The following private conversation was sparked after Effraim made a post on FlatMatters about the Fise comp in France a while back. Since this conversation, another altercation arose in the US. Although it's fun to meet up and ride with friends at comps, there's a lot more to it, especially for a pro rider, the organizers of the event, as well as the flatland community as a whole. Effraim and I decided to make our conversation public and invite others to listen in.
Matthias Dandois ripping it up to first place at Ninjaspin in Monaco.
A Brief history...
Flatland was kicked out of the X-games after 2003. Since 2004, riders have come together to re-sculpt flatland competition into what it is today. A long list of flatland competitions have come and gone. Some are still going strong, like KOG in japan. Instead of concentrating on the specifics of aforementioned altercations, this conversation is an evaluation of pro comps as a whole and their benefit to the flatland community. There are 4 parts to the conversation. So before haters start popping off at the keyboard, know that this conversation is to help us really evaluate the overall direction that we are taking flatland through pro competition. There are many perspectives on this subject here are just two.....
Part 1 of 4
OK, so we are talking about comps and how they have shaped the current state of flatland.
Bobby: Well, I was thinking about Matthias and contests etc., today. Pretty much his style of riding is great for comp riding. Since the whole pro aspect of the sport revolves around the comps, it seems as though riders tend to ride like him. He becomes the "poster child" of flatland as someone commented on your Flatmatters blog. I think that's a natural thing considering the circumstances.
Effraim: Yes we have reached a standard of what everyone thinks a flatland contests should be, tiny area, which of course suits the style of riding you mention from Matthias, and he is a rolemodel, so riders naturally look up to him. There is room for other style contests, that cater for more riders like Alexis Desolneux, Sebastian Grubinger, variety is one of the many things that makes flatland great! It becomes static if we have go around in circles literally...
Bobby: Along with riders gravitating toward one style, it also seems as though comps are so much about consistency, that most people do their safe tricks in the comp. Which further decreases the variety of tricks thrown down in the comps. Seems to me, since the new tricks are thrown down in web edits, the comps are no longer serving the purpose of "a platform to show the newest tricks."
Effraim: At the moment everyone is holding back for lil bit of prize money.
Bobby: Yeah, there's a lot of work going into organizing the comps, trying to get some sponsors for the events, training to be consistent for comps, and there really is very little money to be won. If you get 3rd or lower, you probably lost money traveling to the comp. Only a few pros get their expenses taken care of by sponsors.
Effraim: Well that's because its been a gradual decline since flatland went out of the x games, it had a few points where we built up again, for example, the red bull circle of balances were great for flatland. And what are we really selling Bobby? Pros aren't buying the bikes for the most part, its the AMs that buy the bikes.
Bobby: Flatland isn't selling much....It's not like a comp goes down and another 500 more completes are sold. There's not enough riders to sell to.
Effraim: Exactly! Contests, like or not, are gone and forgotten a day later. We live in a disposable culture, spit in, spit out, onto the next fix.
Bobby: Most mags aren't even covering the comps. You're lucky if you get a picture on a website or a trick among a bunch of other riders in a web edit. It's also difficult for flatland to support its own pro comps. We always have to look outside the industry for financing, even 8 years after the x-games.
Effraim: Part of the problem is we have lacked credibility. There's still no organization in flatland that represents the riders and their concerns. Sorry to bring up skateboarding, but again it comes up...
Effraim: Imagine we are still in the x games. We have an organizing body looking after and catering for the riders needs and demands, judging structure in place...We would still be in the x games. We didnt have anything [back then] we had Mat Hoffman and Steve Swope helping out, but we pissed them off with the similar kind of bickering and bitching that happens still after every contest, and in some cases at the contest. They don't need the grief. They were only trying to help.
Bobby: I suppose that's true to an extent, but then again they dropped a lot sports along with flatland.
Effraim: Well of course, yes. That's obvious now, but at least we would have an organizing body in place that was looking after the riders. We had nothing and went back to square one...which is kinda where truthfully we are at now.
