When Michael asked me to come back and write for the magazine, he did so with three overriding mandates: to think (and execute) well outside the box; to shake things up a bit; and to instigate change. And he gave me virtual carte blanche to do all three of those things, however I saw fit to do so, with the full support of the magazine behind me. One of the first things on my personal shit list to tackle was the status quo of “skateboard events”.
“Skateboard events”, as we know them today, generally take two popular forms: contests and demos. Neither of which float my boat very much. Contests, I despise for fairly obvious and straightforward reasons. To me, skateboarding is (fundamentally speaking) a form of artistic self-expression; I’m almost positive that very few skaters will disagree with this assessment. As a form of artistic self-expression, I still can’t figure out how it can ever be “judged” to discern which style of artistic self-expression should be deemed “better” or “more valid” than another style of artistic self-expression. So just based on the philosophical grounds, I abhor any and all attempts at having skateboarders “compete” against one another. It seems to go completely against the spirit of the whole thing.
Demos are a bit better… but not much. When I go to a skateboard event, I want to go skateboarding; I don’t really want to sit on my ass (or stand around idly) watching other dudes go skateboarding. Skateboarding, to me, is a participation pastime, not a sporting spectacle. Some skaters may disagree with this one, but I really don’t give a toss. It’s my article, bubbo. If you have a differing point of view… well, throw your own event and write your own damn article then.
In any rate, what I really wanted to do here was to organize and execute a very different sort of event. “The Weekend At The Wedge” was almost exactly what I had in mind.
The event itself was a brainwave between myself, and Stuart Anglin. I met Stewart a couple months back, while I was on tour; we crossed paths at The Wedge Skatepark at Eldorado Park in Scottsdale, Arizona. We struck up a conversation based on the common ground of being old, lifer skaters. At some point in our friendly chat, I asked Stuart why The Wedge Skatepark wasn’t named after the park it sat in (like so many Phoenix area skateparks are), and thus called “Eldorado Skatepark”. He explained that the skatepark was named after “The Wedge”, and old skate spot that was heavily sessioned way back in the ’70s and early’80s.
Thinking that the original spot must have been dozed and buried eons ago, I remarked that it’s really too bad that it’s not around anymore. To which Stuart replied, “Oh, it’s still there! It’s right down the hill beside the bike path!” Being a bit surprised by this, I asked if he’d like to escort me down there, point it out, and maybe join me for a quick session? Stuart, being the supercool chap that he is, was more than happy to oblige.
As we skated The Wedge… which is a long, mellow embankment by the way, ideal for surf-skating (because it’s basically a huge, stationary wave)… I asked how long it had been since anybody had seen a mass session there…?
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe twenty, thirty years?”
“Stuart….! We have to have an old-school session here. For old time’s sakes, at the very least. Let’s get a hold of Adam, and make that happen.” Stuart was in, Adam was in, and the event was a total go.
Here in Phoenix, we’re blessed to have a very well-organized and active old-guy skateboard club known as The Gray Beard Crew (found on Facebook under “Prevent This Tragedy”); Adam is our ringleader, so his support and promotion was an integral part of the plan. I made a digitized flyer for the event, posted it up all over our Facebook page, and started planning the details of the festivities.
Putting together an event like this is really pretty easy. Anyone can do it, although having an already-existing skateboard club does help immensely. If your town doesn’t have a skateboard club, well, go right ahead, be like Adam, and organize one; all it takes is a desire to meet (and skate with) new people; a little bit of outreach, networking, and promotion; and a Facebook page. Club tee shirts help a bunch, too, because they’re so boss. Just sayin’.
There were some simple logistics to sort out. The Wedge has a nasty habit of collecting dirt and dust at the base of the bank; that would have to be swept out, so people were encouraged to bring brooms (two ended up being enough, and those were personally manned by Stuart and I). I printed flyers, and left them at the area skateshops. We picked a day and a time that worked for almost everybody and their schedules. That was the bulk of “the planning”, right there.
And then, there were the “prize packs”… a little idea that I put together, so that nobody would leave the event empty-handed. I wanted to show my appreciation to everyone for showing up and participating… so, everybody got a prize pack that included a free copy of Concrete Wave Magazine (thanks, Michael); a color version of the event flyer, printed on some spiffy paper; and a handful of stickers because, really, what kind of skater wouldn’t appreciate a handful of stickers…? Nobody I know…! Those were provided by Michael (again); Jim Gray at Powerflex; Jack Smith at the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum; Mike Horelick at Tunnel Products; the fine folks at Speedlab Wheels; and the fellas at Sidewalk Surfer Skate Shop, right up the street. I’d like to thank them all, too, for helping out.
As far as the time-and-money costs go, they really weren’t particularly significant. I spent maybe forty bucks on the whole deal at the very most… I actually ran most of the flyers off for free at work… and I spent maybe ten to fifteen hours on the whole project, total. This really is something that almost anybody could put together, by and for themselves. I cannot emphasize that enough.
My biggest worry was over how many people would (or wouldn’t) turn out for the shindig. I feared the worst, as I usually do; I had visions of another private session for just Stuart and I, and nobody else but the sound of crickets. But the turnout blew me away…! There were about fifty folks there, of all ages and abilities… that was the best part, I thought… and they, in turn, brought out many of their kids, wives, and girlfriends. My sweetie Renee even tagged along to spectate, and had quite a good time doing so. But really, the best part was seeing such a diverse cross-section of skaters, young and old, newbie to experienced, skating together and having fun. That’s the best reward you could ever ask for, right there. That made it all worthwhile.
The most surprising part of the day was watching everybody skate the “wrong” side of the bank. The back side of The Wedge is another embankment that leads down to a grassy flatbottom… not something that I would have ever imagined skating. But somebody… I think it might have been Adam… started trying to pump the whole bank, from the paved sidewalk to the opposite end. Within minutes, everybody was trying it (including me)… and surprisingly, making it. You learn something new every day, I guess. Sometimes, even something completely unforseen and utterly surprising.
After a couple of hours of skating The Wedge, we all migrated up to the skatepark to keep the fun times rolling. The skatepark has a bunch of quarterpipes, grindable islands, and a bank/bowl complex that’s short, mellow, but still a significant challenge. The whole event lasted three solid hours, and everybody seemed to go home happy and content.
If the event itself wasn’t surprising enough, then that Facebook love that I found in my inbox when I got home definitely sealed the surprise deal; I wasn’t really expecting that, either. Of course, I tried to deflect much of the credit back to the participants… an event, of course, isn’t really “an event” without a whole bunch of participants… but it was nice to see such tangible confirmation of a job well done, and times well spent.
I’m sure that we’ll put something together again really soon. Adam and I have already discussed what, where, and when the next event might be. Sidewalk Surfer is already down to support it, wherever and whatever it might be. But really, what I’d like to see are more homegrown events like this, all over the country and/or the world. That would be amazing.
So put ’em together, have your own fun, shoot a few photos along the way, and send your stories in to the mag. Make Mike and I proud, and make ’em happen.