Photos by: Davy Van Leare
According to the pre$$, Nike’s involvement with skateboarding was a topical subject that had opinions flaring and rumours running rife. Hell! The corporate involvement of Phil Knight’s Swoosh and the Sidewalk Surfer community was so heavy and bogged down, echoes were reverberating from Wall Street Stock Exchange to the Argos carpark in Uclsfield.
The European Invasion Tour was surely going to be a fine opportunity to see what all the huffing and puffing was about and made it in time for the Belgian leg.
Why Belgium? Well, that’s for me to know and you to worry about. Ha! Seriously though, the thought of driving a 12 seater van out into the darkness of scarcely inhabited Euro-low countries and then releasing the ‘talent’ into an oversized shed filled with hundreds of sweaty kids high on E-number sweet drinks, and enough wooden structures to make the Wicker man look like box of matches, was definitely a fantasy worth finding. I wanted in!
Just for formality reasons, I must state who was in attendance, and where the weiner fest was taking place; Paul Rodriguez, Lewis Marnell, Todd Jordan, Reese Forbes, Danny Supa, Weiger Wan Waganingen, Colin Kennedy, Neil Smith and Omar Salazaar, all skating at Zumiez skatepark in Wevelgem. If this demo was a dinner party I had organized, I must say the Nike SB team were a good lot of guests with regards punctuality and performance. I mean, replace the deep conversation topics about the effect drought in the Australian outback will have on inflating wheat prices, and replace it by Aussie wunder-kid, Lewis Marnell and the chit chat will never run dry. As you can see, this young lad made quite an impression on both me and the under-aged rabid youth packed into the disused bunker.
The course was quickly cleared of any lemmings and the show began. I could tell the locals had been waiting for this event because even parents and girlfriends got invited! I can imagine the invitation now: “Darling, the club scene is so passé these days. Why don’t we try out the adrenaline fulled confines of an unheated skatepark tonight..? Why of course, honey! Let me fetch my wax!” Zumiez didn’t need to pay the gas bill this month because Nike SB turned up the heat, and a few hundred sweaty college boys doesn’t go cold after 5 minutes of muscular strain. Trust me.
Anyway, back to the proceedings where the ‘talent‘ took to the huge course in two stages. Seeing as the Nike SB likes to roll deep, there was no worry of a one man demo leaping down the biggest thing the park had to offer and sacrificing himself for the underpaid sport of skateboard stuntwork. No. Like rats aboard a trans-Atlantic galleon, these guys were all over the place. This constant energy worked well, and everywhere you looked another trick was being landed.
The cascade of balance and agility poured across all areas of the skatepark and finally wound down in true form with a Hammer and Rail tournament. With the final nail in the coffin of half-steppers, the Nike SB team then proceeded meet and greet the throngs of adolescence that had come out to the middle of Nowheresville to support their valiant efforts.
This leg of the Nike SB European Invasion was over, just like the 4 or 5 other demos endured earlier that week, and another 2 or 3 were still on the books. Veni Vidi Vinci.
Now comes the fun part, where I get to dissect each every one of these individuals because at the end of the day, they’re only human. Right..?
I’ll quickly set the record straight by stating that Omar Salazaar was not skating due to an injury which was a disappointment, but I didn’t cry. I did however gasp when the 6 foot 2 athletic frame of Reese Forbes crashed into the floor beside me not 5 minutes into the demo. I have no idea what he tried to do, but it obviously left him rattled because he promptly got up and walked off the course to lick his wounds for the rest of the night.
If you want to conquer an army, aim for the leader. In this case the leader was Paul Rodriguez a.k.a. P-Rod. Is P-Rod the computer program used to create this Prodigy of the plank pirates because judging by the number of tricks landed, times the difficulty coefficient, divided by the three pre$$ goons with the tv camera that chased him everywhere he went, and multiply the total by the number of autographs signed – Paul is a robot.
Colin Kennedy and Neil Smith were the British ambassadors of this trip and worked together in making sure everyone knew why Great Britain is held in high regard amongst the International community. Much like Paul, Neil and Colin got right down to business and didn’t stop until the whistle was blown- despite taking a couple of nasty spills along the way. True grit.
Todd Jordan was like a grown man’s Kinder Surprise – You haven’t had one in ages, but when you do, you’re stoked! You see, Todd flies so low on the Pre$$ radar at times that it’s hard to remember what he looks like. Add to that the scruffy beard and tattered jeans and the event MC was probably wondering who the hell that guy was who killed it amongst the ‘talent’. It was good to see someone so underrated at such a high profile event.
Lewis Marnell is destined to great things. Two tricks that probably lodged themselves into every teenagers brain like smutty images of boobs and beavers was Lewis’ ridiculous switch 360 flip over the driveway and backside nollie bigspin down the stairs. Dread head’s turning heads.
Danny Supasariat and Weiger Wan Waganingen both have amazing names, but the Pre$$ doesn’t like foreign sounding names (something to do with US Foreign policy, I reckon…), so to not sway from protocol, I shall refer to them as Danny Supa and Weiger. In any case, both of these skaters are worthy of their positions on the Nike SB team, but their bags of tricks as it were run empty after about three moves. Weiger obviously bought stock shares in the Heelflip as did Danny because together they worked each and every variation possible.
Overall, the Nike SB demo had me feeling quite elated and happy- a tough task in these dark days. I even borrowed someone’s board and broke my fast of whiz planking for the evening. Essentially, the younger generations of skateboarders are hyped to see a group of trained professionals drive all the way to their playground and ultimately shut up shop. Whether or not Nike SB is a good thing has yet to be decided (and judging by the battle scene, the answer isn’t coming any time soon…), but if ever the team decide to roll through your ends and stop off for a little skate around, I suggest you make them feel welcome and come prepared for a show you probably won’t forget anytime soon.
Looking back at it now, there’s so much more to life than what shoes you decide to wear.
Maxwell Woodger Esq.
Friday 3rd November 2006