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Skater Haters

by Dorin Bambus, images by Sam Clark and Tyrone Bradley / 29.06.2011

A month of qualifiers across South Africa percolated down to 13 hopefuls on Sunday morning. It’s difficult at the best of times to think of skateboarders as athletes, but watching them prepare for the Red Bull Manny Mania finals there is no denying their athletic ability. They defy physics. Balancing on two wheels while executing movement that requires a foreign body to rotate on two axes while moving on a third. It’s mind-boggling.

They’re doing it with a precision that makes me wonder what the skate community could accomplish if it was able to take all that brain power devoted to calculating movement and focused it on a major academic issue, like sustainable agriculture or a replacement for fossil fuels. An old joke goes along the lines of God giving the Irish whiskey to prevent them taking over the world. I watch these guys do stuff so complex it makes my brain all fuzzy and wonder if God may be using wood and urethane to achieve similar results.

Red Bull Manny Mania

Skating is not big in SA and already the naysayers have been casting aspersions on the idea of sending a local competitor to an Amateur international event, in the first place. But the point is not how well the South African winner does when he gets to the final in New York, but rather in setting up the process to get him there. I’ll be the first to admit that the standard of ability on display during the Manny Mania qualifiers was not always high. A couple of kids skating in the Johannesburg leg could barely complete the most simple of manuals. But they showed up, signed up, and skated. That’s the point.

Their participation made the process legitimate and real, which gives substance to the kudos of winning, which gives the winner the drive and confidence to go to New York and not let the small, core South African skate community down. It also means that when the contest rolls around next year, it’s got a layer of credibility to build on and the whole process repeats. There’ll be more skaters bringing a higher level of ability, with a winner whose talents will eclipse his predecessor. This my friends, is the kind of progress that the South African skate community needs.

Red Bull Manny Mania

I watch the finals whittle the field from thirteen to six, then down to two. Dlamini Dlamini from Durban and Moses Adams from Cape Town will skate head to head. One will get a plane ticket.

I know who Rob Dyrdek and Tony Hawk are. The finer differences between a switch nollie and a fakie ollie elude me, but I know quality and style when I see it and cheer accordingly. There’s a lot of cheering around me. These guys are producing the goods and the crowd lets them know it. It could go either way.

In the dying moments Moses whips out the cherry: A double kickflip, smooth manual, and a flip out. He stomps it. The crowd loses the plot. A few minutes later an announcement confirms what everyone else suspects: Moses Adams will be going to New York to skate against the best from the rest.

Looking at the video highlights from around the world, our guys are at the same level. Moses should be able to give a good show. Depending on who’s in their groove he could do very well indeed.

I ask Moses what he thinks about the contest ahead and he’s non-committal, which is standard. By all accounts he’s a quiet guy who lets his actions speak on his behalf. Watching him get mobbed by people who want his autograph, a picture, or just to congratulate him personally, he seems overwhelmed by the attention.

The really interesting part is that he’s the cream of the crop, but he tells me his little brother regularly thrashes him in a game of S.K.A.T.E.

Red Bull Manny Mania

Red Bull Manny Mania

*Images © Sam Clark and Tyrone Bradley.

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