You may have heard that the 2019-2020 USA National Skateboard Championships were held last weekend (10/18) at the California Skateparks Training Facility (CA|TF) in Vista, CA, and that USA Skateboarding (USAS, or “Us Ass” as I like to call it) announced the USA Skateboarding National Team roster.
Or, if you’re like me, you did not hear that.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Though the event was not a secret, not many people knew about it—including (allegedly) some of the National t=Team riders themselves who only learned about it the week of. This is probably because information about Olympic skateboarding has been difficult to obtain and what is available is rather confusing to understand. To use a sports term (since skateboarding is apparently a sport now), Olympic skateboarding is very “inside baseball” at the moment and it’s causing concern and dismay around the skateboard community. What is going on?
First, I understand that there’s been some mismanagement, some differences of opinion, communication issues, there might even have been some diarrhea involved (?), etc., but I think for the most part the confusion surrounding Olympic skateboarding can be attributed to the same woes a new restaurant faces when it opens: everything is new, no one knows what they’re doing, and the staff is trying to work out the kinks as they go.
I trust they’ll get it sorted out soon, but if I were to write a Yelp review about USAS’ new “restaurant” right now it would be a complaint about the lack of information. For instance, USAS announced their new national skateboard team on Sunday, but they have yet to update the team list on their own goddamn website.
Acid Invader, Los Angeles. 1 star: “I can’t remember the last time I was this disappointed with a National Olympic Skateboard Federation. I went to the USAS website to acquire some delicious, juicy information about the new team, but all they had was an old list from earlier in the year. It was stale and gross. You would think that the announcement of the USAS Olympic team be important news for USAS? You would think that would be on a press release to every skateboard media outlet? One star, only because I can’t give zero stars.”
UPDATE: They have updated the list! (Ah the power of Yelp.) Here then are the 22 riders selected to be the USA Skateboarding National Team:
- Ariana Carmona (Buena Park, CA)
- Brighton Zeuner (Encinitas, CA)
- Bryce Wettstein (Encinitas, CA)
- Jordyn Barratt (Haleiwa, HI)
- Jordan Santana (Houston, TX)
- Minna Stess (Petaluma, CA)
- Alana Smith (Fort Worth, TX)
- Alexis Sablone (Old Saybrook, CT)
- Lacey Baker (Covina, CA)
- Mariah Duran (Albuquerque, NM)
- Samarria Brevard (Riverside, CA)
- Alex Sorgente (Lake Worth, FL)
- Cory Juneau (San Diego, CA)
- Heimana Reynolds (Honolulu, HI)
- Tom Schaar (Malibu, CA)
- Tristan Rennie (Rialto, CA)
- Zion Wright (Jupiter, FL)
- Dashawn Jordan (Chandler, AZ)
- Jagger Eaton (Mesa, AZ)
- Jamie Foy (Deerfield Beach, CA)
- Maurio McCoy (Reading, PA)
- Nyjah Huston (Laguna Beach, CA)
Congratulations to all.
Oh, and I should mention that the USA Skateboarding National Team’s skate coach is my old friend, Mark Waters. SKATE COACH!
“I’m technically the Team Manager,” Mark said in a conversation I had with him recently. Apparently, we decided early on in the USAS charter that there would be no “skate coaches” because the term smelled a little funny—like gymnastics, or figure skating—so we opted for “Team Manager.” Much to my chagrin. I think “Skate Coach” is way funnier. And Mark’s cool with it, too.
“Even though Jake [Phelps] would have hated the term, he was the ultimate fucking coach,” Mark said. “We all are. I’m a fucking coach. If there’s a kid who’s got his board in an elevator-drop position on our ramp during a session and he’s being rude, then, as the teacher, you coach him. You tell him, hey, that’s not what you do there. So even though we’re not gymnastic coaches, or football coaches, or whatever, I’m a fucking coach.”
