Birling the Skatepark Effect
Wesley Lee, Drop down to 50-50. Cayer By Adam Wawrzynczak There was once a time when skateparks acted primarily as warm-up spots....
by Cole Nowicki
It doesn’t require much to hold a skateboarding competition. On its most base level, all one needs is a flat slab of concrete to host a game of S.K.A.T.E or freestyle skirmish. That’s part of the beauty of the skateboard—its simple versatility.
Past that rosey idealism, on the opposite end, it gets a little messy.
Mega Ramp huckfests. Maloof Money excesses. Tampa-Is-That-Guy-Pro-Now? ESPNXGAMES. Vans Park Series (VPS) events that throw up astounding concrete sculptures with week-long lifespans. Those daunting, ephemeral waves shooting the Pedros of the world up and out of ours and into the next. Or Street League, which has turned its take on competitive “street skating” into an Olympic qualifying event for 2020—same goes with the VPS.
Somewhere in between them—the nothing and the everything—is Slides & Grinds. A Brazil-based game of S.K.A.T.E on a singular obstacle: the flatledge.
The concept is straightforward and fitting. Get Brazil’s premier technicians into a warehouse with a shimmering polished concrete floor and a long, overly waxed metal ledge. Then they duke it out for tech supremacy. Which, in the world of innumerable Brazilian wunderkinds, makes it a stacked field.
Thanks to skateboarding’s biggest media hub being centred in the United States, most of the names in the Slides & Grinds bracket are likely unfamiliar to those not from Brazil. But you might know them, even if you don’t know you know. You know? Because Instagram has democratized skateboarding and brought it together on at least a superficial level. That one Brazilian cat who does the viral 1000-trick combos at the famous plaza spot shaped like a snoozing schnauzer? That’s Marcelo Formiga. He’s in it this year. In fact, he faced off with the fastest flick in the business in the opening round, Luan De Oliveira.
This game is peak Slides & Grinds. A wild-west duel between two top flight skaters with absurd arsenals to wield. I felt the hair raise on my neck before I even clicked play. Which is one of the strengths of this contest: the anticipation.
Who can implement their game first?
Will it be Marcelo and his Bucket of Lego style of skating? One trick stacking onto the next until he reaches the end of the ledge, leaving an insurmountable structure of lipslides to switch crooks to five-0s to switch crooks to five-0s in his wake? Or can Luan rocket into frame and grab the “W” with his patented spins into slides with more spins, shuvs, and flips out—all at untenable speeds?
You just have to watch.
This head-to-head contest format is nothing new for skateboarding. Woodwards does it on a mini-ramp to mixed effect. The Berrics has been hosting its flatground Battles for so long they needed to adopt themes to avoid stagnation. Invoking nationalism. Literally U.S vs. Them.
And while The Battle at The Berrics, Mana A Mano, and Slides & Grinds all share a parallel, direct, and objective path to victory, slight tweaks in rules and stage really up Slides & Grinds’ appeal. Your opponent has two tries to land the ledge trick you set. If they don’t? Letter. They get three goes when facing their coup de grâce.
Three tries to land a nollie heelflip frontside tailside bigspin out? NHFSTSBS! If you’re Lucas Xaparral playing Carlos Ribeiro, that’s the type of attack you have to contend with.
This game sees the two skaters go back-to-back on tricks like switch flip crooks and a portentous nollie heelflip tailslide. It’s a stunning display of talent and control. You see it all throughout this competition. Plus, that ledge is not low and they aren’t just dinging the end of it—that’d be a foul.
“The ledge is 13’ long, so don’t you just kiss it.” A translator reads off of the rule sheet at the start of Sean Malto and Mason Silva’s game. This the only match in the entire bracket that doesn’t feature a Brazilian.
Which is another refreshing aspect of the tournament. Unlike most skateboarding content that gets tailored for a North American, English speaking audience, Slides & Grinds is by Brazilians for Brazilians. Of course kids in Arkansas can watch, they just probably won’t know what Tiago Lemos is saying in Portuguese to Wesley Moska after their near mirror match—something that doesn’t happen often in skating.
Brazilian skaters are generally pushed to fit arbitrary North American norms, to speak English—Rodrigo Teixeira had to go as Rodrigo TX because the skateboard industry assumed Teixeira would be too tricky to market to kids. Bob freakin’ Burnquist was originally touted as “Bob Gnarly” in his early Antihero days.
Here in their home market, the skaters don’t have to change names, avoid Portuguese, or any other stilted requests to appeal to sponsors (beyond the not-so-subtle camera pan to the giant Nike logo on the floor at the end of each game).
And now as the bracket is set to start its sweet sixteen round, we get to have the little hairs on the backs of our necks continue to rise each week as we click to watch the best of Brazil slide even further and grind even longer on their way to the top.