End of the year lists demand from us to look back and settle the score, which is often burdened by prejudice and subjective criteria. This is fine, however it also makes lists faulty to an extent. To me, 2018 was both one of the best and worst years in rollerblading. Best on a global scale, as there never was such a flurry of creativity in skating alone, with so many people creating videos, starting podcasts and actually doing stuff themselves. We saw the demise of Valo and the birth of Them Skates, the return of Roces and Fifty-50, Oysi gaining global traction with big name skaters joining the team, a man named Andrew Kingery single-handedly creating custom aftermarket soulplates for all brands of skates, people launching new competions all over the world, Winterclash drawing it’s biggest crowds in history and becoming the forum on the most important topics in skating, and also rollerblading opening the doors of mainstream culture again. Worst for me personally, as 2018 was my year of reckoning, that at 37 and with a severe hip condition, I will most probably never be able to skate on a level up to my own expectations. However, rollerblading still consumes me daily, and brings me joy and pain. But, onto my picks.
It’s a draw between Joe Atkinson and Eugen Enin. Honestly, they have been my top picks last year, too. The two are the most dedicated, productive and relevant skaters in the past few years, and they just keep finding new ways to make their mark on contemporary rollerblading. Joe has managed to become the overall winner of the FISE, the most important mainstream action sports event series with an incredible track record, most consistent runs and crowd pleasing skating. To start the year off, Joe outdid himself street skating in Cayenne Project’s Formosa. The demise of Valo brought Roces back into the game after a decade and a half, and Joe became their premiere pro and the first pro on the team to have a skate out. Most deserved.
Eugen produced more than a few ground-breaking street sections this year. His skating in Japan for E.3 was stellar, all his skating for Borklyn Zoo videos and his magnum opus so far, the skating in Jonas Hansson’sThe Groovy Deed. His skating today is a synergy of all the most important ‘schools’ that have developed in the past decade. And being a synergy, it’s much more than just a sum of the styles and approaches. Eugen is using technical, mushroom and just regular burly street skating together to paint a picture of different futures of our sport. And he’s doing it by also constantly picking and using details from some of the best parts of our past. What I will have forever etched in my brain as the defining image of rollerblading in 2018 is Eugen doing a double grab parallel 540 over a stair set in his Groovy Deed section. It’s the best of our past, present and future in just one image.
Mery Munoz Photo by Aritz Ortega
Female Skater – Mery Munoz
Between doing blading schools for kids at the Blading Camp in Spain, competing, skating and filming for USD and Powerslide, Mery has been a consistent and vocal representative of the women’s blading scene, advocating for the empowerment and telling their story whenever and wherever possible. While all the women nominated undoubtedly deserve their spots in the category, it’s Mery’s engagement in relevant issues that made it for me.
Alex Broskow Portrait by Ryan Loewy
Influential Skater – Alex Broskow
Judging by the reactions of kids new to rollerblading and audiences at competitions, I’d say that Joe Atkinson is the most influential skater of 2018. Joe exudes both humility and determined self-confidence every time he drops in from the top of ramps into the park, has a way of carrying himself kindly and is a good role model to young participants. But if you ask seasoned rollerbladers, it’s Alex Broskow, who has modelled himself into the king of the subtle. Broski is the man whose every trick is a nod to the insiders of the sport, to the connoisseurs of the finest in rollerblading. Broskow keeps doing the unimaginable, preaching to the converted and making them even firmer believers of his cult. What’s more important, his emphasis on control as the key element of contemporary rollerblading is what most other pros are looking up to.
So yeah, it’s Broskow by the force of persuasion and control.
Most stylish – Bobi Spassov
There was a long period of time in rollerblading when the key criteria for good style was how low can you get on tricks. From Arlo, to Louie Zamora, Ernie Villarino, Jon Julio and so on, if you could go low and emulate these cats, you’d be considered a good skater. Even the groundbreaking skating of people like Pat Lennen wasn’t considered ‘stylish’ or steezed, even though everybody respected the pure ballsiness that the Redwood clique (Shima, Lennen, Jim Bell) brought to the sport. And while that finally changed with speed and control becoming the key elements in judging a person’s style, it’s really the people like Bobi Spassov who are challenging the status quo of what is good style in rollerblading. Bobi has the tricks, Bobi has the skill and the ability to go really big, just look at his section in XCCV, and he’s doing new things that define what good style is. From perfectly executing toe rolls into cess slides and grinds, to doing unconventional ski style manouvers, Bobi is giving new meaning to style in rollerblading. Oh and just check his ender in XCCV for gutsy, stylish skating.
Dominic Bruce Photo by Ryan Loewy
Up & Coming – Dominic Bruce
Skill-wise, have you seen his skating in the Razors Barcelona video? Aside from being an incredible young skater, already completely ready to turn pro based on merit, he’s one of the kindest and best behaved young rollerbladers I have ever met. He’s the type of young pro we need to connect with the youngest generation, approachable and amicable. A funny as fuck hippie with interesting things to say and a student of classsic rollerblading.
Martin Danning – Photo courtesy of Martin Top Skater 18 & Under: All of them for different reasons.
Marius Gaile for being the cool kid, already accepted by some of the most elitist cucks around, while being level-headed and open to all new influences and experiences. Danny Garciafor being an Arvinite street skating wonder that could barely get on a ride at a rollercoaster park. Martin Danning for being the Norwegian model that has progressed the most within a year of skating ever. Just check his clips from the beginning to the end of this year. Leaps. Jay Yoon for already qualifying for skater of the year with his incredible skating in 2018, making him the true successor of Randy Roadhouse Spizer. Alice Sunko for being the most amazing little girl rollerblader ever, for showing us what joy a soul grind can bring. That itself was enough.
