VANS TRIPLE CROWN OF SKATEBOARDING
Huntington Beach, CA
Story by: OZZIE AUSBAND
Photos by: CHARLIE MIDDLETON
Sometimes it feels like I’m falling down. Do you know the sensation? This is probably the feeling many skateboarders have during contests and demos. It’s this way in life also. In falling down, I’ve known all along the inevitability of my actions, yet as the asphalt approaches I still-somehow-feel my hands will stop my rapid descent. I’ll catch myself, dusting my hands off, and go about my way.
In going to the Vans Hard Rock/Triple Crown last month in Huntington Beach, I had this in mind. From the paper-thin personalities of Orange County, to the pretentiousness of nearby Newport Beach, it occurred to me that maybe more people should fall down once in awhile – take a couple slams – or bleed a bit. I’ve been paper-thin and pretentious on occasion. Who hasn’t? I probably wouldn’t want to live my life that way though. Someone might knock me down and as a skateboarder, I fall down enough on my own.
Falling is a humbling experience and skateboarders should have a surplus of humility. With this interior monologue going, I approached the street course at Hard Rock and ran an experienced eye over the obstacles. Ramps, ramps, and more ramps. Transitions were in abundance and pros already had begun to practice. Andy Macdonald, Geoff Rowley, Mike Vallely, and others were throwing themselves around the course, drawing lines in preparation for the afternoon event.
Threading my way through the onlookers, I approached the Vert ramp, obtained my credentials and climbed the stairs to the deck. The place was like a fucking fortress! If you didn’t have the right wristband, you were shit-out-of-luck. The place resembled a carnival.
On top of the vert ramp, I sat and watched the practice sessions. I knew then that the contest was going to be insane. They had built a huge ramp with extensions and the usual niceties but they also made an eight-foot sub-ramp that set back from the lip by about 8-10 feet. The coping to the entire ramp was continuous and unbroken, creating a bridge of death that-if you fell wrong- would send you unmercifully to your head twelve feet below. I saw people doing tricks over it, like airs and things, but only a few actually did lip tricks on the bar of doom.
Buster Halterman is a rad guy; great style and a nice attitude and will always be a winner in my book. Buster did frontside slide and rolls over the bar of doom. Mike Frazier looked on and gulped. Speaking of Mike Frazier, he tore into the ramp also, not content to ride on any past glory. Frazier knows what it takes to burn. Jake Brown, Bucky Lasek, Omar Hassan and Lincoln Ueda ripped like crazy. Some of their runs were incredible, as were Bob Burnquist’s, and Tony Hawk’s.
Colin McKay doesn’t mess around at all. Switch cab nosegrind revert and virtually anything technical that he wanted was available in his hefty bag of tricks. After one of his runs, I turned to Tony Hawk and raised my eyebrows pointing… Tony shook his head and said “Colin thinks outside the box.” Well put. I reluctantly left my perch on the deck and meandered to the street course for the contest. For street skaters, this was mecca. Gathered around the periphery of the course was virtually every known street pro in skateboarding. The event was heavily attended by a ‘who’s who’ of skateboarding prowess. I smiled. This was going to be unreal.
Chet Thomas can go big and he can ride anything. He is rapidly becoming my favorite street pro. Chet threw down hardflips, backside 180s over the hip and switch frontside 360 airs on the quarter-pipes. A hefty barrage of style and technicality made many envious as he handled the street course with ease. In the end, Chet drove home with third place and a good amount of pocket money.
Eric Koston is God-like, but he doesn’t know it. Can you say ‘switch’? Koston can, and that was what he served up. Switch Smith, lipslides and effortless ollies earned Mr. Koston second place. I saw Matt Beach several years ago while on a summer tour. He was young but very talented. At this contest, Matt Beach clearly controlled and proved it beyond a reasonable doubt with huge shifties, kickflips and flawless skating. Matt Beach will certainly be around for a while and you should check him out.
Tony Trujillo should be someone’s hero, so I made him mine. When it was time for his contest run, Tony- from his position in the bleachers above- bomb dropped his way into the street course. That was at least fifteen feet from railing to bank ramp and Tony hesitated – not one second. He then proceeded to race around the street course on high octane with huge melons and big ollie to grinds on the ledge. Tony, if you ever want to skate pools, phone Juice and get my digits.
After the craziness of the street contest, I couldn’t wait to watch the Vert. This year it was decided to hold a Masters contest – thirty years and older in the Vert bowl. Let me tell you something. Those excuses about sore knees and having to work long hours, etc. weren’t in effect this day. These guys were showing all they ever had. I saw Aaron Astorga, Duncan, Folmer, Caballero, Mountain, Grosso, Mike Smith, the Godoys, Sasha Steinhorst, Maddog Henderson, Dave Ruel, a Brazilian, and a few others ripping the bowl apart. Remarkably, Craig Johnson materialized and I got the privilege of sitting next to him on the deck. He hoisted a few one-footed inverts and everyone was pleased.
round one: Mike Smith took every other run followed closely by Duncan. Dave Ruel kills it and you better not blink when you watch him or you may miss something that will change your life. Aaron Astorga proves over and over again that he’s got the skills it takes to wreck shit. Fast lines and speeding 50-50’s through the corners along with lipslides left the crowd yelling for more. Duncan dropped in and immediately began a game of tag with the three other heads that dropped in with him: Mountain, Mike Smith and Sasha. There were a couple of close calls and shit got hotter than the seven hills in hell! The last thing in the world that you could ever want is to carve through a corner and see Duncan bearing down on you at warp speed. You lose!
round two: Mike Smiths board got taken by someone. Mike Smith took someone’s board, dropped in and took a run. A backside disaster took him out and the medics took him away. Fini. Mike rips and I’m glad he is who he is. The world could use a few more Mike Smiths. In the end it would be Cab, Grosso, Smith and Lance deservedly so. Lance is certainly one of the raddest skaters out there and what’s really awesome about him is that he loves skateboarding and he exudes it! Cab tore it up and Grosso had everyone screaming for more. We all wish Mike Smith a speedy recovery. By the way, Caballero does the best frontside inverts in the world. Thanks Stevie!
