In 2006, the skateboard industry was flooded with the ‘energy drink’ market with marketeers scrambling to dial in on their gold mine demographic: skateboarders. In the fall of 2006, a local energy drink company [Kronik] went for the big time and decided a huge pro-invite skate contest in the desert was the appropriate way to get on the map. In October of that year, the skateboard industry made a pilgrimage to Rio Vista Skatepark to see who would win the Desert Dog Bowl Jam. It turned out to be a great time for all and some heavy rippage went down in Colby Carter’s now famous ‘Trog Bowl’. This bowl is almost like some of the massive terrain you see elsewhere but on a smaller proportional scale. The pros were scratching their heads when they arrived and saw the mini Trog thinking “What the fuck are we gonna do in this thing?”. While some were still scratching their heads, others said fuck it and took it all in for what it’s worth and some EPIC shredding went down that weekend. Lucky for us, Mr. Michael Cornelius was there with camera in had and with the employment of additional photo work from Tom Conley and word-smithing by Chris Kelly, we have one hell of a documentation of the event….ENJOY!
SIDE NOTE: In 2006 Women’s Skateboarding was barely on the map. The SkateRock.com crew took the time to cover the women portion of the event hence being way ahead of their time in skateboarding coverage. Also, it’s fun to see a lot of familiar younger faces ripping and hanging in the crowd. Can you see yourself? AND….a young amateur skater named JAWS happens to riding some AZPX wood because at the time he was in-between sponsors and I kept him on deck for a few months to help out. Love that kid.
I had the honor of designing the event poster. Sadly the top half has been lost and never recovered, but you get the idea….
Desert Dog Bowl Bash
Pro Vert Skating Heats Up the Valley of the Sun
by Chris Kelley, Photos by Tom Conley and Michael Cornelius
This weekend really started for me on Thursday night at Cressy Rice and Steve France’s backyard pool party. Right off the bat I could tell I was in for a weekend of high energy skateboarding action. Benji Galloway was grinding a really hard to hit deathbox both ways in one line, which anyone that has ever skated that bowl will know is no small feat. Also, a crew of young guns was clicking off tricks like no one had told them that this was a kinked backyard pool and not some butter park bowl. As I was leaving 12 year old Skylar Siljeg snapped a backside ollie off the deck to roll-in on the tight sidewall and brought down the house. This pretty well set the stage for the weekend, a new young crew of fairly unknown rippers nipping hard on the established names of skateboarding.
This was easily the most fun a contest in Arizona has been in 20 years. The best time I’ve had at a contest since the epic N.S.A. contests of Duel at Diablo (Stadium) in 1986 and Duel In The Desert at Big Surf in 1987. Those contests occurred at the beginning of the skate video boom but yet still while contests were the #1 factor in professional skateboarding (History geek note: I remember the whole Bones Brigade being REALLY late to the Diablo contest because their flight from Hawaii, where they had just filmed the Wallos section of Animal Chin, was really late). A lot has changed in skateboarding since those days. Namely, that it hasn’t been necessary for a pro skater to ride contests in probably 16 years or so. In recent years a good video part can lunch a skaters pro career almost instantly, taking them from total obscurity to being a household name in a very short period of time. Add a couple more really solid video parts and one can keep a pro career going for the better part a decade or so.
Fair enough, a lot of my favorite skaters never skate contests, and no one probably notices this. Peter Hewitt comes to mind, and it isn’t like anyone thinks Hewitt isn’t a legit top pro. The truth is, there is at least as many reasons to not skate contests these days as there are reasons to skate them. The ESPN contests, especially the traditional vert ramp ones, are usually about as exciting as watching Pong and unless you are willing to commit a good chunk of every year to them, and actually train, then its not really worth it b/c the money is only in the top 5 spots or so and that is a tough nut to crack. There is also the factor of skating horrible in a contest and blowing this image that you have created for yourself via video parts. Plus, save the Tampa and Phoenix Am and Oregon Trifecta events, contests have pretty much become not cool. Its gotten to the point, whether fairly or unfairly, that contests for the most part are seen as “skate jock” endeavors. Its no wonder that so many pros today opt to focus on good video parts and photo coverage. You can’t really blame them for opting to not skate contests because most skaters really don’t care about contest placing anyway.
