Is The Downhill Skateboarding Scene In Trouble?

The last few years have been pretty tough for longboard producers and retailers. This year feels like we’re about to hit the bottom as the number of riders dropped to its lowest since 2009. Many businesses shut down because they simply couldn’t manage to survive on such low numbers and now the crisis has finally reached downhill skateboarding events.

Google Trend for Longboarding search term.
Picture: Google Trend for “longboarding” search term

During their Annual General Meeting, IDF (International Downhill Federation) reported a small growth in the number of their members in 2018. They had 1111 members in 2017 and 1146 members in 2018, which is only 35 members more. Compared to the total number of members, the small improvement is basically insignificant and also represents the smallest growth in the number of members since 2013.

Looking at the number of IDF members attending the races, there were only 78 more members attending the races. The improvement is again very small compared to the drop the events have been experiencing since 2015 when IDF had 1667 members and 1047 of them attended the races. To sum it up, compared to 2015, IDF now has around 521 members less and 429 racers less.

Last year’s incident at an IDF sanctioned race in Brazil, where a rider tragically died in a collision with a vehicle on the race track, seems to have affected the rest of the IDF races around the world too. So far, there’s only one rider from Brazil listed on IDF Kozakov Challenge riders list.

Kozakov Challenge struggling, KnK Longboard Camp already near full

For as long as of 2009, Kozakov Challenge (Czech Republic) has been to racing what KnK Longboard Camp (Slovenia) has been and still is to the freeride scene. A little over a decade, these two events had led the scene by having the best organization, best racing track and attracting the biggest numbers of riders.

Other noteworthy events, like Alpenrauschen (Austria), Velefique (Spain), Gioasteka (Switzerland) followed closely but never really got to hit the big numbers like KnK Longboard Camp which was running as a two weeks long event for 10 consecutive years. In 2016 it reached a record attendance by hosting more than 450 riders from across the globe.

Recognizing the drop in the number of riders attending the events, as organizers of KnK Longboard Camp, we decided to reduce the event to only one week this year in order to avoid struggling to fill it up or potentially being forced to cancel one of the two weeks. The decision proved to be good since, at the time of writing this article, we have 228 riders registered for the event out of a 250 riders limit. The numbers are still good and we are more than happy but the current numbers show that the general number of riders reduced more than expected.

It looks like KnK Longboard Camp will once again count the biggest number of riders and while the target of 250 riders is not far away, there’s still a solid month till the event. It just might fill up.

However, Kozakov recently had to make an announcement on Facebook urging riders to sign up in case they intend to participate in the race.  This obviously shows that there are no riders around, otherwise, they would normally already register.

Currently, Kozakov’s riders list counts 128 riders and they are still far below their usual attendance at around 200 riders. Considering that Kozakov’s announcement came out less than a month prior to the event the timing is quite tight.

Another European IDF race, Transylvania DH falls short with only 31 riders currently listed on the IDF riders list. The organization of the Transylvania event also took a blow earlier this year as the two main organizers decided to split ways. In order to organize a quality event and provide with sufficient safety, more than 31 rider registration fees will be required, so we’ll likely see this event fading out in the near future unless they come up with the money elsewhere, like from the sponsors.

Do we need more events?

As the number of riders was growing in 2016, more and more people started organizing events around Europe hoping to make a few extra Euros on a side or even make a business out of it. Some organizers stretched as far as organizing 4-5 events in a season and not giving a damn if that’s maybe too much.

However, the bigger number of smaller, unsafe and not properly organized events will not likely do much for the scene but will bring it further apart as the riders stay limited to their local scene instead of connecting internationally as they used to a decade ago.

On the other hand, this is a good situation for the riders since they are able to attend the events by having to spend less money on traveling.

Anyway …

Could event “sponsorships” help keep the scene going?

Looking at the event sponsorships, the situation becomes even more worrying.

Before we can continue talking about so-called “event sponsors”, we have to clear up one thing: Businesses are not “sponsors” at an event … They are “advertisers”. They pay for the exposure, the right to be present with their branding and to interact with the riders at the event.

Unfortunately, since longboarding businesses are run by skaters and not marketing wizards, they failed to recognize this throughout the whole decade. Obviously, they didn’t have to pay much attention since the sales where OK and nobody really expected the good times to end so suddenly.

