Lagoa Azul Pro race report

6

First and most importantly. A massive MASSIVE, gigantic thank you to Mr Jorge Pernes. Who all the good things from this weekend can be attributed to. Without him we would have had very little fun. I love you bro, sorry for calling you Penis. Haha.

Koma Kino needs little introduction. If he hadn’t been there, we would probably still be on the hill today waiting to do qualification runs. Koma worked really hard all weekend to ensure everyone skated as much as possible, given the situation we found ourselves in.

Helio's last night of freedom before being locked on a reality TV show in Portugal for 3 months

On Thursday night, we went for a cruise, through the city. I spent the morning wandering around Lisbon with Helio, who was busy being Europe’s most famous skater. We got to the track around lunchtime, and everyone was sitting around. There were maybe 20 riders at the bottom of the hill and lots of traffic. Everyone was complaining because they only had a few runs before the bus driver had to go on his lunch break. It was supposed to be an hour, it went on for 2. The skating eventually started again around 2:30 and everyone got only 6 runs on that first day. People were really stoked on the hill, it is really gnarly! Nobody was happy about the limited riding, especially as that was supposed to be freeride day.

That night, there was a riders meeting, the organiser gave the plan for Saturday’s qualifications, and Koma was around to answer the many questions people had after. After one warmup run, the qualis started. We had only lost 2 people to injury the day before. Elver and Kowalski.
The organiser also mentioned a bunch of other stuff for Saturday like a slalom race and a ”soft downhill” competition. Also a skate comp and stuff. Prizes had been donated for all these events.

One of the most beautiful things about Cascais was the sunshine. It was so hot, all the time. Someone explained to me that it was because of this heat that having hay bales was not possible, they would be too expensive to procure for such a long track and finding them would be hard. So because of this, we had tyres as protection instead. Also, the race was held in a forestry reserve and hay was too big a fire hazard to have so much of it all over the place.
Watching a race with tyre protection is definitely very entertaining, although I wouldn’t be too excited about having to crash into them. Every time someone went into them, they flew apart like bowling pins, they were not effective at slowing you down when you ran into them, people still hit the floor on the other side.

Back to the qualification runs. In the open class, Darth Hertler was winning every single one of his heats.  Miss Masia was doing the same in the women’s class. Clean, fast runs. In the final run, which she was taking it easy and sliding – she crashed and broke her arm! I was so gutted because I was sure she would have got very first and very well deserved podium finish. The mood in the camp was much better that night and we played a lot of football, had some awesome meat for dinner, had a nice dance to the reggae music.

Some guys brought 2 HUGE 51 inch Samsung TV’s to the resturant/bar area that night, and as Samsung are sponsors for the event, I thought wow – somebody is going to have the most awkward prize to take home. Only Jesus knows how much it would cost to fly back with that beast. We were also excited because we were told we would have some Samsung cameras to use for our footage. More on this soon.

Race day! I woke up pretty stoked, put on my AllAround shirt and was ready for a gnar day. There were lots more spectators, we had shade, chairs and sore throats. Warmup was good. Then the business started. Because of the competitive nature in people – there were a shitload more crashes. Fast ones as well. People broke through the single layer of tyres and carried on into the crowd or whatever was on the other side. The tyres were definitely not sufficient. We all abandoned our front row seats and went about 2 meters behind the barrier – for our own safety.

We had a warm up run with no glitches. And then for the 2nd warmup, they sent the girls down first. Kati and Barbara came down, and then silence. We heard someone had crashed further up the field. Then the news got worse. Noe had fallen and broken her brand new predator helmet. The ambulance took her to the hospital and then we sat and waited. The organiser only had one ambulance at the event, so of course we had to wait for it to return for the action to continue. That was really crap. Everyone was really anxious for news about Noe. Sonso went in the ambulance with her to make she would be okay. It felt like a year before the ambulance came back, it was probably more like an hour. At that time we still didn’t have any news from Sonso about her condition. Noe is okay and recovering in Madrid. Big hugs to you buddy, get well soon. It took about 20 minutes before the road was closed again. Finally! One run after 4 hours was definitely not a great start to the day.

Heal fast ladies!

This was the same thing that happened the day before when Sonso crashed. Because there was no ambulance, the skating stopped and we all went back to the camp. The slalom, soft downhill, rookie skateboarding and trick contest were all cancelled.

There were girls who came all the way from Finland for the soft downhill and they only got to ride on the freeride day. One of them stayed for the qualification day. She was part of 4 girls running in a group. They went last after all the guys. I watched as they pushed off, and 10 seconds after the car that picks up the racers from the bottom started to follow. What the hell? The girls could not enjoy their runs as they were harassed by this car. It was a big fail on the part of the organisers, the finish girls decided to abandon the race and go surfing either. That was a bummer, now the small number of girls in the camp was even smaller.