Also, I said “we” above because I’ve been involved with Olympic skateboarding since Rollersports proclaimed themselves “The International Governing Body Of Skateboarding” back in the late 90s (grrrr—that’s another story). Today, I am not as involved as I once was and am simply listed as a “founding member.” (Note: “member” is also a term for “penis.”) This is also why TWS asked me to be their “Olympic Skateboarding Correspondent” (that sounds almost as ridiculous as “skate coach”): because I have inside information and I both support and condemn Olympic Skateboarding. On the one hand: fuck the Olympics. But on the other hand, NBC and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided long ago that they wanted skateboarding to be a sport in the Games and they were going to do it with or without the core skateboard industry’s support. My thinking was then, and still is now, if skateboarding is going to be in the Olympics, then we may as well make sure that it’s fun, that it’s run by skateboarders, and ensure that skateboarding benefits from it.
But fuck the Olympics—did I already say that?
So, we have a US National Skate team. I am not going to go into the process and criteria they used to select the team here because it is a complicated and tiresome procedure, but essentially they used the points that skaters accumulated at Olympic sanctioned contests during 2018 and 2019. And it should be noted that part of the confusion lies in the fact that this process is happening all over the world right now and every country’s skateboard federation, or National Governing Body (NGB), is doing the same thing: they are scrambling to create contests and events that meet the IOC’s stringent qualification standards. Again, the process has been very foreign to skateboarding and there have been a lot of hiccups along the way.
It is also important to note that just because USAS has selected 22 riders to be on their national team, those 22 riders are not guaranteed a spot in the actual Olympics. They still have to qualify to compete in 2020. As USAS CEO Josh Friedberg said, “At this point if you’re on the national team it’s because we believe you have a chance of making the podium in Tokyo. The reason we’re supporting them is we believe they have that capability. This season it’s up to them to prove it to themselves.”
“All being on the national team means,” Mark Waters added, “is, one, a little bit of prestige because it’s a higher level of visibility. And, two, there’s some level of support [financial, travel, etc.], which comes directly from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).”
But, as Josh said, this upcoming season it’s up to them to prove themselves. And the season, consisting of five qualifying events, began last weekend at the CA|TF in Vista. Besides announcing the team, they also held the US National Championships to kick off the 2019-2020 season.
“Wait, so they started the season with the championships?” I said, laughing. “That’s like starting the NHL season with the Stanley Cup Finals.”
Mark agreed that it’s a little odd, and he did explain why it was done this way, but, again, I’m not going to get into the minutiae. There’s the team, let’s move forward. As such, I think it might be helpful to give a general overview of where we’re at now and what the actual event will look like in Tokyo:
1. As you surely know, there will be four Olympic skateboarding events in 2020: Women’s Street, Men’s Street, Women’s Park, and Men’s Park.
2. Only 20 skaters from around the world will be competing in each event (80 skaters total.)
3. Those 20 skaters will be qualified through World Skate’s point ranking system (that’s a story in itself) over the course of two “seasons” throughout 2019 and 2020.
4. No country is allowed more than three competitors per event regardless of how many skaters a country has in the top 20 at the end of the season. (Each country can have as many skaters as they want on their national team, but the max number of skaters able to compete in the Olympics per country in the four events is 12.)
5. Japan, the host, is the only country guaranteed at least one rider in each event.
6. However, there must be at least one skater representing each of the five continental regions (Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania) in each event. So, if for some reason no one from the African continent, for example, qualified in the top 20 Women’s Park rankings, World Skate would take the highest ranked female African Park skater and put her in 20th place.