However, thankfully some things will never change. In spite of the barriers and odds, it is still true that contests when executed correctly and put on by actual skateboarders not some corporate goons and in a fun location, contests can be a blast. That’s why everyone loves the Tampa and Phoenix Am and Trifecta contests. These contests get everyone together with their friends and although the contests themselves are pretty serious, everyone knows it’s also a good excuse to get everyone together for a weekend of parties and skating. It is in this spirit that these World Cup Contests like the Trifecta and this recent one in Peoria are threatening to buck the system and make contests a viable part of skateboarding again, and just as importantly, they are making contests FUN again. I for one am pretty stoked on this occurrence. Videos have there place but there is still no substitute for throwing down ALL THE WAY LIVE.
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What I’m describing is really no different that that band that you like that has the killer studio album but when you see them live they are horrible, or sometimes, BETTER, and occasionally devastatingly better. There is a flipside to everything and the flipside to the argument of videos making pro careers is that I could make just as solid an argument that, in a lot of ways, “Video Killed The Skateboard Stars”. Not in the sense that videos are fake or not legitimate but that in sense that of the generation of skateboard pros that I grew up during (approx 84-90’), when you actually saw a pro from that era skate live they were almost always as good as their video parts and often better. Can the same thing still be said? Sure, in some cases, and maybe many cases, but the percentage of a modern pros living up to or surpassing their video part is a lot lower than it used to be. To be fair a lot of that has too do with how insanely technical skating ahs become but I still get the feeling that people “fall back” on their video parts more than they should. When you understand the dynamic at work in what I’m talking about then you will understand why contests are making a comeback. It’s the “Anything that was once cool will be cool again”. Everything runs its course and after a generation of skate video saturation the skate public is finally ready for live skateboard competitions again.
Which finally brings me to the “Desert Dog Bowl Bash” that went down on the last weekend of October 2006 in Peoria, Arizona. This contest brought all the energy and excitement of the legendary contests of yore, but with a notable difference. Unlike a lot of the famous contests of the past you didn’t have to be a top pro to actually be involved and actually skate in the event. This may not seem like a big deal but really its one of those things that makes all the difference. It’s the same difference between “arena rock” and a $5 punk show. Its the tearing down of the barrier between the professional performers and the fans which results in the type raw energy that can make 8 hours in the sun feel like 30 minutes.
A nice thing with this contest is that the promoters made room for actual locals to skate and even make the cut to skate against the pros. This is a pretty unique format and I’m not sure I’ve seen it before but it makes total sense and is also pretty savvy move from a business standpoint. There was a 14 and under class and a 15 and over with the top spots qualifying to skate against the pros. Hackett and Olson also put on a park slalom/Deathrace in the flow area of the park that was super fun. This was pro and open class as well. But I have to say that the coolest thing that has happened with this contest, and many contest recently, is that they offer a girls/women’s class. This used to be unheard of but its’ now become a regular occurrence and it is really about time.
So, starting with the ladies first , here’s some of the action that went down in the Peoria park’s “Trog bowl” (An amoeba style bowl with a 8’ deep end that goes “to vert” a set of stairs in the shallowest pocket and all lined with pool coping). The way one skated this bowl would really give away what their primary skate terrain background was. So, it’s only natural that Nicole Zuck and Cressy Rice hailing from Oregon and Arizona respectively would attack the bowl with a style of skating that could only come from their time spent in the raw concrete parks of Oregon and empty sun baked swim-kettles of AZ. These 2 ladies drew the most unique lines and harshest grinds of the female competitors. Anything that was lacking from them in the way of tricks was made up for in an aggressive “backyard approach” to the bowl. Both girls being the only skaters in the class that I recall nailing frontside grinds over the shallow stairs.