Compared to other sport industries, longboarding brands always managed to get away by “paying” the advertising with goods by giving a few decks to the event organizers. Obviously, for a smaller event, everything they can get their hands on will come in handy, but for big event organizers who actually have to provide with big media teams and much more complex event organization, a few pieces of gear is basically not sufficient compensation.

However, there were and still are a few brands left who are actually paying some money for the services delivered by the event organizers but their involvement is getting smaller from year to year as they make up excuses like “We are a small company and don’t have money”.

To sum it up, instead of investing in the scene to help it grow and promote their business, producers and retailers are cutting their financial involvement even more which doesn’t help anyone. After all, who can blame them when at this point they are basically fighting for their own survival.

Will skateboarding at the Olympics save the day?

The hopes are now all-in on the Olympics, hoping that someday downhill skateboarding will be a part of it and the sales will pick up where they stopped in 2016 … But let me ask you something – Does it really make sense to take an effort and include downhill skateboarding while, compared to other sports, there’s basically only a handful of downhill skateboarding riders around the world?

Thanks to less investing and thanks to the declining number of riders in general, we might see even more events disappear in the upcoming years while those who manage to stay intact might raise their prices.

Who can we blame, for real?

While this article is not aiming to blame anyone for the drop in the number of riders attending the events, probably the only thing we can all blame is the generation shift we started experiencing during the past few years.

Those who started skating back in 2009 when the boom started, are now 10 years older and most probably have other interests in life like a serious job, kids and so on … In simple words, they are not skating as much as they did and one thing the event organizers started noticing is that they are not coming back to their events.

Instead, there are more underaged riders on the scene. They are still in schools and they are financially still dependent on their parents. Getting the gear, traveling to an event and paying the registration fees is a big expense that’s only growing from year to year. Next to that, one thing to note is that they don’t own driving licenses or cars yet, making it so much harder for them to travel around on their own.

Finish line

What can we do now to make it better, you ask?

It will take a great group effort to get the scene back to where it was in 2016. The biggest events like Kozakov and KnK Longboard Camp will most likely continue running as usual but the advertisers will eventually have to step in or the number of riders attending the events will have to increase. Otherwise, the remaining riders might end up paying higher registration fees which could lead to the attendance to drop even further.

Rather than organising smaller events to continue breaking up the scene, it could be much better for local riders to organise classes and demo days in order to introduce new people to the scene.

Aleix Gallimo - I'm Gonna Downhill Forever. Photo by Mikel Echegaray

Aleix Gallimo is gonna downhill forever

With a boom of XYZ media channels we are able to feast our eyes on a lot of downhill skateboarding visuals. Some are more noticeable than others while the rest hold great memories of a certain era.

Well, Aleix Gallimo is not a media crew, but he is a downhill skateboarder, graphic designer, videographer, tattooer and what to him is most important, a father.

He’s been skating so long he doesn’t even know the exact number of years. Currently he’s living high in the north of the Spanish Pyrenees. His valley called Benasque is surrounded by up to 3000 meter high mountains with plenty of epic descents.

What he truly loves to do is downhill skateboarding, that’s why he is preparing an ambitious project for the 2018 IDF racing season with the aim to help the downhill community and give it the exposure he thinks it needs.

Our industry is running low so we need to put more effort into trying to raise it up. If we don’t do it we’ll be stuck like this for a long time.

One of the reasons he sees a problem with the industry is the amount of people wanting a sponsor without giving anything back. He feels that while it’s great to support skaters, brand owners should know how to support them in a sustainable way. In the role of a skater, he decided to take a more ”hands-on” approach…

What is I’m Gonna Downhill Forever?

Before describing his project to me he said he still remembers a few years ago when longboarding was growing rapidly, brands were getting strong and helped the riders by working with them closely. At the time riders got a chance to travel the world, mixing up different cultures and styles and promoting the sport in different countries.

I work hard to travel, learn and achieve the things I do around the world. That gave me the opportunity to learn from the best and see what exactly is important and what’s not. This is also the reason why I started I’m Gonna Downhill Forever.

This year while attending all IDF events, Aleix wants to show ‘’outsiders’’ how dh skaters meet, travel, learn, have fun, challenge themselves and portray the sport as, what most people would agree with, the best time of our lives.

Aleix will attend races on four continents; Asia, Europe, North and South America, during a 6 month period. He will start the project in the Philippines, followed by South Korea, later head over to Europe to attend IDF races in Romania, Czech Republic, Italy and Spain. He’ll visit the US twice and end the season in South America, Colombia, Peru and finally in Brazil.

