My twelve-year-old youngest son and his nephew (my twelve-year-old grandson) just got back from a week in Florida with my son's mother and her family. I picked them up at Newark Airport last night around 11PM and all they could talk about was "Manny Mania"—a skateboarding competition that's going on this weekend in Manhattan.
They had already talked to me about it on the phone from Florida, and since a mutual friend of theirs was driving down with his mom from The Berkshires for the event this morning, we made a plan to meet up there. Me and my guys drove over from Jersey, parked down near The Manhattan Bridge and walked the few blocks to the skate park to get there a little after 10AM for what we'd been told would be an event that's free but on a first come basis.
There were actually some kids who had spent the night there, or so they claimed. But not the crowd my boys expected. Like a lot of events I've been to in the skateboarding world, the details of the event times were kind of vague, depending on which item on the web about it you googled, or who you talked to or heard from connected with the event. But I was led to believe the gates would open around 11AM and the event started around 1PM.
But I got that wrong. The gates opened after noon and there was plenty of room for everyone there at the time. We picked a good spot that was up against the fence (metal barriers strung together actually) that marked off the area where the competition was to be, as well as where the Red Bull DJ truck was parked (it was sponsored by Red Bull—'cause lord knows what these young men need is more energy!—and Converse) and the judges chairs were and the media and what looked like friends and entourages that outnumbered the fans.
It turned out the event started at 3PM and from the time we entered shortly after noon, the contestants were practicing. There were 32 of them—all amateurs—chosen through competitions in their respective 32 countries (from a field that numbered over 4500 according to the event organizers). In skateboarding jargon, a "manny" is short for "a manual" which means riding your skateboard on only two wheels, which, as you can imagine, ain't easy. This competition was to see how many tricks each skater could do while manualing—i.e. riding on only two wheels—and how original and technically complex they were.
It was heartwarming to see the competitors introduced by the countries they came from and to hear "Turkey" and "The United Arab Emirates" along with "Israel" as well as many Latin American countries and European countries as well as Japan (which as I remember it was the only Asian country) and South Africa (the only African one). And even more heartening to see the camaraderie among them as they practiced and then competed.
It was a long day before the final eight were chosen and dominated by Latin American countries. But the budding favorite who was surpassing everyone else in the early heats was the diminutive skater from Spain. And then in the final four—the USA, Australia, Belgium and Spain, with everyone beginning to look worn out (by now it was close to 8PM) the skater from Belgium just took it away by performing some complex combinations that I couldn't name for you but the professional skater among the announcers said he'd never seen anyone do these particular combination of tricks all while manualing ever before.
Here's a shot of the Belgium skater at the event doing a straight ahead "manny" but probably on his way to flipping the board in some elaborate way and still landing in a manual position then flipping it another complex way and landing back on the asphalt below the various ramps and devices. If you look closely you can see my youngest son in a red sleeveless basketball shirt and his nephew beside him in a white tee and hat, and their friend next to him. [Oh, and I forgot, the old white-haired guy in shades on the other side of my not-so-little guy. You can click on the pic to see us all a little better.]
All in all a tiring but delightful day (except for the disorganization and unnecessary delays and distractions and the mostly unhelpful, inane and even counterproductive announcer patter and the throwing of free goodies (several tee shirts and one new deck (i.e. the board of a skateboard)) as far back in the limited crowd as possible so that those who stood up front in theirs spots for eight hours couldn't get them but those who arrived later and ran around behind those upfront to follow the free tee shirt guy could, etc.). Not too hot, no rain, a cacophony of New York and international voices and styles and enthusiasm (any terrific trick drew the same sound of astonishment and joy no matter how distracted everyone had seemed only the moment before).
Now if only the adults could get along this well.
[PS: Here's a short edit of a few of the highlights, still missing some of the most original moves, but amazing nonetheless, that my oldest son Miles hipped me to in his comment on this post. You can spot me and my youngest son and Miles' son in this video too if you look for my youngest's red basketball shirt.]