With the Be-Mag awards coming to a close soon, our editor-in-chief Kevin M. Little gives his selections on the top skaters, teams, products and videos from 2019.
Male skater of the Year- Joe Atkinson
This may come as no surprise to many considering the phenomenal run that Joe has had this year. From earning his first signature skate to winning the biggest contests in the world such as Winterclash and the FISE World Series, to his breathtaking video releases such as Dom West‘s “Blue“, the level at which Joe is currently skating is truly a site to behold. Seeing Joe’s face at the top of the pyramid featuring some of extreme sports best athletes competing at the FISE contests is a testament to his success and a sign that we may be inching closer to the deserved recognition our sport so rightly deserves.
We should all appreciate it now because we are seeing an individual that is coming into his own and becoming one of, if not the most well-rounded and consistent skaters to ever strap on a pair of inline skates. Joe is a living embodiment of hard work and dedication and a charismatic role model that our community should all be thankful for.
Female Skater of the Year-Chihiro Azuma
The level of female skating has never been as high as it is currently and one of the individuals that is raising the bar is none other than Japanese phenom, Chihiro Azuma. Chihiro‘s skating has progressed so much over the years that she not only can compete regularly in the men’s divisions, she is a formidable contender regardless of gender and one who could stand atop the podium in any contest she enters. Chihiro is a rare skater that could easily propel inline skating to a much wider audience with the right amount of support. I just hope that blading has learned the error in it’s way of mishandling our best and brightest talents (cough..Fabiola Da Silva..cough ) and gives Chihiro the support she deserves in the form of pro boot sponsorship, signature products and the appropriate promotion and backing that she deserves.
Breakout Skater of the Year- Chad Hornish
Chad Hornish has been around for quite sometime so it feels odd to place him atop the list of breakout skater of the year, but Chad had been kind of on-the-low for the last fews years since his time of shredding for the Nimh team when it was in its heyday. But as Chad might quote the infamous LL Cool J line “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years!”, Chad definitely came back this year with guns a’blazing! Every contest he attended, he left with the highlight clip that was sure to break the internet the following day. He has also been quite productive filming with Ryan Buchanan and Erick Rodriguez releasing jaw dropping footage for his skate sponsor Roces as well as Blader Gang.
Top 18 & Under Skater-Ilya Savosin
There has been so many incredible younger skaters coming out of the woodworks this year but none as exciting in my opinion as Russian wonderboy Ilya Savosin. Ilya‘s unique skating has been on full display through his consistent social media posts which are always as humorous as they are impressive. Him and his crew are well known for acting goofy in their videos and not taking themselves too seriously, which in this day and age is quite refreshing. Ilya’s skating definitely stands out as well, from knee-breaking disaster UFO cess slides in brightly multi-colored Razors to extremely technical grinds in street comp settings, Ilya’s skating is extremely versatile. But what I think that is what is most appealing about Ilya is that he genuinely looks like he is having a freaking blast while he is rolling and it shows in his productions.
Most Stylish Skater-Yuto Goto & Sean Keane
Selecting the most stylish skater of the year is easily one of the hardest choices to make in my editor’s selections. With so many ridiculously steezy individuals to choose from, it is hard to narrow down just one, so I had to name my two personal favorites this year.
My first selection for most stylish skater is none other than newly minted Roces professional, Yuto Goto. Yuto has had quite a stellar year, from being awarded his first signature pro model boot by Roces, receiving a second pro wheel from the new Win Brand and being featured in numerous video releases. But accolades aside, Yuto’s skating has progressed to some mind-blowing levels that is easily visible in his 2019 highlight video. Skaters hailing from Japan such as Chiaki Ito and Soichiro Kanashima are famous for their incredible style and Yuto seems to be have taken the baton from his predecessors and run with it. I could speak at length about my fan-boyish love for Yuto but just watch his newest “Real Life” profile and understand why he was my choice.
My second choice for most stylish skater is Rollerblade pro and creative wizard, Sean Keane. Sean’s skating has evolved significantly the last few years, from his Hyphy and early Valo days to now, there is a noticeable difference in the way Sean approaches his spot and trick selection. It is similar to a Mindgame-esque improvisational style but with new school flare such as wheel slides and cess slides into and out of tricks. Sean also has a keen eye for bringing life to otherwise lackluster looking spots, where most people would be quick to dismiss a spot, Sean’s brain is wired differently than most and he sees magic where we might see mundane.
