Room 107by Rick De La Ray / Images by Lani Spice / 07.10.2011
There are a lot of things that went through my head when I found out that I would be making the long-winded journey to Kimberley for the weekend of the Maloof Money Cup. I had been to one of these events before, back in 1997 in a small town in Germany called Münster. Had the people of Kimberley and the Northern Cape government any idea of what they were letting themselves in for? The flashbacks of a 12 foot burning sculpture of bicycles, two burnt out automobiles, semi-naked and pierced under-age girls and neo-Nazi bouncers filled me with both fear and excitement.
On the way there I found myself manning a backseat bar and smoking some of Johannesburg’s finest black hookah while I allowed fertile thoughts of conspiracy to fill my head… swirling with phrases like: Las Vegas, gambling, Maloof brothers, Lebanese mafia, diamond mining capital of the world, fraudulent mining licences, casinos, John Block, Northern Cape Government, ANC, Hawks, questionable hospital equipment tenders, tax write offs, Wells Fargo Bank, government buildings, security tenders, controversial, dodgy, investigation, ANC Youth League and shit loads of money – which can all comfortably be used within a paragraph regarding the 2011 Maloof Money Cup… But the most obvious question is: “Why in the hell Kimberley?”
In case you don’t know, Kimberley is not the capital of the nano-world of skateboarding in South Africa. Technically we don’t even have riders that can compete with the world’s best (although Moses Adams and Dlamini Dlamini stuck it out with dignity in the Semi-Finals of the Street competition on Saturday).
In the months before the contest I had witnessed great divides within the politics of the small South African skate companies, as everyone stood in line, sweaty palms up, in the hopes of receiving a few crumbs from the multimillion rand slices of pie that were being handed out to whoever had the right influence or jurisdiction to make this epic event possible. For the last couple of years the Maloof Money Cup has been held in the United States only and before its arrival in Kimberley, the event visited New York City, Washington DC and Orange County. Spot the odd one out. There were promises to uplift the community and the press release did not fail to mention the “significance that bringing the world’s greatest skateboarding event to Kimberley will have on generations of kids and youth, promoting a new, affordable activity that keeps kids away from crime, cultivating a new generation of skateboarders and putting Kimberley on the world map as an extreme sports destination”.
The promise of a new casino also fits into this conversation and maybe a Vegas-like strip to follow after the new skate park is destroyed to make way for something more lucrative. I mean seriously who would leave a burned out, unkempt skate park covered in graphiti on prime real estate right next to the biggest man made hole in the world? A monumental symbol of man’s greed.
The problem is that skateboards and equipment don’t come cheap, especially not to the broken and poverty stricken homes of the Northern Cape. Skaters have never really fitted into society anyway. Except maybe if you’re Andy McDonald, but nobody likes him. The “Fuck You” element of skateboarding will always be there and skating the same obstacles all the time only qualifies you to skate the streets hand in hand with the drugs and the destruction of public property that typify the underbelly of the sport. Soon they’ll be skating the curbs, ledges and rails around the side of the Pick ‘n Pay, local restaurant parking lots or the double set of stairs outside the front door of the community church. Skating has a life of its own and when you try and control it, it will let you know how it feels about your rules, regulations and ideals regarding a controlled society.
Unfortunately I missed the vert contest on Friday, because Kimberley is far. Spirits were still high on our arrival after the Pro/Open Street Semi Finals. This is world class skateboarding after all, with the likes of Greg Lutzka, Manny Santiago, Ryan Decenzo, Lizard King, Jake Duncombe, Slash and Ishod Wair to name a few with tour veterans Ronnie Creager, Andrew Reynolds and Geoff Rowley still pleasing the crowds alongside top Vert pros Jake Brown, Bob Bunrquist, PLG, Elliot Sloan, Adam Taylor, Andy MacDonald, Sandro Dias, Pedro Barros, Alex Perelson and Marcelo Bastos – all competing in the Vert Finals, where Alex Perrelson took the laurels in front of an amazed crowd of locals, or so I was told. I have to admit that I was disappointed to miss the Vert Finals as it is an amazing spectator sport to watch these air junkies defy gravity in a slow motion.
As I struggled to set up my tent with some mates in the semi darkness of the early night, surrounded by a live mash up music from various sources and the whirling of urethane wheels and the snapping of cracking tails on the paving surrounded by the sporadic fires and all too familiar smell of braai. At least I have a tent this time I thought because fourteen years ago my sleeping bag was stolen at Dusseldorf airport and I was forced to sleep on the bare concrete with my bag as a pillow next to the stadium. Nothing much has changed, I thought. I am still broke and sleeping on the floor at the World Cup of Skateboarding.
Choosing not to venture into the town that night or the Protea hotel where most of the pros were staying, but to loiter around Tent City venturing from fire to fire and hobnobbing with some of the old guard of the SA scene and its newcomers. The presence of security was low I thought to myself as I watched a troop of skaters chase down three unknown culprits from the outside into the brightly lit parking lot next door, firing flying skateboard deck torpedo’s at their targets. The camera and iPod were retrieved but how long would the mental damage, bruised eyes and broken heads take to heal? Skateboarding justice was in full affect here and the flag was firmly planted – You don’t come here and steal from us, motherfuckers, because we will get your coat for you… And with the example set, Tent City was ours, even the case of the twenty-something year old who got bottled after he confessed to sleeping with his best mate’s mom was sorted out internally. Although paramedics from the outside had to be called in to deal with his injuries. The weekend was indeed over for this dude, but mine was but an embryo.
