June 22-26th, 2005

‘I’ll have a week’s rest now’.

Alex Cochini (2nd place)

Ever been to Marseille? Both the skate scene and life in general are a bit hard to describe, but it’s safe to say that everything you hate or like about France is experimented in large doses. In no particular order, things like topless beaches, drinking and smoking in public, rudeness, heat, dirt, anti-Americanism, crime, beautiful scenery and hilarious scenes of debauchery often come to mind.

What has made the annual contest here quite legendary aside from the skating is the fact that it was probably the first of its kind. In 1999-2000, good concrete parks were still few and far between, and the Skatepark du Prado still had the reputation of being the world’s best. The two first contests here are the ones most people remember, mainly because of the sheer intensity of the skating. Since then, things have become a bit more predictable, with parks that are now as good or better and bowl bashes popping up all over the world. However, Marseille still remains one of the parks with the best variety of lines, and there’s always room for more. Seeing some of the world’s best pros and some of the best locals in the bowl at the same time is like a punk rock slam pit on wheels. This year was no exception. Let’s look back a little bit:

1999: Wade Speyer hauls ass and takes it while a naked Brewce Martin does a frontside invert on three wheels. According to motormouth Dave Duncan, the final jam was ‘the most intense skateboarding’ ever.

2000: Omar Hassan wins and Cardiel gets ripped off. His 360 air on a broken board from the hip to the 8-footer is what people remember, though. It’s been named ‘the Cardiel gap’ ever since .

2001: No contest for reasons nobody’s been able to explain clearly.

2002: Trujillo destroys everything and becomes a crowd favorite. The organizers add an 8-feet vert extension to make things more interesting.

2003: Omar Hassan wins again, followed by T.N.T. Alva makes his presence known, ending in some broken teeth. The organizers add a 4-ft rainbow-shaped extension to make things even more interesting.

2004:Omar doesn’t care what anyone thinks and blows away the competition, with Trujillo in 2nd. The fabricated Hawk vs. Hosoi rivalry of yesteryear comes to mind.

Anyway, people usually expect Omar Hassan to win, one of the locals to get in the top three, and someone to get ripped off. But most of all, they expect the park to showcase the best skating, and never get disappointed. The fact that the free Foster tent opens everyday at 4pm doesn’t hurt, either.

So, for the ones who weren’t born or who are scared to come, what is the park like? It features two mini ramp-like bowls separated by a spine ending in a teardrop-shaped platform, and it connects with a clover bowl with three different heights, the main one having about a foot of vert. There’s also a hip which makes big airs and transfers of all shapes and variations possible, where most of the pics are taken. Add to that the usual 8-foot vert extensions and a launch ramp to roll in from and enjoy.

From what I’ve heard, the genius who created the park, Jean-Pierre Collinet originally wanted to make it bigger. What also makes it so good is the fact that it is equally enjoyable for a beginner, a pro, a carve/slash dog or a mini-ramp technician, with the winner usually mastering every known aspect of transition skating. Even guys who aren’t that known for their tranny skills are eager to skate it, as proven by Chad Bartie or Carlos de Andrade. For the past three years, the Brixlegg park in Austria (built by the Dreamland guys) has also hosted an event the week before the Marseille one, and the contestants, press, etc… usually travel on a chartered bus which hits a couple of parks for free sessions in between. Sounds like fun.

This year’s Marseille comp will be remembered for a variety of reasons. The unbearable heat took its toll on the spectators and the riders, who had to take their runs during the hottest hours of the day. I guess you can say they all paid their dues, and sometimes more than that. There were also a lot of cocky attitudes and more animosity than needed .The locals are hard to impress here, to put it mildly. With skateboarding as global as it is nowadays, gone are the days when visiting pros could get away with anything and act like dicks just because of their name. Here in Marseille, it seems like you better show appreciation for the place, no matter how good you place in contests or how much of a legend you are.

I witnessed a few pre-contest sessions during which some of the competitors really tried to make a point of who’s the boss here, and I didn’t like it, but it was interesting in a way. I even heard one of the locals say of a famous pro ‘if he starts anything here, I’ll fuck him up’. The French skaters had their preliminary competition on Thursday, and qualifying started on Friday. It was great to see new faces like Chad Bartie from Oz and Carlos de Andrade along with Argentinians and Chileans among others.

Unfortunately, lots of pros that would have raised the bar didn’t come this year. Quiksilver had already printed leaflets announcing their arrival, and some of the descriptions were hilarious: ‘Chet Childress, the original and technical redneck'(MIA) and also ‘Tony Trujillo, the American Dream ambassador’. Wow! There were a lot of speculations about Hosoi himself, but it seems like he’s not going to be allowed outside the U.S. yet. They showed him on a giant TV screen saying hello to his fans.