Bobby: I think flatland, by it's very nature, can't be confined. When we try to confine it to a certain system, negativity erupts...
Effraim Catlow: That's one of the beauties of this artform whats better a Picasso painting or Vincent Van Gogh? What you can do is have judges accountable for their scores.
Bobby: OK, well, I will say one thing is different. Through voodoo, kog, cob, etc. riders had the opportunity to create events and formats that showed flatland in a more exciting way. The first Voodoo jam was like the old movie "Bloodsport"! And at the time, it was a great event for US flatland.
Effraim: Why did that first Voodoo work? I guarantee the riders were pushing it
Bobby: I think at that time, it was the first effort in the U.S. to come together as a community to make something happen!
Effraim: And what you said about new tricks dropping online, Justin Miller was dropping hammers in the comp nothing gets riders more psyched than new tricks and styles.
Bobby: Well, for one, you-tube hadn't blown up like it is now. It was just starting, so his tricks weren't out there. Secondly, the three man battle at the end didn't count off for touches, just what you pulled counted. So the riders were more free to go for hard tricks.
Effraim: Exactly, so the format was less restrictive. Flatland was allowed to blossom which is great. Now its so conservative.
Bobby: Yes, in that moment the riders were let off the "consistency" leash for a bit.
Effraim: Why not keep it like that? If you knew that format was existing at the next contest, you'd have your "contest" combos and some extras in the bag.
Bobby: True. True. Others have put up the argument that when you have that format, non riding spectators see that no one is pulling that much stuff and everyone is crashing, so they loose interest. But I think there's a bigger issue at hand with comps...besides the riding, how much does each comp really help grow the sport? How much return on investment is there in Pro comps? With most other sports, a comp goes down and the companies are selling a lot of product afterward - especially if their rider wins. I don't see that happening in flatland. Instead of participation and attendance increasing year after year with more new riders, it seemed to decrease.
Effraim: You are only taking about Pros, its the Ams buying the bikes
Bobby: Yes. Let me re-phrase that...with most other sports a pro comp goes down and the companies are selling A LOT of product to amateurs and fans - especially if their pro team rider wins. I don't see that happening in flatland.
Effraim: Look at the reasons why jams are blowing up right now. Look at this weekend just gone by, the flatmatters jam in London. I was teaching one of the locals at the TGM what happens in a turbine and once i pointed out the technique, he was way better instantly. If that were a contest, I don't think that scenerio would have come up. The more people riding the more people breaking parts, basically.
Bobby: In my opinion, I think the scenario you just described is light years better at building the sport than a pro-comp.
Effraim: Yes, it is and honestly it hurts me to say that. I grew up on contests, but at same time...
Bobby: That was a different era, though.
Effraim: I never had much advice given to me. I've always rode on my own and had to figure stuff out. The sport can grow if we "pro riders" give back to the ams. I teach a few kids flatland at the skatepark every so often. I call it bike control to them.
Bobby Carter: That being said, I do think that AM comps are a good thing.
Rad Dad sweeping up the Vet class at Texas Flatland Round up.
Effraim: Yes, why are they a good thing? It's more accessible, money is not required (as in prize money), ams seem to appreciate the contest more also.
Bobby: I think it gives some structure and something for ams to practice for as they increase their skills and get some techniques down. Also, since you don't have to worry about prize money, it's less burden on the organizers. Just about every company can donate product. It's an event that can be fully supported by flatland companies.
Effraim: Thats true. or a trophy...
Bobby: And for the companies, you want an AM, your customer, to get stoked on your product.
Effraim: When I was a kid it was only a trophy, bike parts are forgotten a week down the road. A trophy is forever.
Bobby: True, but why not have both??
Effraim: Of course...There's also the fact that people like to belong to something.
Bobby: Going back to pro comps, what do you think is the best thing about pro-comps in 2011, 8 years after we got dropped from the x-games?
Stay Tuned for part 2 tomorrow!