The law. It was etched in concrete. It spells out VANS in big red letters. Let there be no confusion out there. VANS has been supporting the skateboard world since the very beginning and they stepped it up again this year for the Girls Combi Pool Classic. The law was in effect. Dave Duncan and World Cup Skateboarding ran a tight show. Duncan issued the mandate: Skateboarding. Steve Caballero, Sasha Steinhorst and Christian Hosoi judged and interpreted the law. I looked around and saw quite a bit of pink colored clothing and griptape. The Buzzcocks echoed through the building. Banners called out from everywhere. Vitamin Water, Vans, Hoopla, Movie Tickets.Com, Independent, Nixon, Powell Peralta, Silly Girl and Poseidon were among the sponsors that believe –as I do — that girls have a place in skateboarding. They put their money where their mouth is. Lisa Whitaker of the Girls Skate Network was on hand to film everything. Cara Beth Burnside was on the deck, providing encouragement and OG status. Familiar faces. Familiar stoke.
I did notice something this year that I hadn’t seen before. I am an observer. I sit and watch. I look for differences. I try to find the truth in the lies. I saw something that really struck me this year. The girls were grittier. Dirtier. The attitude was punk. Not the fashionable punk but the gutter punk. Some of them wore ripped up clothing, dirty shirts, threadbare shorts and pads that were worn and faded. I saw duct tape and shoe goo holding VANS together. I saw girls throwing down and taking slams. It occurred to me that the girls seemed to be just like we were back in the early 1980’s when skateboarding died. Back then, there were no contests, no money, no parks, no future. We skated because we had no other choice. I looked around today at the Combi and saw the same faces. I saw the same determination. I saw a punk attitude and vein deep devotion. These were simply skateboarders skating because that is what we do. Genderless. No future. No plan. My hope for humanity was temporarily restored.
Duncan dropped the gavel and signalled that it was time for civil liberties to cease and the contest to begin. Division One: 14 years old and under. It started in earnest and went from there. Dozens lined the lip and dropped into the cavernous maw that is the Combi Pool. It is no joke really. It can eat a man up pretty quickly and I’ve seen it happen on many an occasion. These were girls, yet I saw no hesitation on their part. They quickly got in and got busy. In the end, it came down to a final select few. These girls stayed on and stayed punk. On the final podium, it would be: Arianna Carmona- 1st Place with smooth rock-n-rolls and ollies, Poppy Starr- 2nd Place with great backside airs and disasters and Jordyn Barratt – 3rd Place with frontside grind reverts and hip transfers.
There were practice heats after this and Steve Van Doren went out to the tent to make everyone Vans sandwiches. Burgers, hot dogs, Vitamin water, Oreos and chips were offered to all takers. Great skateboarding. Free food and drink. “Okay… stop twisting my arm. I’ll stay and watch!” Everyone feasted and the next Division was called forth. These were the older ladies and there was some great skateboarding from these veteran riders. I saw improvement from some of them over last year. It was inspiring. On the podium, it would be: Karen Jones- 1st Place with finger flips, varials and Smith grinds, Katherine Folsom- 2nd Place with frontside airs and fast lines and Jean Rusen- 3rd Place with frontside airs, Indys and exceptional use of the bowls.
The final division was really gnarly. Powder keg. Fuses lit and all guns blazing. These girls were pushing everything to the ‘nth’ degree. Duncan called out the names and it got a little crazy. Each time one of the girls would take a run, the next would answer it and raise the stakes. Nora Vasconcellos came out of the gate simply swinging. She pulled her best Mike Tyson and it was a full blown knockout. Nora provided straight-up, edge of the shoes, staying on, going big and “I don’t give a damn!” style ripping. Lizzie Armanto answered her so hard. Up and over the peninsula, every corner covered… disasters. She didn’t seem stoppable. Julz was matching them with speed, power and a general ferociousness usually seen in the men’s contests. Julz wasn’t letting up. It became a brawl in many aspects. Only one could win. There can be only one. In the end, there was a big question hanging in the air. “Who really won?” The podium told the tale. Nora Vasconcellos- 1st Place with huge airs, transfers, boneless, Lizzie Armanto – 2nd Place with smooth airs, disasters, inverts and incredible lines and Julz – 3rd Place with speed, power and lip tricks everywhere.
In the end, punk won. The girls were punk and proved it. We were them and they were us. Genderless. I think that it doesn’t really matter how it all went down. It only matters that it happened in the first place. A bunch of us ‘believers’ came together and did this thing we do. Supported by VANS and great sponsors, the girls were able to stay true to what they believe in. Through tough times, few contests, non-existant media coverage and little interest, they forge on… unstoppable and pure. Thank you to the sponsors, VANS, World Cup Skateboarding and my friend MRZ for the images. Skate – Ozzie