Veteran of the Year-Miguel Ramos
Not long ago Miguel Ramos was uncertain on his skating future as he had serious back issues that were inhibiting his movement. With help from many incredible donations from his friends and blading family, he was able to get a much needed surgery and was on his way to recovery. If you have seen Miguel skating at all within the last year, you can bare witness to his incredible comeback and see that he is actually skating better than ever. I sat in amazement at his never-ending line at this year’s Blading Cup which filled up his entire run, never stopping once to catch his breathe or prepare for an upcoming trick. It was a sight to behold! Not to mention that Miguel spent an incredible amount of time and effort into preparing the contest and striking fear into the hearts of those that wanted to abuse the no-drinking policy of the contest. Needless to say, Miguel is a badass, through and through! ToDtop☝️
Most Influential Skater-Jon Julio
There isn’t an inline skater alive that has given more to our culture than Jon Julio. His career spans over two and a half decades and we as a culture would not be where we are without his positive influence. From his revolutionary skating that is still incredible to this day, to his ground breaking business endeavors to his efforts with the Blading Cup Park Series, this choice was a no-brainer. And to top it all off, Jon remains a humble and modest leader that does anything within his power to support blading on a worldwide scale. Plus he still takes time out of his day to take pics with grown-up grommets like myself. 🙂
Top Photographer- Erick Garcia
JSF head honcho Erick Garcia is my choice for top photographer for 2019 based on the massive amount of quality photos that he released this year. He held down the NorCal scene with beautifully vibrant photos on an almost daily basis featuring heavy hitters such as Cameron Talbott, Brian Freeman, Philip Moore and many, many more. His years of skating have definitely helped him in understanding blade photography and how to compose the shot based on the trick, the scenery and the subject.
Top Videographer-Mike Torres
This was a hard decision to make for top videographer based on the incredible works released this year but Mike Torres had such a stellar year that I had to select him. From his work with the THEM Skates team on “Ellos” and Broskow’s “Powder” promo, to his “In Motion: SF” section for Rollerblade, to his work on Sean Keane’s “Binary“, Mike set himself apart from the pack this year. Mike is very adept at highlighting the environments he is shooting at and finding beauty in the smallest of details, be it a slight glance from a passer-by or a flare of light from a traffic light. Mike is truly a genius videographer and we are lucky to have him representing our culture.
Top Writer- Brian Krans
Krans is my obvious choice for this as he is an actual journalist and novelist by trade and a damned fine one at that. Although his blading-specific articles weren’t as plentiful as in years past, his willingness to tackle the hard to discuss topics such as the allegations against Chris Farmer, which no other blading source felt prepared to touch upon (myself included), earned him my selection for top writer for 2019. Now if only I can get a new Krans novel to binge read for 2020, I would be a happy camper.
Top Podcast- Jump Street Podcast
The boys at Jump Street Podcast were my most listened to podcast this year as it gave me hours upon hours of listening during my daily walks. Austin Paz and Billy O’Neill have an incredible chemistry and their natural rapport with their guests is always entertaining. My personal favorites were the Nick Lomax, Grant Hazelton and Dave Paine episodes. Nick’s episode was a side splitting riot of a good time, while Grant’s touched on very personal issues that gave me a greater appreciation for him as a person and Dave’s brought out the nostalgic memories of me sitting at home memorizing every trick in each VideoGroove production I owned. The Jump Street guys have found a perfect medium for their talents and I can’t wait to see who they have on for this coming year.
Top Skating Product- USD Aeon
I am not shy about my biased opinion on this one, as witnessed in my guest appearance on the “Back to Blading” podcast where I pledge my undying love for the USD Aeon. The skate has changed my skating for the better and allowed me to skate flat with no problem for the first time in my 24 years of skating and eliminated my constant feet pains from oddly shaped boot sizes, so I had to go with the Aeons. They are some of the best feeling skates I have ever rolled and the lack of constantly tightening loose parts is a huge selling point for my lazy ass.
Top Company- THEM Skates
Jon Julio ‘s work in creating a truly skater-owned inline skate brand is a monumental achievement for himself and also our community. He gambled his and his family’s livelihood on creating a brand that represents the best interests of skaters and our culture and although there were hiccups along the way, it seems the gamble is finally paying off for him. Jon Julio is a true visionary and we should all be proud of the the accomplishments that he has made in such a short amount of time with THEM.
