Skateboarding’s ‘Anti-Olympics’ – The New York Times


For amateurs and professionals, this annual event captures the spirit of the sport ahead of its debut at the 2020 Tokyo games.

“It’s crazy high-level skateboarding,” said Evan Eden, a member of the crowd at this year’s “Live at Olympic Stadium” in Montreal. He had traveled from New Jersey to see the annual spectacle, which in the last five years has become known as one of the most innovative and exciting events in the sport.

Skateboarding will become an official Olympic sport next year, with athletes scored by technical measures in individual events. But “Live at the Olympic Stadium,” which was created by the skate brand Dime, is designed to highlight other types of skills.

With no prizes awarded and no money at stake, skaters can perform in ways that are not always rewarded (or recognized) in strict competition. They are free to express their particular senses of style and humor.

“This is viewed as the anti-Olympics,” Josh Clark, one of the organizers, said.

This year’s showcase was staged at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Stadium grounds — a wink at 2020. The dramatic concrete features of the site have made the grounds a well-known destination for skaters since the mid-1990s.

In previous years, the exhibition made nods to skate history. In 2015, for example, riders were asked to jump a long distance onto a narrow ledge in homage to Joe Valdez, the mostly-forgotten skateboarder from the ’90s who was known for that skill.

Other challenges are originals, like the 2017 “American Gladiator” parody in which competitors on skateboards wrestled on a pedestal above a pit filled with foam. There have even been times when skaters were presented with ramps that breathed fire.

This year, however, the show kept things simple: All the organizers added to the venue was a white picnic table, a jump ramp (the regular kind) and a couple of Styrofoam cutouts (for a Human Tetris race).

Some in the audience were longtime fans. “I used to play Tony Hawk Pro Skater,” said Dave Durocher, a skateboarder from Montreal. Pointing to Andrew Reynolds, a professional skater and Thrasher Magazine’s 1998 “Skater of the Year,” Durocher said, “I am so happy to see this guy. He is a legend.”

For others, it was about achieving a personal best. Mark Suciu, a 27-year-old professional from Saratoga, Calif., said he wanted to do the hardest tricks he could think of.

“A lot of gnarly guys set the mood,” Suciu said. “I wanted to skate as hard as I’ve seen them skate.” At the end of the afternoon, he landed a switch backside 50-50 down a ledge next to 16 large concrete stairs.

But he felt like there was room for improvement. So he climbed back up the stairs and repeated it, even more precisely. Many in the audience knew that perfecting a trick like that could take days to accomplish. Suciu did it in about an hour.

It was a high point of the day. Conor Neeson, the emcee, echoed the enthusiasm of the crowd: “Montreal that was swiiiiiiitch.”

George Etheredge and Victor Llorente are New York-based photographers.

Surfacing is a weekly column that explores the intersection of art and life, produced by Alicia DeSantis, Jolie Ruben and Josephine Sedgwick.

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