Mimi Knoop and Carabeth Burnside brought the influence and bag of tricks that comes from localizing the big vert ramps and epic California park bowls like those found at the Clairmont and Encinitas YMCA’s. In this class Carabeth was probably hindered the most from the lack of true vert in the bowl. Nonetheless, she pulled deep end feebles, inverts, and airs and sweeper’s over the hips. Mimi threw out facewall fronstide ollies, nosegrinds on the hip and nice RnR boardslides in the deep all with a solid style. However, as it was to be often throughout the weekend, it was the young gun, that caught everyone off guard and rose to the occasion. In this case the young gun was 15 year old Apryl Woodcock. I’ve seen Apryl skate before and she has a deep bag of tricks and they were in full effect in Peoria. She ripped her way into a well deserved first place with Mimi, Nicole and Carabeth following behind her in that order. Holly Lyons also turned in some good well rounded skating and she and Cressy round out 5th and 6th respectively. Other notables in the ladies division were AZ local Natalie Das and Kim Peterson both of whom could of easily made the cut had not a few bails held them back.
Next up we have the Masters Division. These are the true legends of skateboarding that cut their teeth on the contest based skateboarding circuits of the late 1970’s and 1980’s. It was during events like the Hester and Gold Cup Series and A.S.P.O . (Association of Skatepark Owners) and N.S.A. (National Skateboarding Association) series a bit later where these guys took skateboarding into a whole different realm of possibilities in what in hindsight was a pretty short period of time . Although almost all of this class is into their 40’s this is a long way from being the token “Old Timers Day” type event that you see in professional baseball. These guys didn’t get the memo that this is some sort of historical exhibition and one just shows up and goes through the motions. No, these guys are contest vets and this is still serious business and none of them seem to understand what cruise control is. Does any skateboarder understand what cruise control is?? Hell no, that’s why we are skateboarders and not baseball goons. In other words, these dudes ain’t sporting Depends ™ under their Mad Rats ™ quite yet!!
As a child of the 70’s and 80’s watching the Masters Division is truly surreal. I’m sure it’s the same way for anyone around my age. Its like of like finding yourself dropped off in some half baked daydream from 3rd period study hall 1984. Concrete pool contest? Legit prize money? Dave Duncan on the mic? Caballero? Mountain, Malba, Salba, Stedham?……. LESTER KASAI??? The Space time continuum has been breached and everything is order as it was. Well, almost everything, Christian Hosoi doesn’t have his hair extensions nor his moose knuckle packed spandex shorts and he’s not doing the strong c’mon to that girl from your Social Studies class or asking you and your friends “where’s the herb bros? Jah Rule”. However, when you see such late 80’s wild child’s as Jeff Grosso and Ben Schroeder hoisting up straight-arm inverts you know for sure that you’ve definitely come through the worm hole and, despite Hosoi’s faith-based flip-flop, for the most part the more things change the more they stay the same.
The master’s event was naturally everything that you are thinking it would be, only up the energy to E-leven and now you are ready for the play by play. Caballero was back on the contest circuit after way too long a layoff. You’d never know it by the way he skated though. Ever the automatic local, it might as well of been Winchester’s Keyhole A.D. 1979. Cab threw out Miller Flips, Sad Plants, slide and roll’s and hell, fill in your favorite Cab move and its safe to say he probably did it. It was pretty obvious he was on track to win the whole weekend. I think everyone would be in agreement on this. Cab is all time. Enough said.
Although Cab was the obvious front runner, from there it was going to be a brawl as to how placing would end up. Jet Generation in effect. No one was going to be able to coast into top placing today. That’s not the way these guys were brought up. Everyone’s favorite Bones Bridager Lance Mountain brought years of contest experience and focused it into a stylistic whole. Steve Stedham was stomping Backside Boneless like it was Rage At Badlands, although sadly (to me anyway!) he didn’t skate to Rush’s “The Sprit Of Radio”?! I hope Steve hasn’t forgotten the magic of Geddy Lee and Neil Peart. And speaking of 1980’s gay-glo skeleton’s in the closet, I’m sorry to say Lester didn’t skate to Madonna like he did at Del Mar but he did hang-up BAD (as in Chris Miller at Upland bad, that kind of BAD) on a Madonna the weekend before at the Etnies contest. He had to of been still hurting but its not like you could tell. No, Lester did the 80’s proud and went BIO in that way that puts a bit fat grin on your face. Lester rules, glad to have him back on the skate scene. He was gone a super long time with a gnarly knee injury. Stick to skating Lester, no more break dancing!!
