MARSEILLE IS NOTORIOUSLY SKETCHY, though I've shaken the sweaty hand of petty crime far more times in Barcelona than in this slightly filthy jewel of the Mediterranean. A port town, it's alleged that ships bring in ne'er-do-wells from all over the globe, though Morocco is the oft-cited source (I doubt the Moroccans see it that way). Aside from a really round-about cab ride, I can't provide any anecdotes of contravention. I did, however, hear a real good one from Hellrides-past, relayed to me through Ethan Fowler.
It seems the Hellriders landed at the Marseille train station (marked as a dangerous spot, even in the most liberal Euro-travel guides) and were approached by a group of toughs who immediately began grabbing up the crew's bags like free samples. The Riders jumped up, snatched them back indignantly and prepared for whatever the Frogs had next. At this point, their assailants changed approach and decided to engage the boys in a little Q and A.
"So what do you think of France?" one of them demanded.
Cardiel narrowed his gaze, squinted and stared him straight in the eyes. "I think it smells like shit!"
They hated this answer. Absolutely hated it. They instantly whipped out knives.
"Luckily, it was a Hellride, so we all had knives too," Ethan told me.
A nerve-wrenching show-down ensued, shanks gleaming in the sun. Luckily the boys were able to get out, un-cut, and continued their vacation unmolested.
You'd think this story would already be a part of skate lore. It would, except for the fact that asking a Hellrider to sit down to a word processor is tantamount to asking him to carry a purse.
Nothing this exciting has ever happened to me in Marseille, but it's good to know the possibilities.
There was a real camaraderie among the media at this contest. No one was trying to outdo one another with fancy equipment or by actually getting down into the bowls to get better angles. It was like we were all well-paid company men, offering to get beers for one another and comparing our guts while firing long-lens rounds from the comfort of the shade tree. If there are any 19-year-old photographers Out there looking to get in the game, now would be a good time because the current press corps is pathetic.
As in years past, they gave out free Fosters beer in the oil-can containers. Every day I tried to shoot something early before the inevitable time when my hands would be too full to operate the trigger. Getting drunk in the afternoon is a bad idea, especially if you re more accustomed to a get-drunk-and-go-to-bed schedule of binge drinking. Sobering up in the hottest part of the day gives you a glimpse of what malaria must feel like. Nevertheless, I was mid-day drunk in the blazing sun five days in a row--might as well have been at Lake Havasu with my shirt off. Spring break forever!!!!
Bros in the bowls
A competent crew had assembled, though past placers Cardiel, Chalmers, Ryan Johnson, Jereme Dadlin, Speyer, Zattoni, and Hewitt were all MIA. Here are some of the dudes who showed and what they did:
Pat Smith: Miller flip the spine, fakie rock, Elguerial back over the spine
Steve Bailey: Surf style, shades, nearly nude
Abdul Qatbi: Hot eggs, big airs in the seven-foot bowl
Christian Brox: Kickflip tweakers over the hips
Alain Goikoetkea: Speedy backside tailslides, tank top
Ben Colen: Sunburn comp winner. Looked practically purple
Roman Kackl: Alley-oop kickflip melons over the hip about 10 times. Ignored by judges in best trick
Ben Krahn: Frontside Cabs in the deep end with radically sleepy style
Brewce Martin: Showboated through deck-barging roll-outs, layback air varials, Andrechts, frontside handplants, and lots of bizarre variations where he slid down the surface of the bowls with his hands dragging. Pushed me into the bowl twice
Manuel Palacios: Super smooth with a deep bag of tricks
John Ponts: Aka John Pants. Went bonkers all weekend with severe sunburn, high transfers and a kickflip grab attempt over the Cardiel gap that ended with a separated shoulder
Alan Petersen: Enormous alley-oop backside airs and frontside and backside ollies over the main hip. Hippy-twisted the Cardiel gap with his signature nose grip
Sam Hitz: Paul Zitzer told me when he was a child, a friend at the Turf skatepark pointed to Sam Hitz and told him, "See that kid, that's Sam Hitz. He takes CO-caine!" Sweet deep-end action with mutes over the hips, 5-0 and tailslide reverts and the full Nelson across the entire spanse of the seven-foot bowl. There was no cocaine involved
Neil Heddings: Just plain reckless! Alley-oop frontside airs covering 16 feet--regs or with a kickflip, waist-high kickflip to frontside pivot and enormous bowl-to-bowl jumps in the spine zone. He skipped his runs in the finals, which is appropriate in an underground hero-type situation
Omar Hassan: The returning champ heelflip indy'd over the Cardiel gap, heelflipped to frontside air in the deep and ollied to lipslide revert from the tear drop to the spine. I think he might have even done a McTwist. Total rippage
Chet Childress: More tricks than anyone, including les-twist disasters, backside disaster reverts, hurricanes to fakie, frontside 5-0 fakies, big tailboned backside airs and many more all strung together in a pleasing manner
Brian Patch: The Indiana marauder laid down the heavy foot on the 360 mute fakie in the deep, judo body jars, frontside inverts and assorted hot moves that put him in third
While in the bowl, Tony tossed his feathered-head back and slung himself through all the jumps in the joint. He wrangled frontals in the deep, pitched spine crosses of every kind and stayed on in spite of himself or where his feet ended up. Tony won 'cause he's got the moves, the look, and the excitement that nobody but Heddings and Childress could really even come close to. After climbing the podium, shaking some hands and even snagging a smooch from some French woman in a power suit, Tony was asked if he'd like to say something to the crowd.
