I spent the weekend in Kimberley as a guest of the Northern Cape Tourism Authority covering the annual Kimberley Diamond Cup World Championships. Link to album.
If, like me, the only thing you know about skateboarding was learnt from Tony Hawks skateboard game on the PlayStation then you might be surprised about the complexity of the sport, nevermind the variety of competition, involved in the Diamond Cup.
Friday morning I arrived rather groggy at OR Tambo and caught the early flight to Kimberley where I met Tebogo, my host for the next few days. We wasted no time in joining the skaters from 37 countries, SA included, on a guided tour of a game farm in the Free State. The skaters loved the variety of animals at the farm, especially enjoying the splendour of the 48 lions on the property. The biggest ooh & aahs however were reserved for the group of rhino we spotted. Due to the unfortunate plight of the rhino in South Africa, all the rhino have been de-horned on this farm. It was a very sad sight for me and touched me deeply but at least the animals are alive.
My bus was full of mostly American skaters who surprised me with their general knowledge of the wildlife we encountered. At the same time I was quite disappointed by one of our local guys talking the biggest load of bullshit non-stop, this particular gem is unforgettable: “Wildebeest are dangerous pack animals who eat meat and will charge a car in groups and kill us all.” His girlfriend, equally stupid, shrieked in horror when the harmless antelope looked in our general direction. I considered educating them both but thought there was little point.
In the afternoon I got to see the Skate Park for the first time and was immediately drawn to a U-shaped ramp known as “Vert”. Essentially the skaters start on one side and shoot down the steep slope gaining speed and then perform a trick when they reach the top on the opposite side, either aerial or on the edge. By contrast the “street” contest is conducted on ramps, rails and stairs a skater my encounter in parks, streets or shopping malls. The third item I watched is called mini-mega which is essentially two ramps lined up with a large gap in between which needs to be jumped. The same ramp is used for the big tricks contest!
The Street event takes place in heats where skaters compete to advance round by round to the final. In the vert contest the skaters each get a number of turns to accumulate points. The tricks contest is time based and the skaters take as many turns as they can in the set time to see who can land the most spectacular trick.
During the 4 days I managed to have a word with a few of the skaters and discovered that these guys have quite a good vibe despite the competition for big prize money. The guys applaud each others tricks and especially when someone lands a particularly complex jump there are a lot of high 5’s. I enjoyed this aspect of the sport.
I asked PLG, Edgard Vovo, Rony Gomes, Jono Schwan and Jason Rothmeyer if they enjoyed visiting SA and whether they would visit as tourists not just as competitors/judges, all replied that they would definitely return to visit. A favourite destination for a future visit by quite some distance will be Cape Town but some also want to see Johannesburg. On the return flight on Monday, I sat with one of the judges, Jason Rothmeyer, who was on his way to Hluhluwe for a few days of relaxing. His instagram feed is practically all wildlife related images, great guy to chat to if you ever get the chance.
In retrospect, all the guys were friendly, everyone I spoke to had the time for a chat or a photo and even in the airport on Monday morning they were signing autographs for anyone who asked. Really nice group of people I had the pleasure of mingling with over the weekend.
The big money is in the street contest (US $100,000 for first place), the vert pays $35000 first place, the mini-mega pays $22000 top prize and big trick offered $5000 with a winner takes all system. After the event I spoke to someone to find out why and the reply I received somewhat surprised me. He reasoned that the street guys are more organised and that they all compete under one banner while the other competitors compete under several organisations where the rankings vary and collective bargaining of the competitors is greatly reduced. Maybe one day they too will organise themselves into a strong unit and the prize money will follow.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Photographing sports is my favourite pastime and vert is now firmly entrenched in my top 3 sports to shoot. I hope to return in 2015 to catch up with the guys and of course get some more action shots.