Even with a pro purse of 35000 euros, contests don’t seem to be that important nowadays. There was a huge vert demo/contest in Paris during the same week-end, the famous Munster World Championships were held the week after, and there’s an event every week-end now, so it’s not like people are starved of contests. I heard that Quiksilver is trying every year to get more pros, but they just get less every year. Even some of their own riders didn’t show up. Does it mean that they just aren’t interested anymore? And in that case, why? That should be something to think about.

The whole Anti-Hero team was sitting on the grassy knoll surrounding the park, and Matt Moffat, Tony Miorana and Tony Trujillo would come down to skate their heats and go back to sit with their Hellriding crew. I wonder if they slept there. Mayhem master Dave Duncan was announcing as usal, but he had a translator this year in the shape of French injured pro Marc Haziza who did a really good job, even if I heard him misinterpret the famous ‘Are you kidding me?’ quote for ‘Are you killing me ?’ in french.

The Quiksilver people gave us press whores hats, books, dvds, t-shirts, and even sunscreen lotion. A wise move, lots of poor suckers were walking around with vanilla/strawberry suntans, and I got a sadistic kick out of watching the pros go for the cash in 35 degree plus heat. It would have been even better had they been forced to wear black helmets. I guess lots of people chose the beach instead of the park, and like every year, you couldn’t see anything without the magic wristband allowing you inside the fence.

Here’s some rippers I distinctly remember in the prelims…

Mattias Nylen from Sweden did some good frontside blunts in the vert bowl, but on the wrong wall, which means he did not get the recognition he deserved because none of the judges noticed. There was a Brazileiro powerhouse named Alan Mesquita who did backflips, quite impressive. Local boys Medhi Salah and young upstart Adel Houbbane ripped through the park with lots of speed and tricks. Chilean Spiro Razis didn’t have his arm in a cast like last year and was pretty stylish. Tall guy Chad Bartie really has a style and lines of his own.

What stands out though, much more than some boring trick/rider list (check the official website for that) is the fact that most of them kept a smile on their faces and looked genuinely stoked to skate the park. I was told by some Quiksilver official that the interesting stuff would only start on Saturday and that this (the qualifying) was ‘nothing’. A bit insulting, really. I mean here you have about 40 guys skating for excitement and the genuine enjoyment of the park, and that’s ‘nothing’?They might as well have a contest with only the 6 finalists, with a pro purse ten times higher.Then sell it to Extreme sports or some soda company.

This year, the entire surface was painted in a red/white Hosoi/Japanese flag design. What an homage to Hosoi, I wonder how they would have painted the park had it been some other legend. Anyway, it looked cool even if the white paint reverberated the sun like hell. Maybe they’re going for the Asian market. There was also a ‘Lords of Dogtown’ promotion booth next to the park where they handed out lots of free merchandise for the movie. Will the new generation of skaters dress like the Z-boys and learn Bertlemann slides on 7 inch wide Zephyr boards? Will ollie-based street-skating become outdated? I wonder what Friedman or C.R. Stecyk would have thought. The movie should come out mid-July in France dubbed in French. I can’t wait to see the movie’s Alva clone going :’Nous sommes les seigneurrrrrrs de Chienville, nous chevauchons le bol du chien’ (We are the lords of Dogtown, we ride the Dogbowl).

On Saturday, all the favorites qualified for the semi-finals, and lots of heavy sessioning followed the heats. One of the highlights was the dog with an oversized testicle that showed up out of nowhere. I’m sure he will appear in lots of magazines in the near future. Quiksilver should sponsor such a hardcore balls-to-the ground ripper.

As usual, the soundtrack was a great mix of rock’n’roll stuff. When ‘Search and destroy ‘by the Stooges came on during the semis, it was just magic. Good music and good skating the way they should remain: timeless. On Sunday, the crowd witnessed some of the raddest skateboarding ever. Even the bar was empty during the semis and the finals. There was a cut from twelve to seven riders instead of six, thus enabling Chris Senn (7th) to join three locals and three gringos in the quest for the 9000 euros for first place. The final jam was so intense that the judges added at least five extra minutes . It should be noted that the Cardiel transfer from the medium bowl is now commonplace. Seems like Cards set a standard five years ago. No matter how many contests you’ve been to, a final jam at Marseille is always intense. Even the spectators are drained afterwards. Anyway, here’s the list:

JULIEN BENOLIEL – One of the favourite locals and not really a poster boy even though he’s sponsored by Nike now, the little guy rips, mean and stylish.The only finalist to come up from the qualifying heats, he did his usual transfers, slammed a lot and bled heavily during the semis. Skating is war! Every jam another battle! He was a bit worn out during the semis but still went for it with transfers and lein disasters in the vert bowl. He even tried a backside blunt on the wall.

CHRIS SENN – Glad to see this true all-terrain ripper is still around. The Hawaiian resident and seasoned veteran kept skating during the entire jam, and did a lot of tweaked alley-oops transfers everywhere. I think it was his fourth time here and his knowledge of the park paid off. He probably deserved more than 6th place. He and Alex Cochini followed each other during an entire run in the spine bowl and it was like seeing a carefully planned double routine. Thanks for coming back year after year, Mr Senn.