The five upcoming events in Part Two of the 2019-2020 season, plus the top two finishes from Part One, will determine who qualifies to compete in the actual Olympics. You can track the point rankings at the World Skate website. Let’s look at the current Men’s Street rankings as an example:
- Nyjah HUSTON (USA)
- Yuto HORIGOME (JPN)
- Gustavo RIBEIRO (POR)
- Kelvin HOEFLER (BRA)
- Aurélien GIRAUD (FRA)
- Maurio MCCOY (USA)
- Sora SHIRAI (JPN)
- Jamie FOY (USA)
- Vincent MILOU (FRA)
- Yukito AOKI (JPN)
- Manny SANTIAGO (PUR)
- Giovanni VIANNA (BRA)
- Dashawn JORDAN (USA)
- Carlos RIBEIRO (BRA)
- Angelo CARO NARVAEZ (PER)
- Matt BERGER (CAN)
- Shane O`NEILL (AUS)
- Jake ILARDI (USA)
- Jagger EATON (USA)
- Felipe GUSTAVO (BRA)
These are the World Skate rankings from Part One of the 2019-2020 season. If the Olympics were to start today, the top 20 skaters on that list would be entered into the Men’s Street event in Tokyo. HOWEVER, there are a lot of weird little rules and regulations alluded to above that need to be applied first.
As you can see in the top 20, there are six USA skaters qualified, but, as it says above (4), “no country is allowed more than three competitors per event.” So, if the Olympics started today, Nyjah Huston, Maurio McCoy, and Jamie Foy would represent the United States in Street. Unfortunately, the three US skaters qualified behind them (Dashawn Jordan, Jake Ilardi, and Jagger Eaton) would not be in the Olympic Street event.
Brazil faces the same issue: they have five skaters qualified in the top 20 (after subtracting the three extraneous US skaters), but the last two would not be eligible to compete.
Another interesting scenario as they stand now is that there is no one representing the continent of Africa in the top 20. You have to go all the way to 57th place to find Brandon Valjalo from the Republic of South Africa (RSA). Because of the diversity/inclusivity stipulation above (6), “there must be at least one skater from each of the five continental regions in each event,” Valjalo would take the place of whoever were in the 20th qualifying position (and, presumably, crush that competitor’s Olympic dreams and totally harsh their mellow).
So, in short, the whole thing is really weird. But I have to admit I’m fascinated by it. And that’s sort of what this column is going to be about as we begin our journey to the Games. We can’t stop this from happening, so we may as well watch it, marvel at it, hate it, laugh at it, and hopefully find something to enjoy about it. It’s just skateboarding after all.
“I think it’s funny that skateboarding is going to be in the Olympics,” Mark said. “I’m going to be laughing all the way there. I mean, Dave, fucking-A, can you imagine sitting around on the couch behind the Mush Ramp [back in 1984] and I said, ‘Some day I’m going to be walking in the opening ceremony of the Olympics with the USA Skateboarding Team’? Me? I think of all the stupid punk shit that I’ve done over the years and it’s fucking hilarious to me. Plus, the genie’s out of the bottle. There’s no putting it back. It’s here, so let’s go for it. But there are those that say it’s going to change skateboarding. Yeah. So? When hasn’t skateboarding changed?”
I also spoke with photographer, Chris Ortiz, who was at the National Championship event over the weekend and he’s already in fan mode—like, angry fan mode. (He’s not really angry.) He feels it’s a “disgrace” so few skaters participated in the Olympic process and he has a lot of strong opinions on the subject—that I hope to include in an upcoming post—but ultimately Ortiz is a supporter.
“I back the Olympics,” Ortiz said, “and, yeah, I have pride in my country and I back the USA. If we’re going to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to go to the Olympics’, we can’t sit here and say this isn’t a team thing and this isn’t a competition. The Olympics means only three things: gold, silver, and bronze. And if you’re not down for gold, silver, and bronze, then you shouldn’t be involved in this in any sort of way.”
US ASS! US ASS! US ASS!
Sorry. Anyway. The next Olympic sanctioned qualifying event, the second in Part Two of the season, is in Rio de Janeiro, November 11-17. Street skaters will be awarded “5-Star” level points while Park skaters will receive “Pro Tour” points. The country quota allows National Federations to register five skaters per gender per discipline (pre-seeded skaters will not count against the Country Quota), while the—actually, you know what? We’ll discuss this in the next installment.
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