From Survival to Revival to Wonderland

Ben Stainer's review of 2016 and preview for 2017.  Well-known, well-travelled and well-versed in the longboarding arena, Ben gives us his thoughts of things past and hopes of things to come.

A Forecast for 2017

2016 was an incredible year for UK skating; from the uncommonly dry weather at Abercynon to the soaked conditions in the Peak District.  Add in the introduction of the British Downhill Skateboarding League and it’s been a year that honestly had me in fear of the scene falling out, with much turd throwing, all because of the numbers on an Excel sheet that is the BDSL.

Optimized AberC 2016 Will E 1Abercynon Outlaw - Hosted by Brianne Collective - Photo: Will Edgecombe

None of those fears had any hope of materialising, however, and instead the scene experienced a gradual increase in the number of riders and interest as the year progressed.

Organised events on behalf of Brianne Collective, the emergence of riders from various parts of the Isle  and a devoted core of riders coming to each event meant that instead of the community becoming a veterans club, it began to resemble a melting pot of abilities, accents and hilarious methods of riding into the nearest tree/car/bemused pedestrian!

The Return of the Chaos - Hosted by Skate to Escape - Photo: Will EdgecombeReturn of the Chaos - hosted by Skate2Escape - Photo credit: Will Edgecombe

In addition, the media output has been high quality too. Following Ben Holmes' 'Skate the Peaks' video back in 2015, a great many riders have been motivated to capture and make edits of their own experiences at nearly every event. These range from group edits, as made by Skate to Escape and Newtons Shred's podcasts, to individual raw runs (#saveRyscar ;-)) to even members of the public publishing their own videos of skate events (filmmaker John Ninnis at Welsh events, for example).

There has also been a great rise in the number of dancers coming out of the shadows. More events to bring out longboard dance, with its inclusion in DAS Industries/UKSSA Hog Hill events and Brighton Longboard Ladies 'Battle of the Boards', only goes to prove that there is more than just the downhill/freeride/cruising option. 

Luge run at Hogtoberfest 2016 - Hosted by UKSSA/DAS Industries - Photo: Rooster Josh SzaboLuge run at Hogtoberfest 2016 - Hosted by UKSSA/DAS Industries - Photo: Rooster Josh Szabo

Although there is a discipline divide in many respects - where certain disciplines prosper and others don’t in particular parts of the country - all aspects of the scene have a very dedicated set of riders keen to keep skating with one another. On this note of fellowship, 2017 looks like a year of strength-building in that regard.

UKDH abroad has rocketed up in numbers, with over 20 riders at Bela Joyride alone, and many of the younger riders having their first races and experiences in Europe, KNK No Paws Down Week 1, for example. Given the shenanigans of the Euro tour and the organising juggernaut that is Big Mountain Skate, this will only get bigger. 

Hybrid slalom at Hogtoberfest - hosted by UKSSA/DAS Industries - Photo: Rooster Josh SzaboHybrid slalom at Hogtoberfest - hosted by UKSSA/DAS Industries - Photo: Rooster Josh Szabo

This confidence and urgency to keep everyone improving is not just down to the riders themselves but the longboard community which supports them. There are no personalities who berate and let loose, like a cannonball at Trafalgar, on those who have made errors or on someone’s inability and that is nothing short of excellent. The questions of general well-being and goodwill are also very positive signs.

2017 will be a test of the skate school. The American skate companies, having failed to water the roots of the scene, have begun running skate schools (notably Maryhill) to revive the beginners who have felt that the top skaters were getting all the media and credit. To prevent this from happening over in the British scene, there must be a system to get those who start skating, regardless of age, into the scene and to showcase what skating is about. Experiences, music, tricks and that moment of endless satisfaction when a trick, which has escaped you for months, is finally landed!

This will not be quick or have an open/shut solution. However, Bench Collective, a London DH crew that somehow bombs hills in winter, has got its plan. Teaching riders from scratch and then inviting them to European roads to skate and have an awesome time, the Collective has a solid apparatus moving forward. As more of these collectives are set up in the UK, it means more skaters to have good times with – and, with the accompanying increase in sales and marketing, hopefully more financial rewards for UK companies! The cycle of prosperity will depend on these teaching collectives.

Providing tuition and travel opportunites - Photo: Bench CollectiveProviding tuition and travel opportunites - Photo: Bench Collective

Sponsorships and events are as difficult to understand as trying to fathom the opposite sex or why some people wear socks and sandals. Contentious and I’ll still be as clueless as a mouse after a lobotomy.As sponsorships at events increase there will be some strings attached but, with the companies involved, there seems to be no cloak and dagger thus far; nor, I suspect, will it arise in 2017.

 

For individual riders, sponsorship this year will be more about community presence and how the rider is supported - although it is also up to the rider to prevent a clusterf*** of interests!

The rider/sponsor relationship will still be casual and somewhat media based, although whatever relationships companies do have with their riders is a matter that varies across the seasons, the companies involved and how many cakes can be bought from the clearance section of a supermarket.

Battle of the Boards 2016 - Hosted by Brighton Longboard Ladies - Photo: Kai MennekenBattle of the Boads - hosted by Brighton Longboard Ladies - Photo: Kai Menneken

Of course, there will always be dumb stuff but rather then shouting at each other (this isn’t a Trump vs Clinton internet forum), there needs to be a decisive call out accompanied with recommendations for action. We all make errors but the seriousness of the error must be weighed against the rider's experience and capabilities.

The BDSL will work in 2017, as long as the Pandora’s Box of sponsorship involvement doesn’t affect the racing or judging. Those on the panel are some of the most trustworthy individuals in the scene and, with their wealth of experience, I am confident the scene will be in safe hands.

The reason for the title is reminisce. The longboarding community went through a stage where the riders were dwindling and events were scarce. But that was then and this is now. Mistakes have been made and failures have happened, yet the scene, thanks to its community nature and numerous events, is going through a revival. It is up to experienced riders and intuition to keep the momentum going.

Ben's 2017 Personal Recommendations

  • Events for Beginners/Intermediates a priority
  • Encouragement/incentives to experienced riders to teach in their local areas (Award for best community action?)
  • Brianne Collective cannot do everything, MAKE YOUR OWN EVENTS (but co-ordinate)
  • Fun races on the rise (Slide Pathfect No Decks race and Bench Collective silly races)
  • Longboard Cruise maps for uploading onto main longboard pages to gather additional grassroots interest (difficulty levels, gradient changes etc can be added at the local levels)
  • Media presence at a longboarding event, whether local, regional or national. Break the Stereotype!

 

 

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