Vert Prelim Coulda Woulda Shoulda Beens

By: Paul Zitzer – Being a professional skateboarder is an amazingly awesome job. You can sleep as late as you want, you get to travel the world with your friends, you don’t have to dress up, you get to be on TV, people assume you’re cool, etc. But then, there’s the part where you have to perform in front of crowds like a show monkey. Definitely not always amazingly awesome. As a matter of fact it makes some skaters get so bummed out that they consider chucking the whole business and getting a real job. The minute I showed up at the vert prelims I was reminded why I myself (for instance) am better suited to talk about skating as a job than actually do it for a job.

So I’m just coming out of the tunnel to where the ramp is, and I bump into Neal Hendrix. “Yeah Neal! What’s up?” To which he answers, “Did you hear about Danny Mayer?” Now, I’ve seen Mayer explode his face and send his teeth scattering across the ramp like so many Chiclets ™, so it was an alarming thing to hear that something went wrong. But luckily, Neal had a slightly more upbeat report. “He locked up on a kickflip indy on his very first run of the day. How’s that for a harsh wake up call?” Now, the question I have for you is this: why do you think Danny was doing a kickflip on his very first run of the day? Because he’s at a contest that’s why. At a contest there’s not time to waste, it’s straight to business, and sometimes it ends up with you almost twisting your neck off. I don’t think that’s the technical term for what he did but when I saw him later he didn’t look like he’d even be able to checking his blind spot when driving much less bust a kickflip five any time soon. I bet Danny would have made a great aerospace engineer.

So next I see Pierre drop in, land a kickflip mute fakie, and then get not even close on a switch frontside heelflip three on the next wall. Not even close? Pierre? Unheard of! And it would be unheard of but Pierre informed me that the coping on the ramp sticks out way too far for him to do certain tricks as consistently as he wants to be doing them. And that reminded me of another of the many pitfalls of contest skating, namely, you don’t get to skate your home ramp where your tricks feel like they’re supposed to feel, instead you have to go do them on some weird-o ramp that, as good as it is, has a different tranny than you’re used to, is slipperier (or grippier) than you’re used to, has more (or less) vert than you’re used to, and is way more so on (and so forth) than you’re used to. I’m sure Pierre could have easily landed a job at the UN as a translator.

Next I talk to Zach Miller who tells me that he’s having one of those days where even frontside airs feel hard. And frontside airs are supposed to be like taking-candy-from-a-baby easy for these guys, and they usually are. But then, there are those days where nothing feels right, and you always hope that those days don’t happen to coincide with the day of the contest, but guess what? They have a funny way of doing just that. I’m thinking Zach would probably make a good X-ray technician.

Then I talk to Elliott Sloan and he’s asking me what I think about his line and if it’s good enough and all of that, and since I haven’t seen him try it yet, I have him tell me what it is–and yeah, it’s ridiculously hard. It’s like one of those “In a perfect world” this is the line I would do type of lines. But in a pro contest, who knows? It’s a crap shoot really. You’re skating against guys who can do 720’s, 900’s, and Bob Burnquist, who.… by the way have you seen Bob’s part in the Flip video? For the love of all things pure and holy, please do. It is so insane that I’m not sure we’ll be able to make much sense of it for the next few years at least. It is beyond words. Oh sorry, I was supposed to be talking about Elliott. So anyways, that’s another thing about contests, you fly across the country, put in all this time and energy, skate like a champ, and then get straight up out-skated, and then have to take the six hour flight back home thinking about the million things you should have done differently. “Maybe I should have been a croupier,” and that sort of thing.

So then the contest starts, and, let’s take Juergen Horrwarth as an example. This guy is the best vert skater to ever come out of Germany, and he has what I consider to be the most buttery-est style on a vert ramp period and end of story. But today, he bailed the only two timed and judged runs that he was given on the same dumb set up air after like three walls. There’s no reason whatsoever for that to happen. But hey, that’s contests. I suppose it’s either this for him or maybe be a veterinarian at the Berlin Zoo.

The last person I’m going to use as an example of why contest can be a tough row to hoe is Josh Stafford. Before the contest he was saying that last year he made two finals, and that this year he hasn’t made any. So of course he’s trying harder than ever and he has a really good line that’s maybe too hard to realistically even be worth trying but what can you do when you’re skating against people that can do 900’s and Bob Burnquist and… we’ve already been through this. But then he goes and drops in for his run and actually does it. He does it! Yeah Josh! Good job man! You did it! The scores come in and Duncan is hyping him over the mic, “You’re in the top six Stafford! You did it! Good job” and all of that. But that’s before the last few guys take their runs of course. And, you see what’s coming. So then the next guy goes and bumps Josh down a notch to seventh. And all of a sudden Josh is the bubble boy. The top seven advance while the eighth place guy flies home early and thinks about what he’s going to do to make the finals in NEXT year’s Dew Tour. So anyway, Josh is in seventh and there’s one last guy to go. Just so happens to be that guy who can do 900’s–Sandro Dias. But the fact that the guy that can do 900’s didn’t do a 900 is neither here nor there, because the simple fact of the matter is that he went ten feet on just about every wall and did like four different 540’s including the dreaded Gnar Jar and sent poor Josh Stafford plunging down into the eighth spot and straight to the airport for that six hour flight home where he inevitably will be thinking about the million things he could have done differently. I bet Josh would make a great stockbroker.