Another guy back and ruling was Micke Alba. I never realized that a lot of skaters are probably too young to know that Steve Alba has a little brother. Well, he does, and he also happens to be a hell of a contest skater. Overall 1979 Hester Series champion no less. Micke has been rehabbing a serious back injury for the last couple years out at the Montclair and Upland skateparks and it’s finally time for him to make his return to contest skating. Micke dug deep into the hard drive and put together some of the most complete runs of the Masters. Eggplants, inverts, invert varials, elgaerials, harsh frontside lapover grinds and his patented rock and roll shuffle boardslides served notice that Malba is back.
Steve Alba is a stalwart of bowl skating and he was not about to let Micke have an easy return to contest skating. Steve’s nickname is Le Machine and its pretty obvious why. The dude is a contest machine and even in a fairly straightforward pool like the tiny trog he will surprise you and leave you wondering why you didn’t see that line. Salba put together some of the longest unique runs of the day. Backside airs over the hip into the deep. Double truckers frontside and backside over the stairs and of course everything rolled into one flowing run, no set up moves from Salba.
Grosso and Schroeder brought a different approach to the contest and let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have to judge these contests. Comparing a Malba and Salba approach to a Grosso and Schroeder style approach is pointless in a lot of ways. They are totally different but both totally legitimate and rad. The Malba and Salba school of thought is to do full runs and falls hurt you a lot. Whereas a Grosso and Schroeder type mindset puts more of an emphasis on pushing things to the limit and if you fall, oh well. I’ll stay out of the argument of which way is better because I understand both, as long as the judges make it clear what they are looking for there shouldn’t a problem (I’m not sure the judges did that on this day?). In any case, Grosso and Schroeder are 2 of my all time favorites. As a teenager I definitely related to their “Exlies on Main Street” type counterbalance to the whole Bones Brigade/Vision Street Wear type wacky neon hip-sack/shat cap thing that Stacy Peralta and Brad the Dorfman had packaged up for us.
D.O.A. Jeff Grosso had a few killer runs w/ all the stomped and contorted invert variations and a Rn’R boardslide that damn near wrapped around the entire deep end from hip to hip. Mothra reigned. The human destruction unit that is Ben Schroeder skates like he is in a contest against himself. People can say what they want about his consistency (fair enough) but nobody will ever accuse Ben of being boring. Watching Ben skate is kind of like what having beforehand knowledge of an impending freight train derailment must feel like, you KNOW its going to happen in the next few minutes and you almost don’t want to watch but you can’t help yourself. To say Ben skates on edge would be an understatement. He has definitely crossed over the edge and killed himself every single time I’ve seen him skate. This day was no exception and in the mix w/ some gnarly dyslexic type slams were flashes of crystalline perfection including a wrap around deep end “Schroeder Bomb” that gave Grosso’s boardslide a run for the money. A few more diamonds in the rough were a gigantic Judo air, some classic stalled inverts, and long harsh grind variations all of which helped Ben find himself making the cut for the finals. After the dust had settled it was:
- Steve Caballero
- Glen Charnoski
- Micke Alba
- Lance Mountain
- Ben Schorder
- Jeff Grosso
After the Masters it felt like there was no way the pro class could up the energy level but that was not the case. The pro class was total chaos. A full on death match with 3 people skating at once at some points. There was way too much that went down in the pro class to do a play by play but there were some definite stand outs giving the standard top 5 guys an unwelcome reality check. 15 year old AZ local Aaron Homoki made it all the way to semi finals after skating the open class qualifier and was the only person the entire weekend to do a 540. And as if that wasn’t enough he did it padless in a death match with 200lb Brian Patch and Omar Hassan flying around the bowl at will. Fucking amazing. Aaron is one of those kids that we have all seen before that comes along every so often and its just obvious that they have “got it” in spades. Tony Hawk, Danny Way, Colin McKay, Shawn White, Bob Burnquist…. Aaron is one of those type of kids. He can do anything he wants to. Hopefully it takes him as far as he wants to go.
