I left Long Beach pretty early in the morning. The freeways were empty and the drive south to Huntington Beach went quickly. I thought of the strangeness surrounding my visit today. I’ve covered these events for at least a decade and this was going to be my first time as an attendee. I wasn’t being paid, I wasn’t expected to be anywhere and I had no agenda. I arrived at the VANS US Open before 7:00 am in the hopes of parking somewhere on this planet. It was going to be a madhouse. There were surfers in the water. It was flat and the sea was virtually motionless. The beach was clumped with people. The surfers waited for nothing and the crowd on the beach saw the same. It was anticlimactic and I grew bored. I decided to walk around as an event spectator and look for interesting things to shoot. Subtleties. I saw Kristy Van Doren at the Vans tent. We chatted for awhile. I could tell that she was waiting for the onslaught. Shortly after speaking to her, I looked down the beach and saw that the crowd had doubled. There were people everywhere. The storm had definitely arrived.
The strange and perverse. It was all there in abundance. Teenage girls sauntered past, brazenly. Their walk was a mockery in itself. Magic marker scribbles announced that they were ready for more attention than their teenaged minds should be allowed to experience. “Slap Here” “Free Hugs” Kiss This” and other more inappropriate things were scrawled on their asses, stomachs and legs.
I saw drunken people falling over. I watched couples groping under aluminum bleachers in the shadows. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet. I wondered at what was going on around me. Is this what was really happening outside the skateboarding area at these things? Had I missed something? When I worked these events, my mind was so focused on the skateboarding that I had tunnel vision. It never occurred to me that such was the norm… All I could think about was my own fifteen year old daughter and how bummed I’d be if she was walking around in public with such inane things scrawled on her backside.
I sighed and climbed the stairs to the bowl area. This old man needed a dose of my kind of people. Skateboarders. Looking toward the bowl, the first thing I saw was the back of every cameraman and videographer that ever existed in the world. At least, it seemed that way. Now I knew how spectators felt when I was on the deck shooting an event. A skater blasted over a hip and approached the lip. The epic lensmen moved en masse in the direction of the action. I didn’t see what the skater did, but I saw his back as he flew over another hip moving away from me. It must’ve been good because some of the riders smacked their boards on the coping.
Moving to a different vantage point, I tried to stay out of the way of my peers and be unobtrusive. I wanted to respect their space. I shot a few long lens images of things that I thought looked rad. It was interesting to be an outsider. Observer. The crowd yelled and when I turned to look, I saw the stands filled to overflowing. There were scantily clad girls, tattooed hard-eyed UFC types and assorted characters everywhere. It was interesting.
I walked around and watched. I took photographs. Of course I took photographs. I’m a photographer by training and trade. I’ve been shooting professionally my entire adult life. It is hardwired into my DNA. Biology. I didn’t fall out of a Kodak classroom somewhere… I need to shoot photographs much in the same way some people breathe. It is a necessity. I saw a large number of things I had never seen before. I watched debauchery. I understood in some ways, the reckless dreams of youth. I saw things that defied logic. I was witness to terrible and mighty forces inside the bowl. From my pulled back vantage point, I saw it all… In doing so, I realized that sometimes it’s better not to understand. Sometimes it’s better to have tunnel vision. Some things are better left unseen. – MRZ