It was part Academy Awards Pre-Show. The celebrities strolled the carpet, casually making their way down the line, amid a phalanx of media members with flashing cameras and microphones and tape recorders. They posed, gave awkward video plugs, talked about how happy they were to be there. Except here the carpet was green—not red—and instead of being asked what they were wearing, it was what type of board they were riding.
It was part Super Bowl Media Day. Top competitors, the very best in the world at what they do, discussing an upcoming competition, one of the highest profile events in their sport. Yet, here there was very little talk of winning and losing. More about just having fun. Giving it your all. And hanging with the homies.
And it was part hip-hip concert. There was the headline star, the not-so-well-known local opening act, a surprise guest, and, of course, pulsating strobe lights. However this was a private event, only a few hundred people were in attendance.
It was the Dew Tour Kick-Off Party at The House of Vans in Brooklyn on Thursday night, headlined by J. Cole and populated by famous athletes, celebrities, and local skaters from across New York City.
And what it was, really, was a celebration. A celebration of two sports—skateboarding and BMX—and also of one city. A city that many feel has deserved to host an event like this for a long time.
“I’m glad the 10th year [of the Dew Tour] is in Brooklyn, this place is rich in history,” skateboarder Sean Malto said. "A lot of legends have come out of here."
When it was launched in 2005, the Dew Tour consisted of only one event in one city. This weekend will mark the third of four separate events held this year, the 10th anniversary of the tour. Other stops have come in Ocean City, Md., and Portland, Or. Later this year the Tour will hit Breckenridge, Colo.
And since most of the athletes arrived in Brooklyn on Thursday, Malto said he spent his afternoon boarding around the city, choosing to eschew his allotted practice time for sightseeing. The other riders, if they chose, were able to test out one of the two courses specifically created for the event by California Rampworks; the other had yet to be constructed.
The construction company augmented the existing skatepark that is inside—yet in an open-air area—of the House of Vans warehouse. This is your typical skate course, with your ramps and your rails. It will be used for the “street” events on Saturday; first will be BMX in the afternoon and then it is the skaters' turn later in the evening.
The athletes commonly described this course as “mellow,” and they were effusive in their praise for it.
“The course out here is, in my opinion, the best course Dew Tour has ever had, and that’s a great start to the Brooklyn relationship,” said skater Paul Rodriguez , one of the favorites in the street event.
However, there is another event this weekend, as well. That is the “streetstyle” event, and it will take up three blocks of Franklin Street, and require part of the road to be closed down for two days. That event—which will take place on Sunday and is relatively new to the Dew Tour— is made to replicate real-life street skating, the type many of the athletes say they grew up with.
That means there will be a large corrugated metal storage container placed somewhere in the middle of the course. And a car somewhere else. And some other “gnarly obstacles”—as first time Dew Tour participant Boo Johnson put it—that competitors will have to choose to jump off, flip over, grind on, or whatever else comes to mind while they are barreling down the inclined street.
“I’m such a fan [of the streetstyle event],” Malto said. “It’s like real street skating, cruising down a hill, just hitting whatever comes in your way. It’s kind of a really authentic way of doing a contest.”
And since that course hasn’t been constructed yet—workers said they’ll work through the night on Friday, starting at 6 pm and going until it is finished—its design was the source of much anticipation. And trepidation.
Malto, who is coming off ankle surgery last December and will be competing for the first time since his injury, circumspectly noted that he wanted to “check out” the course before he would commit to competing in the event.
He wasn't the only one. Skater Theotis Beasley did not mince words when asked if he’ll give the streetstyle event a shot.
“Nah, you going so fast down that thing, that s--- is crazy, man,” he said. “I can’t go downhill like that. F--- no, I skate slow.”
But let’s save that for the weekend.
There was no skating, or biking, at the House of Vans on Thursday. Yes, there were dozens of people at the event with skateboards, but they carried them around under their arms, or stacked them up against walls. These were the local skaters—kids like David Anders, who moved from West Virginia to Brooklyn six months ago with hopes of one day becoming a professional rider.
Guys who just wanted to be a part of this event, to mingle with their idols—to be around what they dub the all-inclusive “skate culture.”
“I’m here for epic skateboarding, same thing that brings everyone here,” Anders, still giddy about meeting one of his favorite riders, said, his curly red hair bursting out of a snapback hat. “If you have a skateboard you can go anywhere. Find anyone else with a skateboard, you’re instantly tight with them. It’s like a click, a community.”
It was clear throughout the night just how tight-knit this community is, a feeling that even spreads over to other action sports. Snowboarders Danny Davis and Scotty Lago were present just to watch their friends compete and to support the sport.
“We’re all such a small community, it’s mutual respect we share for each other,” Lago said. “It’s more of a culture, less of a sport.”
It really was all love everywhere you looked, everyone you talked to.
Despite the fact that there will be a $30,000 purse going to the winner of each event, none of the competitors evinced the burning, unremitting desire to win so often seen in other sports. Most, actually, don’t see competition as the real substance of the sport.
“Skateboarding isn't traditionally a competitive sport,” Rodriguez said. “At the end of the day we all skate, we all feed off each other, we all are inspired by each other, motivated by each other. So when it comes down to having to compete, it’s still all love regardless.”
“In skateboarding you can’t really beat the game, so you might as well root your homie on,” Johnson added.
This was evident everywhere you looked at the event, as hugs between friends were flowing almost as steadily as the open bar. Or the stand serving Mountain Dew—the primary sponsor of the Tour. Or the food truck doling out pizza slices. Or the cart filed with an assortment of hot pretzels, from cinnamon raisin to feta olive.
And while the crowd inside the private party—400 estimated attendees, according to security—started the night tepid as local indie pop band Bleachers played their opening set, a surprise appearance by Questlove, who took over the DJ booth as J. Cole was prepping, galvanized the group.
And when the rapper came out at 10:45 at night—wearing a throwback Hank Aaron Braves jersey—took the mic and said, “I don’t care if there’s only 10 of us here, Brooklyn, make some mother------- noise,” it was a wrap. When he finished his set— and the huge garage door of the warehouse creaked open—skater culture billowed out onto Franklin Street.
The very same street that by Saturday morning will be transformed into a treacherous streetstyle course, replete with various obstacles for the athletes to deal with however they deem fit.