Although he is about 35 now Chris Livingston was also another one of those type kids that could always do anything he set his mind too. Chris is a 20 plus year AZ local and former top vert pro who shook up the vert scene in a big way right as it was dying in the early 90’s. Had he been a few years older and pro in the mid-late 80’s he’d be remembered like Chris Miller and Christian Hosoi are now because he has every bit as much natural style as those guys. Anyway, Chris made it all the way to finals and he fit in seamlessly even though he probably hasn’t skated a pro contest in a decade or more. Makes you wonder what he could do if he had any interest in being “serious” about contests! Chris is all time and I’ll just refer you to the photo and video section for demonstrable proof.
Other unsung types that were on fire in the pro class were Johnny Turgeson, Daniel Cardona, Danny Touma, Corbin Harris, Tyler Mumma, Tim Johnson, Josh “Skreech” Sandoval. These dudes were skating a lot better than their placings would lead you to believe. Tim Johnson and Tyler in particular were nonstop all weekend. Perhaps the biggest upset of the weekend however was Steve Reeves. I’ve never heard of or seen this guy skate before but I’ll be dammed if he didn’t end up in 3rd place and he definitely worked for it. He has a spry style and was just bounding around the bowl and banging out tricks at a furious pace. Ollie over the stairs? Check. Kickflip over the stairs? You better believe it! Look for a lot of good skating from this guy in the future because he’s pretty young and definitely hungry.
The rest of the top five were some of the best skaters ever. Brian Patch was in 5th and was as solid as you’d expect although I’d rather see him skate the combi. Omar Hassan ended up in 4th but I think most people would agree that 2-4th could of gone in a variety of ways, serious splitting of hairs going on there. Whatever your take on the order, Omar seriously killed it. We’ve all seen it all before from Omar but it’s not like it ever gets old. Rune finished 2nd and I really don’t know what to say about Rune that hasn’t been said. He’s one of the best skaters that ever lived is probably all you need to know.
There were around 50 people in the pro class but there could only be one winner and this day belonged to Benji Galloway. Benji wins an inordinate amount of these contests. So many that sometimes it’s kind of a given. I have to admit that in spite of how undeniably good he is I’ve sometimes felt like he was just doing what he had to do to win. Well, that wasn’t the case on this day. I’ve never seen Benji skate like he did on this day. He always has a bottomless bag of tricks but this time he just seemed to push everything further and had a presence and aggression that I’ve never seen from him before. Benji won this one by a country mile and with the cast of skaters throwing down that weekend that was no small feat. I don’t think there was anyone at the Peoria park that wasn’t amazed with Benji’s skating. He was nonstop L.A.M.F. (Like A Mother F**ker) and he earned his $7G’s and then some
1st Benji Galloway $7,500
2nd Rune Glifberg $4,000
3rd Steve Reeves $2,000
4th Omar Hassan $1,000
5th Brian Patch $500
6th Jimmy The Greek $100Grand Masters Bowl
1st Steve Caballero $4,000
2nd Glen Charnoski $2,750
3rd Micke Alba $1,000
4th Lance Mountain $600
5th Ben Schroeder $400
6th Jeff Grosso $100Ladies Bowl
1st Apryl Woodcock $3,000
2nd Mimi Knoop $1,900
3rd Nicole Zuck $675
4th Cara-Beth Burnside $400
5th Holly Lyons $275
6th Cressey Rice $10015 and Over Open Bowl
1st Aaron Homoki
2nd Art Miranda
3rd Lamie Vamie
4th Aaron Schediwy
5th Jeremy Varnadore
6th Matt Rabun14 and Under Open Bowl
1st Ben Raybourn
2nd Nick Matalka
3rd Justin Cymbalski
4th Skyler Anselmo
5th Tanner Thompson
6th Sam VerbanicPro Park Slalom / Death Race
1st Danny Tumia $500
2nd Christian Hosoi $300
3rd Rune Glifberg $200Open Park Slalom / Death Race
1st Chris Kelley
2nd Sky Siljeg
3rd Pat Black
Thanks to Kronik Energy, Scion, Peavy, AZPX Skateboards, Arrowhead, DeVry, Dave Hackett, Steve Olson, Dave Duncan, City of Peoria, Khiro, Industrial Rideshop, Site Design Group, California Silk Screening, Deal Clothing and Digital Displays for sponsoring the event!