, skatepark stunt. You have to figure out how to get the speed and the angle to pick a line that puts you over… a puzzle to work out. Then, you have to stay on. The simplest thing, becomes everything.

Rick Stine

Rick Stine

Stripped away. We strip away the filth to reveal the surface. Then we strip away our fear and ego… and that is where the fun is found. Thank you to Brad Bowman, Rick Stine, Al Brunelle and Corey Phillips for the hard work in the heat and a huge thank you to MRZ for suffering through the afternoon to capture what is hard to put into words. Skate – Ozzie

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Jerry Valdez & Friends

The Jer

The Jer

Jerry Valdez. If there was ever a more perfect example of a skateboarding legend, I haven’t heard of it. Jerry Valdez ripped pools, pipes and parks into easily digested pieces. What he didn’t like, he spat out for the weaker to suckle on. Frontside insanity at eleven o’clock in the shadowy realms of the twenty-two foot Arizona pipes, San Fernando Valley pool play mostly above coping while most struggled above the scumline, frontside inverts, frontside rock-n-rolls and incomprehensibly high lines on Baldy’s flat wall were all his and his alone. He was called a “Val” because of his affiliation with Val Surf, yet Jerry was Hollywood — as he puts it — in Yearbooks. He grew up in Hollywood and went to school there. He rode everything and was a ruler from the starting gun.

Angelo

Angelo

Lance Mountain 'Tail Tap' under the watchful eye of its originator

Lance Mountain ‘Tail Tap’ under the watchful eye of its originator

Christian Cooper

Christian Cooper

Brad Bowman

Brad Bowman

Now, some forty years later, a few of us gravitated to Angelo’s Malibu clover to put down some lines with the birthday legend. Brad Bowman, Jim Gray, Wesley, Angelo, Christian Cooper, Chris and Tommy, Lance Mountain, MRZ, Tony Alva and I were in attendance.

Happy Birthday Jer

Happy Birthday Jer

We pulled grinds, laughed and the hard line crap-talk was a mile a minute. When Jerry is around, he pushes you to skate harder, pushes buttons and shoves the insanity level past the edge. It’s where he’s most comfortable. I love you dude. Happy Birthday Jer. Thanks to everyone and thank you to MRZ for the images. Skate- Ozzie

Tony Alva

Tony Alva

Me / Brad Bowman

Me / Brad Bowman

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