Tony Trujillo: Tony was one step ahead of the irony bandwagon, rocking an ensemble consisting of ill black acid-washed jeans and a similarly textured purple "surf" T-shirt, like the kind you'd get in the San Diego airport that says something like "San Diego Surf Co." He and his coaches, nefarious as they are, hit up early a.m. sessions to help work out runs and combos then staked a large hill-side plot throughout the day to heckle and drink beer. It was the place to be during practice days, this grassy knoll, and everyone gathered around in their black shirts and looked tough.
"Yes I would," Trujillo replied. "If any of the girls Out there speak English, I'm looking for someone to sleep with, maybe."
It's always amazing when a kid figures it out way ahead of schedule. The next morning I saw him getting on the plane with his gold cup tied to his backpack and oversized novelty check beneath his arm, and laughed out loud at his charmed existence.
Boring Dissertation only meza will read
The curved walls of the Marseille skatepark kept the dream alive for many a transition nostalgist through the lean years of the early '90s. Though few actually made it there, the knowledge that somewhere in the world, people were hopping hips and catching air validated bitterness towards p-flips and the breakdance-like flatground circles of the day. The mere possibility of a mute air over the spine followed by a sweeper disaster gave hope that the slash and bash hadn't been completely extinguished by Mullen and his ilk, and the bowls were held up as a holy grail for the faithful. A few years later, when the slickest of mags ran Marseille photos of the top pros of the day launching to flat in smirking big-air mockery, those who held out hope that we were all on the same team decided it was high time to fish out the 66's and go "old school." Either that, or concentrate on snowboarding.
So the Marseille contests were especially oddly timed, Not that they haven't been radical--they have been, what with Wade's spine attack and Cardiel's broke-board off-axis 360 launcher. People have screamed and slammed and had a great time and it's all been very genuine. The contests could even be seen as ahead of the curve, trendwise, forecasting the excitement of Dogtown and Z-Boys, the second coming of the concrete park, the old-school product revival, and Slayer in a transworld video.
The Marseille contests are not the future and they're not really the past either. In all honesty, the bowls are no longer the world's best and the line-up is missing some skaters who could really raise the bar competition-wise. But fuck it, dude.
They're not, though. Because regardless of how many bowl parks are built or how many '70s mummies are hauled out to endorse a product, the kids, in general, could give a rat's ass. The powers that be have mistaken a series of unrelated events as the emergence of a trend. They're banking on them because it seems like that's what everyone else is doing, when in reality, no trend even exists. A writeup on Dogtown and Z-Boys in The New Yorker does not equal kids skating pools and the fact that exskaters in their 40s are building public skateparks with 22-foot full pipes does not mean that anyone is actually riding them. Save for a 'blader getting trapped in the bottom from time to time, you have a better chance of seeing the Baby Jesus in the Van's combi-pool than a skater under the age of 27 who paid full-price for his equipment.
Do you think for a second Neil Heddings is think ing about any of this crap when he's tossing a face-high 'oop frontside air off the main hip? Well do you, college boy?
RELATED ARTICLE: MARSEILLE 2002
1. Tony Trujillo
2. Omar Hassan
3. Brian Patch
4. Chet Childress
5. Ben Krahn
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2002|
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