On to the racing. The brackets had some interesting matchups. The local’s hope was riding on Nuno ”Powa” and Pernes. Pernes was drawn into the same bracket as Hertler and unfortunately for the Dutch contingent – so was supergrom Deen Mondt. Deen did really well and should be proud of his efforts. He made it through one round. Pernes got through to the quarter finals and Hertler went all the way.
2 of the vikings and both Belgians were out in the first round. Robin had an unlucky crash and came out in the round after.

As was happening during many of the races, people were taking out shitloads of tyres. There were tied down or tied together. So when people hit them – they flew everywhere, boards bounced off the rubber and it was carnage. The marshalls were a bit clueless about what to do, and they waved a red flag every time someone crashed, or a yellow one – whichever was in their right hand at the time. One rider had a spectacular crash and dismantled about 3 rows of tyres. The closest marshall immediately threw up a red flag, which was smart in case anyone was coming behind. The mess was cleared in about 10 seconds and the road was good to ride. They kept up the flag and stopped the heat with Mr Dehmel and Alvaro Bajo, even though there was no obstruction. So the guys went down the hill on their butts and waited for a lift back up for a rerun.

The marshalls also had this annoying habit of taking skaters off the course when they crashed. Like it was a game of tag. During the women’s final, Jacky Madenfrost crashed in party corner and was going to continue down the hill, but they grabbed her and told her to get off the track. It was a freaking final! Kati and Barbara could have collided or gone to get some Sangria halfway down the hill and she may have been able to catch them. Or some other ignoramus could have done the same thing to the 3 girls ahead of her and we wouldn’t have a finalist. Silly. Barbara went on to win and Katiana was second. 2 Spanish inhabitant on the podium! Yay.
Local hero ”Powa” went out in the quarter finals, as did quite a few of the Spanish riders, so our party corner was getting really lively – and really smelly! The semis were amazing. Absoultely freaking amazing. Jakob Raab and Pablo Quilles were two big names which had both crashed in their heats and were out. The semi finals were a 3 way battle between Germany, Spain and Switzerland. Hertler, Dehmel, Ebel and Ritter representing the Germans. Sick riders Robert and Bouaich bringing the Swiss style and Rafa and Crazy Ivan were holding it down for Spain.

The silence and then the deafening shouts for the first semi gave the place so much energy. Kevin was leading Sebastian coming into crash corner. It was the first time we had seen Hertler not take first place this weekend. It was so freaking tight. We were super stoked for the final now.

The second semi was ridiculous. Matze was leading, followed by Nicolas Robert, Leon was 3rd and the hope of Spain – Rafa was in 4th. It was really tight, so we didn’t know what to expect. When the car bringing the riders up came past us, Rafa was smiling so hard with 2 fingers in the air! He had gone from 4th to 2nd and qualify for the final. You can only imagine how many times I heard ”de puta madre”. The feeling from the large Spanish family was pure joy. If we were excited for the final before, now we were delirious.

So the final was – Kevin, Sebastian, Matze and Rafa. We waited patiently for the battle. First we had the consolation final. Nicolas must have hurt himself because he was just carving down the hill and air braking. Leon was first, Alex was 2nd, and Ivan was 3rd.

Now for the big one. Speeding into Party corner was the commander of Death Star, Darth Hertler, followed closely by housemate Mattias Ebel. Rafa and Kevin were both hot on their tails and they sped off into the next corner. Now we were anxiously waiting for the results. I was sure Sebastian would have maintained his lead and the pack would have finished as we saw it.
We were in for a surprise. As the van came up with the riders, Matze was jumping up and down and Sebastian was sitting, subdued. Mattias had pulled off a stunning pass after they were out of our view. He was so so STOKED! Rafa was 3rd and Kevin was 4th.
The skating was so good. So so so good. So many world beaters. Anyone from anywhere in the world would have had a tough time beating us this weekend. The level of European skating is going through the roof and we can only get faster from here!

The junior final was HOT. The Catalan Viking had a slim lead on Deen from the qualification and he finally had his own board, after the airline lost it. Deen has had a great season and he was looking good in all his runs. Callum was also killing it in the heats and he has a really nice style. The last junior in the final was local boy – Antonio, competing in his first race.
Oriol had a slim lead on Deen coming into crash corner, followed by Callum and then Antonio bring up the rear. Everyone was so stoked for URIIIIIIIIIII. The little blonde grom got his first 1st place win and Deen got the points he needed to be European Junior champion. They are both 17 now though and will be kicking it with the big boys next season.

So the racing was done. Everyone was stoked. So much fun to watch! It was time for the prizes. Haha. Prizes? We went back to the campsite, sat around for an hour or so. Axel and Agro did some interviews and then we all went over to see the prize giving.
The organiser didn’t really have a clue and was just calling out the first place names. Koma took over. Mikel won everything that wasn’t standup. He is so so so fast! He got a protec helmet for all his troubles.
Then they did the girls, that’s when things got interesting. Kati and Maike got small black cocks presented to them. Yes you read that right. No it’s the other kind of cock – the male chicken. It was a bit surreal, and then Barbara got what looked like a used heart-shaped pillow for winning the race. I waited for the rest of the swag. Nothing. Okay I thought, maybe after.