Saturday morning was off to a slow start, I dragged myself out of the tent at about half past nine. I was still in the VENOM black metal shirt I had been wearing since Thursday night’s beer fight at a bar in Greenside and I roamed towards the stadium with promise of a cold beer for breakfast. The events of the day were about to start and the stadium started filling up, which I thought was quite surprising. It was obvious that tales of crazy flying white boys riding a huge whale carcass covered with wood had spread through the community.
It was to be a very eventful day with the Street Semi-Finals and the Mini Mega Finals on the roster. And it was a real scorcher, but the crowd watched the 36 skaters religiously through their nine jams; four skaters per jam, ride out the competition one by one over four minute sections until their were only 12 of them left to skate the Finals on the next day. With Lizard King, Lutzka, Tommy Flyn, Ishod Wair and Jake Duncombe being the standouts of the day. After yet another trip to the beer tent we set our sights on the Mini Mega set up next to the Vert Ramp. You definitely need balls of steel to ride this human ski jump over an open gap into a bank and vert wall section. The Australian Jake Brown, Frenchman PLG and Bob Burnquist and Alex Perelson clearly demonstrated said balls. Crowds love to watch people eat shit, that’s why we have so many rugby fans in this country, but the display of twisting airborne human kites both pleased and educated the crowd of skateboarding spectators, culminating with Burnquist’s “full cab” into the burning horizon. Then we set our sites back on Tent City, the campsite of death.
Saturday night was supposed to be a quiet one… but anyone with a love for the Thunderbird wine knows there is no way to drink it quietly. I was in no mood to get beaten up, as stories surfaced that local steamroller Puddy Swennis had already been knocked out twice by local heavies that weekend. So I cruised around Tent City looking for a free beer and some late night conversation. At this stage of the game the toilets had turned into a makeshift club style shebeen. I was very impressed with the ghetto makeover complete with new red spray paint, toilet seat decorations, ghetto blaster, broken bottle floor tiling, urinal ice bucket, beer crate chairs and for a while I was convinced that there was a cover charge to get into Club Loo. Kimberley, it would seem, misjudged skaters for your average “sports fans” and it’s only going to get worse next year, as the appeal of the “Oppikoppi of skateboarding” spreads.
I should probably mention that Grammy Award winner Little John was playing a benefit show that night but my ears were not in the mood for all that thumping away. I knew what I was looking for and I found it through an open window in a converted caravan complete with flat screen TV, iPod, Christy Wihan and a bottle of Mr Gordon’s finest gin. My night was made and we rocked that boat until the crickets gave up and the birds began to sing.
Sunday was a bit of a blur and the fact that the religious zealots who ran the beer tent did not follow the town’s policy of round the clock booze service made things very difficult for the few of us who desperately needed to stroke the hair of the stray dog that bit us the night before. After some persuasion, and some vague threats that they will be charged for not abiding to the laws of the state of Kimberley, the tent flaps were lifted and the angry mob replaced their rocks, tent pegs, skateboard decks and other make shift weapons with fresh, ice cold beers. In about a half an hour things were going swimmingly, in fact it went so well that I missed the Street Finals completely. Bumping into Hunter Kennedy also did not help as a young fan of his literature kept our plastic cups full. Luckily Hunter had a flight catch and I had to pretend like I was working so I slithered over to the Mini Mega Ski Jump Finals right on time to witness Elliot Sloan’s 900 tail grab. The Frenchman PLG took the overall Mega Mini prize money while Ishod Wair took the first in street walking away with a cool R730 000 in his back pocket. It also came out in the end that Tommy Fyn, who came second in the Street Final was born in Durban and thus got much love from the crowd for his skills and just being an all-round diamond geezer. For the South African Street Am Section Cape Town’s Justice Kotze took first place with Durban’s Braxton Hane very close on his heels.
But event was not over yet and everyone gathered for the last time at Tent City to prepare for the storming of the Bastille of the Protea Hotel for the final after party. The troops swept in and took over the bar and lounge area with perplexed security guards marching from side to side as the smell of mountain cabbage, tobacco and alcohol filled the hotel reception.
It is at this stage where I would like to thank the owner of room 107 for being such a good host and providing such a smashing venue for the after party and keeping all the guests happy as pigs bathing in a pool of sparkling, golden champagne. Your generosity will never be forgotten and I am sure that the security at the Protea hotel will have tripled by the time the Maloof Money Cup returns to the streets of Kimberley. The air started getting thin and it became clear that it was time for us to leave as black marked moustache wearing pirates started to roam the corridors and staircases of the hotel. The night came to an abrupt end when Geoff Rowley decided to rip the hotel a new asshole on an alleged headful of acid, only to be escorted from the premises in full blown riot police style.
Overall the score was Kimberley -1, SA skateboarding a solid 10. Special mention goes to the Soweto Skateboarding Society (SSS) for their originality in burning three tires as a camp fire to mark the end of South Africa’s first World Cup of Skateboarding. What better ending than thick, acrid bellowing black smoke. I swapped t shirts with one of the members and realised that a whole new chapter in local skateboarding had been written and I was blessed to have witnessed the beginning of the end.
Thank you and good night.
*All images © Lani Spice.