Back at the Vert ramp, everyone knew that it was gonna be a good one. Omar Hassan cannot be denied his place in The Skateboarding Hall of Fame. With a broken toe from his previous street endeavors, Omar skated the Vert contest anyway. Omar has nuts the size of Kansas. After a nearly flawless run, Omar fell with about twenty seconds remaining. Racing up onto the deck, he positioned himself perpendicular to the coping like he was going to roll in frontside. Only thing is, Omar rode straight at the bar of doom and went into a lipslide over it and into the ramp beyond! Omar committed and ate shit as the crowd went fucking crazy. Pulling himself together, Omar painfully climbed back up and with the audience roaring, pulled off the bar of doom lipslide. Omar Hassan is a man in my book and he deserves whatever skateboarding can give him.
I reiterate, Colin McKay will blow your mind. On this day, Colin is trying nollie backside 360 kickflips over the chasm of doom. He’s packing hard and to his credit, Colin gets back up every time. Coming up the stairs, another pro tells Colin that, “maybe you should try that a little higher” to which Colin retorts, “is that how you do it?” Colin McKay made that trick and the future of technical Vert skating is sure to be led by him.
Top three in Vert is as follows. Tony Hawk-first place. Tony is blessed and everyone knows it. Tony pulled tuck-knee inverts that would make a chiropractor queasy, varial 540s, and a 720. Cha-Ching! Colin McKay-second place. Half-cab nose-slide, backside tailgrab 360, and a fakie tailgrab 540 with his feet completely askew. Damn! Andy Macdonald-third place. Melon 540 over the chasm of doom, varial 540 and nollie frontside heelflips brought home the bacon for this Boston lad.
Lincoln Ueda is an enigma. He goes huge and sometimes it ‘s as if the Gods dropped him out of the sky. In the best trick contest, Lincoln took top honors with a frontside 540 over the chasm of doom. Please allow me to inform you, this was no ordinary frontside 540. As I stated earlier, Lincoln goes big and his alley-oop body jars rule.
All in all, Vans puts their money where their mouth is. They host some of the best contests and drop some big loot for prize money. Even with the sub-ramp and the chasm of doom, this year’s contestants had an added difficulty. The wind ripped across the Vert ramp at an unbelievable speed and skaters had to hold on tight or basically chuck the board beneath their feet. Many skaters were experiencing difficulties with the wind as it fought against them – especially when attempting flip tricks, but, such is life. Many skaters fell down on this day and I’m glad to see that I’ll never be alone.
On the drive back home, I reviewed the contest in my mind. I decided that falling down can be a good thing even if it feels like hell at the time. After all, if Colin didn’t fall down he wouldn’t have pulled the nollie backside 360 kickflip, nor would Omar have put his nuts on the line with the roll-in lipslide over the chasm of doom. We live in a world of viewers that don’t have the guts to participate. My friend ‘Shaggy’ told me this and I believe it. He said, “the viewer gets his energy visually but the participant obtains it viscerally”. I know that I feel it in my guts and you can bet that Matt Beach, Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero all feel it, too. There’s just something about falling down.
1. Matt Beach
2. Eric Koston
3. Chet Thomas
4. Carlos De Andrade
5. Rick McCrank
6. Willy Santos
7. Dan Pageau
8. Jesse Paez
9. Kenny Anderson
10. Tony Trujillo
1. Tony Hawk
2. Colin McKay
3. Andy McDonald
4. Lincoln Ueda
5. Bucky Lasek
6. Sandro Dias
7. Renton Miller
8. Bob Burnquist
9. Buster Halterman
10. Omar Hassan
1. Omar Hassan
2. Bob Burnquist
3. Brian Patch
4. Lincoln Ueda
5. Aaron Astorga
6. Jake Piasecki
7. Remy Stratton
8. Sandro Dias
9. Chris Gentry
10. Chris Senn
1. Steve Caballero
2. Jeff Grosso
3. Mike Smith
4. Lance Mountain
5. Sasha Steinhorst
6. Dave Reul
7. Allen Losi
8. Craig Johnson
TOP: CRAIG JOHNSON HAS BEEN THROUGH A LOT OF SHIT LATELY. A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT LANDED HIM IN A COMA BUT HE SURVIVED AND HE’S BACK WITH A VENGEANCE AND A ONE FOOTED INVERT. LONG LIVE THE MONSTER. MORE BEER.
BOTTOM LEFT: MIKE SMITH, OUT OF RETIREMENT, FRONTSIDE INVERT TO MASONITE NAP 20 MINUTES LATER. GET WELL SOON.
BOTTOM RIGHT: MATT BEACH, FIRST PLACE.