It's so small you can hardly see it...

Oriol and I had been talking in the hostel before the race and I was talking about those 51 inch plasma screen tv’s. And we joked about how he would carry it home if that was his prize. And then for Junior prize giving – they got nothing. Not even a cock. Which I know those little putos would definitely have enjoyed.

Men’s prize presentation. This time the guys got boards! Shame they were only 3 inches long. I’m not sure what universe tech decks are suitable prizes for downhill skateboarders, but I’m sure it’s a universe with no bacon, no ice-cream and no rock music – a universe which sucks, definitely not the one we live in. Koma got a tshirt and a scarf and some recognition for all his work in saving the event. Pernes also got a standing ovation. Without them, well, let’s not even think about it.

Holding up their boards and prizes...

So let’s discuss some of this madness. Groms. Juniors. Kids. Rats. Whatever you call them, they are the future of our sport. They don’t have a disposable income, they may not have sponsors. More than anything, it is vital that we continue to encourage and support them in all they do. It is not okay to reward them for paying a lot of money to attend your race with a handshake. That’s crazy.

You can’t put people in front of a canvas showing your event sponsors which include those from outside the industry – Samsung, Coca-cola and Mercedes Benz and claim you don’t have money for cash prizes.
There were many brands present at the race, they didn’t just come to drink beer and cheer, where were the prizes they donated? If they only donated cash – where was the money going? It definitely wasn’t towards haybales, or towards having 2 or 3 ambulances or towards a decent lunch for the riders, and it wasn’t going towards a timing system. Where’s the money?

Mr Dehmel and Mr Raab standing in for Darth Hertler, Euro series champion!

If someone is working 9 hours a day, every day on something, anything, then it is criminal for them not to be compensated for their hard work. My mother always said, if you’re good enough at something, someone will pay you to do it. There would be nothing better than a world where people who work hard for skateboarding, to be able to feed and house their families through their work. Isn’t that the ultimate dream? But you must do a good job.

If you put on an amazing event, and you are able to support yourself through that, that is awesome! Keep on it.

After a long weekend of sitting around in the sun, this last act was a slap in the face for all the riders, and an unfair portrayal of the Portuguese skate community, who I know to be warm, generous members of our skate family. The local skaters were embarrassed by the organiser’s actions and were unnecessarily apologetic after. Thank you so much Suzie and Helio and Pernes!

Mattias was really stoked

As far as I can remember, no apologies were made for the cancellation of the events on Saturday. Or for the ridiculous waiting around all weekend. Or for the kid’s sized lunches which we got. Or for the massive delay on Sunday. We had at least an hour between the final and the prize presentation, more than enough time to fetch the prizes. No explanation was given for the embarrassing prize giving ceremony. What I do remember is a discourteous, unprofessional and unsympathetic organiser with little respect or consideration for riders or sponsors.

The organiser, Jorge Guedes, is not a skater. He has no love for skating, no respect for skaters and no place organizing something for us when our objectives are not aligned. This was like Calgary all over again. When the 1% who only care about money put on something for the 99% who care about skating – this is the result. Everyone has been calling for blood, the disbanding of the IGSA. Solely because of one man’s misplaced intentions.

What we need going forward is a simple solution to the questions everyone has been asking. The 99% need to take control of skating, in this case – organising races. It is a lot of hard work. But if there were 2 or 3 Jorge Pernes’ and Ekos who got together to make this race happen – minds would have been blown. We absolutely must not allow people who do not care about us, or what we do to walk in, ask for our money, and then walk away with it, leaving us with nothing but a bad taste in our mouths. The same needs to be done with our governing body. A simple change will be effective in changing the direction it’s taking – we need more riders involved from the ground up. The rules, the organising, everything.

A big problem with such a disconnected organisation was the lack of transparency. After paying so much to ride and not being able to ride or get good value for their fee, everyone wanted to know what exactly their money had been spent on. Koma had explained that the 1200 euro a day timing system had been taken back by the company. So that’s at least 2400 euros back to the organiser’s pocket, right? From now on, we need more accountability, relations between organisers and consequently, the IGSA are very tense and everyone thinks they are in this for profit. An easy way to start rebuilding the trust is to let people know exactly where the money goes.

Well done to the organiser. Only heaven knows what happened to all the skate stuff that was donated or to those 2 big plasma screens and countless other stuff we don’t know about. From his actions, this was all about money to him and he has achieved his goal. I really really hope this race happens again next year, with more riders from around Europe, but made for the community, by members of the community, and not by someone who just shows up one day and realises he could make a profit from the community.