Top VOD – The Groovy Deed and Top Videographer Jonas Hansson
Every one of the nominated deserves to be VOD of the year based on the quality of the skating, filming and editing. The production value level for rollerblading videos has increased tremendously in the past couple of years, and the people behind the videos you guys voted in the Top 5 are those actually responsible for it. Buettner and Boysen with the Cayenne Project series progress with each new release, their work within other action sports industries perfectly translates back into rollerblading as their labor of love. Mike Torres produced incredible videos these past few years with his Rochester and NY crews, Nights & Weekends and One for the Road are still on heavy rotation at my place, and then he finally got the chance to work with Broskow on Seconds, his best work this year. Vincent Lindgren has consistently produced great videos with top European skaters, just go back to last year’s Broke with Lomax and Crofts. Casey Bagozzi holds the title of the most important NorCal film maker in the past 5 years and Grombe is just insanely fun to watch. Dom West produced two Vine Street videos, both expected as the second coming, and then manages to surprise us with Blading Burma, one of the smartest rollerblading documentaries ever made, with no pretense, where he lets the spirit of rollerblading tell the story while he just captures it beautifully.
But for me, and maybe it does have to do with the fact that it was released this late, it’s Jonas Hansson’s The Groovy Deed. I know and love Jonas’ work, as I already wrote, but The Groovy Deed is the most well-rounded, classic-feeling profile based VOD this year. Each section is a work of art in itself, but Eugen Enin’s seven minute part is the best Eugen has ever skated and will most likely be the best he will ever make. Not that Eugen won’t have the chance to work with a filmer who will be even more inspired, or that he won’t skate any better in the future, but this section catches him at his most creative and athletically best performance.
And Jonas managed to put everything together in the best possible way. The filming, the coloring, editing and music are just perfect.
Don Bambrick – Photo by Brian Weis
Top Free Release – Don BambrickCreate Originals pro introduction
Don Bambrick is back. His Create Originals pro introduction section, filmed and edited by his long time friend and partner in crime Adam Johnson, catches Don as a matured, great skater who has seen both the highs and lows of rollerblading, and this translates perfectly to his trick selection and vocabulary. It also shows that AJ, the man behind Vibralux, Dead and everything cool in blading in the past two decades, perfectly understands his friends and their contribution to rollerblading in terms of style and impact.
An honorable mention to Ryan Gillett’s video of Harry Abel for Cidy Life. Both cool and creative characters that work great together.
Top Instagram – Used2sk8
Rollerblading just needs more of a sense of humor and USED2SK8 delivers.
Jeph Howard – Photo by Sam Asken
Top Section from a VOD – Jeph Howard: Rare Winter
I’m gonna have to go with Freddy on this one. Jeph Howard it is. No sense in naming all the technical aspects of Jeph’s skating. To me, this video shows Jeph’s determination and his daily work on becoming a better, more technical skater, and finding a new voice for himself as a rollerblader. Remembering his skating from Rejects videos and before, I find it incredible to see that he has still managed to stay just one small step ahead of the curve. In a different universe, where rollerblading would have had the same numbers today as it did in the mid-nineties, Jeph would be the kids’ favorite pro.
Top Print Publication – Formosa
The overall quality of the book just exceeds anything else that came out in 2018. The photography, layout and the writing are exemplary.
Photo Courtesy of Them Company of the year – Them Skates
Company of the year is Jon Julio’s THEM skates. Let me heavily digress like a boring grandpa here. My first pair of proper skates were the 1996 Roces Majestic 12s that I bought late that year. As a kid of limited ability in skating, I’ve always waited for that next, revolutionary skate that will help me unleash my full potential as a blader. Through time, I’ve learned there will never be a perfect skate in terms of helping every skater perform as Haffey. As long as a skate has a flat soul, front and rear part of the soul of equal width and is comfortable yet supportive, it will be good enough for most to perform to the best of their ability. Finally, here’s my point. The THEM skate is just that, it’s a skate made to be simple to maintain and customize and has pretty much everything you need from a skate. But THEM as a company represents 25 years of Julio’s perseverance and dedication to rollerblading. It represents the belief that if you love something, the labor of love is worth more than any other lost opportunity cost. And that rollerblading pays in dividends, even if they’re not monetary. The fact that the team that supports Julio has remained loyal through the past couple of years also speaks volumes.
Top New Company Muzzle for the wheels and the weird fucking videos, Rudy for being my homie Ryan’s visually coherent clothing brand that I enjoy supporting. Andrew Kingery’s King Souls for being the most exciting one man aftermarket hardgoods company in blading.
Levi Van Rijn 2.0 Adapt skate with the Symetrics Soulplate and Frame System Photo Courtesy of Symetrics
Top New Product of 2018 – Symetrics Soul & Frame Combo
Symetrics’ new frame-soulplate combo that can hold 65mm wheels on UFS frames flat and still ride low.
Top Team – Roces
Roces with the heaviest roster. The have every niche of the scene covered perfectly. Joe Atkinson, Japanese sensation and newest pro Yuto Goto, one man army Nils Jansons, style boss Bobi Spassov, punk rocker Stefan Brandow, young Martin Danning, Texan Chad Hornish.
Justin Brasco for USD Photo by Ryan Loewy
Top Marketing – USD USD for actually paying for marketing.
Winterclash Photo By Olfert Poehlen
Top Competition – Winterclash Winterclash, again. It’s got the tricks, the atmosphere and the numbers on it’s side. I just can’t see anybody outdoing Jojo.
Let’s hope 2019 repeats the successes of 2018 and learns from it’s mistakes.