Top Team- Roces
The Roces team has been on absolute fire in 2019. With a murderer’s row of skaters such as Nils Jansons, Bobi Spassov, Yuto Goto, Stefan Brandow, Grant Hazelton and Chad Hornish they have consistently released some of the most jaw dropping video content released this year. Their team is also distinctly diverse and each of the guys bring something different to the table. My only suggestion would be to get some female representation to round out their otherwise phenomenal team.
Top Skate Shop- Carriers Skate Shop
This was a difficult decision as there are so many incredible shops around the globe that are putting forth incredible amounts of work but I have to give my vote to the new kid on the block, Carriers Skate Shop. Fritz Peitzner is one of the nicest men within the industry and his customer service skills are second-to-none. He will go above and beyond to help someone find the product they are seeking and he actively supports blading as much as humanly possible. He regularly hosts free skate clinics, organizes weekly skate sessions in his community and has trekked thousands of miles selling products to small towns within Texas that do not have the availability to buy products within their store front. The amount of progress they have made in a short amount of time is unbelievable and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for this year.
Top Park Competition-WinterClash
It is hard to argue against the Winterclash as top park competition for 2019. Judging by the sheer amount of competitors and spectators at the Clash each year should give you an understanding of how massive the contest has become. That is not even taking into account the multiple different side events and discussion panels they host which add even more depth to the contest. I am so proud to see the event growing bigger and better each year and I am anxiously counting down the days like a kid at Christmas until this years event.
Top Street Competition- Windy City Riot
It is crazy to think the Windy City Riot is now in their 19th year of consistently incredible street competitions. The Midwest USA has produced some of the best street skaters in the world over the years and the majority of them have cut their teeth at the Riot at some point. The fiercest competitors this year were Luke Naylor, Don Bambrick and Chemi Simiyu however this year’s event was won by none other than Bladezilla himself, Adam Bazydlo, who came back from a lengthy lay off to stomp his way to the top of the leader’s podium. How the Riot seems to get better every year is a mystery to me considering how difficult it is to organize street events and not have them get stale over time. But I am glad to see them continue their hard work and dedication to making these events happen.
Top Skating Event (non-competitive)- Blading Camp
Although there were quite a bit of incredible non-competitive events this year like the WYII2 and Schmidty’s Ramp & Camp to name a few, my choice for top event goes to the incredible guys and girls working at Blading Camp. The work that they are doing to teach the next generation the fundamentals of inline skating is vital to the longevity and growth of our sport. They have created an amazing program that engages with their campers personally, while also showing them basic practices to promote their health and wellness. With an all-star staff of skaters such as Josh Glowicki, Nils Jansons, Mery Munoz and Montre Livingston, the campers could not have a better support system to assist them in accomplishing their goals and pushing their personal limits.
Top Full-Length Video- Nils Jansons “Mind Your Step”
My choice for top full length video for 2019 is the short film/documentary by Kaspars Alksnis, Nils Jansons and Freddy White titled “Mind Your Step”. The film is different than the majority of videos released this year in that it touches upon humankind’s ever-growing contamination & impact that we are leaving upon our planet. Filmed in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, the video shows the adverse effect that the millions of residents living there are having upon their environment, with evidence of the pollution in the forms of single-use plastics and trash flowing through the canals that will eventually make their way to the Gulf of Bangkok and the South China Sea.
Nils touches upon ways that each of us can alleviate the impact on our own environment and ways to live responsibly, such as using reusable containers, recycling and maintaining a healthy diet. Now to touch on Nils’ skating in “Mind Your Step”! Despite sustaining an injury early in the filming process, Nils was able to bust out an amazing profile filled with burly hammers, technical transfers, and an impeccable spot selection.
To top it all off, every 10% of the proceeds from digital downloads went to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to assist them in spreading awareness to their global action.
Top Video Profile-Sean Keane “Binary”
The video profile of the year award was one of the most painstaking decisions I had to make as this year saw so many quality videos to choose from, however Sean Keane and Mike Torres‘ “Binary” was my top choice. Sean Keane has elevated himself into one of the most innovative and mind boggling skaters currently rolling today and “Binary” is a milestone profile for him. Sean’s extensive trick vocabulary and keen eye for unconventional spots helps create a profile that stands apart from the standard ledge/handicap/downrail formula that is so prevalent in today’s blade media. Mike Torres‘ unique use of mirrored images, dark hues and quick personality and landscape cuts gives “Binary” a distinct ambiance as well as the existential voice-overs remind us that we need to value the current moment and love life while we can. Pretty deep stuff for a blade video, but the message rings true and the delivery leaves a lasting impression that will surely inspire you to appreciate all that you have as well as juice you up for the next skate session.