ALEX GIRAUD – THE park local, even if he’s been injured during at least three of the contests here. His huge transfers attempts resulted in quite a few slams,and he even hit his head. Falls weren’t marked by the judges, but too many of them makes you tired. He didn’t skate as well as last year, but it seemed as if he planned less and just went for it.

BENJI GALLOWAY – Livin’ easy, livin’ free…This guy was the shit this year. If there was one skater capable of taking out Omar, it was Benji. He should have gotten at least second place. Style, speed, clock-like consistency and a million tricks, old and new. He stuck a clean frontside invert on the 8-foot wall, and every one of his runs was like a lesson in skatepark riding. He was skating to Hayseed Dixie’s country version of ‘Highway to Hell’, and for a while it really seemed like North Carolina was taking over the whole place. No wonder he took the overall World Cup bowlriding title last year. Boos and chants of ‘Galloway, Galloway’ were heard all the way to the beach following his fourth place announcement. What do you have to do to win? He gave it his all, and didn’t get much in return even if the audience loved him. Maybe he should do an ollie 900 on the hip. Please be back soon, we need more skaters like Benji.

TONY TRUJILLO – He didn’t give a shit as usual, and wore a painted face for three days which made him look like a satanic panda bear or maybe King Diamond . (White on Saturday, blue on Sunday!) He seemed less on fire than the previous years, but managed to throw his body around in every corner of the park without apparent effort. He did two layback grinds in the same run and it was probably the only thing he did twice. One of the only finalists who skated completely spontaneously. It doesn’t always win contests, but that’s not the point. What a style. You just sit there in envious awe and wish skating really was that effortless.

ALEX COCHINI – He used to be this little kid with full pads and braces doing high transfers just three years ago, using expressions such as ‘frontside indy’. Now he’s one of the fastest in this park, has grown muscles, and he seems to get off the pressure. Yeah, some of the pros actually do like contests. ‘Coccini’, as they call him (maybe it was easier to pronounce for Duncan) is ready to play with the big boys. His speedlines and perfect knowledge of the park were impressive. Solid and powerful moves, with some of the highest backside airs ever seen on the main hip. He was also one of the only locals to use the wall, on which he did a 5-O grind. Benji Galloway practically rolled on his back on a transfer, and he and Julien Benolliel came so close to crashing into each other that some people believed it was a planned stunt for extra points. He told me it wasn’t, and he actually didn’t even notice.

OMAR HASSAN – Yeah Omar! Familiarity breeds contempt, and as usual, he had to put up with a lot of crap from the audience. Since his first win, people have been booing and accusing him of being a Quiksilver creature, and the fact that he was the poster boy this year sure didn’t help . Truth is, the man knows how to skate contests and ups the ante every time he feels the need for it. You do an air in the vert bowl? Omar does it to fakie. You jump the gap? He heelflips it. You grind the wall? Feeble to fakie! He did all his usual tricks but stuck a 540 this year, which means there was a lot of competition out there. He had won the Brixlegg contest the week before, so his Marseille victory made him the overall winner. Not bad for a guy past 30. When the boos were heard following his first place announcement, he dedicated his victory to Cardiel, understandably yelled, ‘Fuck you all’ and threw the champagne bottle in the bowl. I wonder if that was broadcasted live on the Quiksilver website. Before the finals, I spotted him checking out the park to see where he would do his tricks. So what? If you’re going for the 9000 euros (about $10,000 dollars), you might as well go all the way. Omar will go down as one of the all-time greats, and your booing doesn’t mean shit. Like Danny Way once said, ‘You can tell the people who have been practicing and the ones who have just been on a board. Consistency pays off’. Six contests here, four victories, two second places. Marseille has obviously helped Omar pay some bills over the years.

There were no Best trick/best line awards this year. Maybe security cost so much that Quiksilver couldn’t afford them. Too bad for Benji, not even a consolation price. The post-contest festivities were quite fun. That’s when you have to take advantage of the opportunity and order Champagne on the sponsor’s tab. I heard a lot of people say that it was the best part of the contest. The skaters, officials, and all kinds of parasites raided a pizzeria where a good party was enjoyed by everyone, especially by the poor guy who couldn’t make it outside in time and threw up all over the table. Some guys went home smelling of vomit, and others with their pockets full…. The Brazilian crew completely tore up the park the next day, and even the locals were so impressed that they thanked them for the show.

You pay the man, you pay your dues, when it’s all gone, you sing the blues…(Bon Scott, ‘Show business’)

Thanks to everyone involved. See you next year.


‘If you like skateboarding, you have to check out what happens every year at Marseille. It’s the most amazing skateboarding you’ll ever see. It’s like the Coliseum in Rome, with people charging, flying, crashing, bleeding and having fun. It’s just real!’

Spiro Razis from Chile










































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