After a little warm up in Saudi Arabia with their Battle of the Champions in March, the hard-working people over at FISE officially launched their 2019 World Series in Japan last month. For the second time, a colorful assortment of tattooed riders and loud spectators took over the quiet streets of Hiroshima in what proved to be a confirmation of the first edition’s success.

Two weeks and 10,000 kilometers later, let’s take a closer look and see what actually happened in Japan!

Words: Freddy White
Photography: Thijs Tel

Located in the heart of the city, right across the street from touristic staples like the Genbaku Dome and Peace Park memorial, the event did draw a lot of attention and gathered massive amounts of locals along with some intrigued visitors coming from all four corners of the world. With giant banners posted up in the city, and advertisement plastered all over the local metro stations and public transportation, FISE and local authorities definitely did things right and raised a lot of interest for the event. That led to a crowded event site during the three days of competitions on the former municipal baseball stadium, creating a joyous atmosphere visiting athletes could vibe to.

And it definitely showed in the riding displayed all throughout the weekend!

As usual, the whole set up was massive and the schedule seriously packed. In the middle of all the parkour, flatland, bouldering, skateboarding, kendama and freestyle BMX events, the blading competitions took place on two separate skateparks. While the pros were invited to fly and flip over the gigantic BMX course as usual, the juniors, amateurs and girls did shred on the more human-sized skateboard park, which offered more grinding opportunities and a perfect down rail, and showcased lots of exciting skating for everyone curious enough to watch.

The latter was especially fun, with the younger generation of Japanese riders growing up fast in the footsteps of local heroes like Soichiro Kanashima or Yuto Goto. These young guns might not have all the tricks yet, but they definitely have the steeze already! Same with the girls, where super talented up-and-comer Misaki Katayama outskated international guests Mery Muñoz and Manon Derrien, who came in 2nd and 3rd respectively. As for the amateurs, let’s just say a failed bid for the top spot led to some unfortunate haircut, and we’ll leave it at that!

As for the pros, after warming up on Friday and going for the first round of qualifications which essentially determined the riding list for Saturday, things got pretty serious on Saturday already. With this first stop of the 2019 Series, some of the usual suspects were definitely trying to set the tone from the get-go, while a small group of French competitors returned after going through injuries, weddings and other live events which prevented them from taking part in most of last year’s competitions. It was fun watching Roman Abrate, Jeremy Melique or Yuma Baudouin going all in to take down last year’s top dogs CJ Wellsmore, Jaro Frijn or fellow French rider Diako Diaby, and it ended with (who else) 2019 champion Joe Atkinson putting together one incredible run which granted him first place… For now.

Going into Sunday’s finals, the pressure was on the Yorkshire prodigy indeed, as not only the French but also the super consistent riding of local pros Takeshi Yasutoko and Yuto Goto would force him to step it up and roll away with a flawless run once again. With several of the main contenders crashing in the first heat, it was up to him to prove he was up to the task, and boy, did he deliver! Following up some impressive performances by CJ and Takeshi with another incredible mix of smooth lines, hard flips and cradle runs, not to forget a creative outlook on the park that has yet to be matched by anyone, Joe confirmed his stellar start in 2019 with yet another victory, grabbing a healthy 3000€ cash prize in the process! Mr. Wellsmore would take 3rd and Takeshi San 2nd in the end, which leads us to our final point:

For anyone paying attention, there’s no need to highlight how special the Japanese scene is, not only in blading but all urban sports and hip hop culture in general. With people like Chiaki Ito paving the way for street skaters all over the four main Japanese islands, and the Yasutoko brothers essentially turning vert riding into an art form of their own, since the inception of inline skating the land of the rising sun has played an essential part in the development of the sport. From how it should look to the way one-footed tricks should be done, Japan truly is a special place and it was a blessing for all of us to experience it from the inside… And don’t even get me started on the food!

We’ll see you next year, thanks for having us Hiroshima: Arigato gozaimasu!

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