Photos and words by Nikwen.
This year I had the honour of being invited to the Van Doren Invitational that took place in Huntington Beach, California, during the Vans US Open of Surfing. Steve Van Doren asked John Cardiel to think about something cool for the design of the bowl, and Cardiel came up with the idea of a remake of Marseille’s Bowl du Prado. Instead of making it out of wood, and in order to make the bowl closest to the original version, they decided to build it with concrete on the beach next to the surf contest. The beach, the bowl plus the 30 best transition riders in the world and you have a proper shredding weekend.
Being French going to California is always an epic experience. It was the second time I’ve been there and I have to say it was such culture shock again. Skate wise, you can definitely feel the meaning of this instagram hashtag: skatelife. Everybody is carrying a skateboard, cruiser or not, mall grabbing it or not. You could see families rolling around on longboards going to the beach, or teenagers trying to be cool on these plastic bananas pushing mongo and wearing summer beanies like no big deal. You have to know that in Huntington Beach it doesn’t seem to be shameful as it could be in other continents. I can barely imagine a kid going to Southbank to support the cause dressed like such a poser without getting called names and eventually punched in the eye. Since the event was on the beach, I had the chance to witness another phenomenon completely weird for my French froggy eyes – the body hashtags! What the fuck is that?! It’s teenagers, boys and girls wearing only swimming suits (g-strings for the MVPs) walking on the sand with ridiculous messages written on their skin. They would write their instagram username, follow me, free hugs, spank my ass, etc. and every time they would see someone who wanted to hug, follow, or spank them, that person would do it with or without the agreement of the Hashtag-wearer. I freaked out when this young 15 year-old girl crossed a group of 10 year-old boys – too bad for her she had written on her back slap this, with an arrow pointing to her bottom. The chief of the kiddos group started to slap her really bad and his friends followed the leader. It got crazy and the little girl tried to get away from this awkward situation but the kids would not stop, it was almost like witnessing a rape. Maybe I’m getting too old and I don’t understand teenagers anymore, or not.
Back to the bowl – the competition format was well organised. Each skater of each heat had a 45 second introduction run, then skated with everyone together in a 15 minute long jam. Straight from the semi final, the level of skating was incredibly high. Everyone was doing so many tricks per run that it was basically impossible not to miss some. Then it was time for the finals – best bowl skateboarding I’d seen since the early Marseille Bowlriders comps in the 2000’s. Everybody was ripping, going fast as fuck and delivering bangers like crazy. It was literally insane, and I wouldn’t want to be a judge that day, it’s almost impossible to rank this kind of great skateboarding! What stood out for me was witnessing my new favourite transition skater, Greyson Fletcher. You can’t go wrong with this guy, the man is a natural born ripper! Being the son of the legendary surfer Christian Fletcher could help you’d might say, but still, watching him killing this Marseille replica was mind blowing. Judging by the look in his eyes, he was kind of possessed. But yeah as I said, everybody killed it and when it comes to the organisation of such an event like this, Vans has the experience and knowledge to make it really good! See you next year!