Aleix Gallimo - I'm Gonna Downhill Forever

During his travels he plans on producing 1 video from each country, 3 quick blog type stories, online streams from freerides and races, and end his project with a final video to recap the whole tour. Besides races, he will also visit other countries along the way. All together he plans on making around 32 videos.

Where can you watch it and how to support it

The I’m Gonna Downhill Forever media will be showcased online, through his personal website and social media channels. For the final World Tour video he plans to have it screened in designated skate shops in order to give them and the local scene support.

I’ll try to show this sport as raw as I can and let people know it’s like other sports, you just need to learn the basics and go step by step and then boom, you’re deep in a fun thing that will bring some of the best times in your life.

At the end of our conversation, Aleix said that so far he has some help from his sponsors and he is going to invested his own hard earned cash, but the project is big. He hopes to receive donations to make this a reality.

For sure I’ll do my best to accomplish this project because I think it’s really important for our sport. My own sponsors help me with the basics for racing, but don’t cover the project. To make this happen I need help with the filming gear, work and I need to pay people for their work on the project.

Because the project is still in the beginning stage Aleix welcomes you to join and help out by donating. To do this visit the I’m Gonna Downhill Forever GoFundMe page.

Aleix Gallimo is supported by Long Island Longboards, Venom Skate, Atopic Supplies, Hondar Longboards, Osteobenas and All Year Longboard.

King's Gate 2018 Cancelled

King’s Gate cancelled due to the bad condition of the track

The organiser of King’s Gate race, BigMountainSkate from Austria, had to cancel the event due to the heavy damage the track has suffered this winter.

The surface of road got worst in this so far really cold and snowy winter here in Austria. It wouldn’t be fun or safe to skate this road, its not accurate for a world class race. ~ BigMountainSkate via Facebook

King’s Gate was supposed to be one of the two IDF World Qualifying races in Europe. Now only the Transylvania IDF WQ race remains next to the World Cup races Kozakov in Czech Republic and Verdicchio in Italy.

As the announcement was published, the organiser of Transylvania race, the DEVAstation Longboard Crew decided to extend their event with additional freeride days.

With one event down, BigMountainSkate is now left with two of their most popular events in Austria, Alpenrauschen and Bela Joyride. With more time on their hands, we can expect BigMountainSkate to focus more on the remaining events and deliver even better experience.

To join Alpenrauschen and Bela Joyride visit bigmountainskate.com.

Verdicchio Race 2017

Verdicchio Race 2017 Announcement

The 2017 Verdicchio Race will take place from the 26th until the 29th of July. As the third edition of this event, 180 riders are expected to roll down the same road as in 2015.

In case you are not familiar with the Verdicchio race track, here is the scoop. It’s a 2.7 km long road with a top speed of +75 km/h for longboarders and up to +80 km/h for street lugers.

The first straight section includes fast sweepers that develop into a more technical section with 6 wide and fast hairpins. If you want to see how the track winds and check out their 2015 event video, click here.

The Verdicchio Race is also both a part of the Italian Downhill Skateboarding Championship, as well as the IDF World Qualifying Series.

Racing in this WQS will set you back 185 euros, while Italian skaters, who only wish to skate in their own Championship, have to pay an entry FIHP fee of 90 euros.

Registration and more event information can be found at https://www.verdicchiorace.it  or the event’s official Facebook page.

Shoutout to Verdiccio 2017 sponsors
Comune di Cupramontana
Xmasters
Vignamato
Mezzometro on the Road
Donzelli Autoservizi
Zero31 Longboards
The Owl Longboards
Original Skateboards
Olson & Hekmati
Homeward Tattoo
CF Monsano

To stay on track with the race and updates, follow the official Verdicchio hastags #verdicchiorace and #verdicchiorace17 on Facebook or Instagram.

Keeping It High - Seaside 2017 IDF WQS

Keeping It High – Seaside 2017 WQS IDF in Philippines

A new race track will be hosting the Philippines leg of the 2017 World Tour of the International Downhill Federation (IDF) at Keeping It High World Qualifying Series. The Philippines staple chill tropical island vibes will be surrounding the fastest race track in Asia.

Keeping It High – Seaside 2017 WQS IDF in Philippines
Keeping It High – Seaside 2017 WQS IDF in Philippines

The 1st section has a grade of 13.77% and steepest is 23.23%. Riders are surrounded by a mountain range on both sides and when they reach the fastest section of the track, the view switches from mountains to a breathtaking seascape.

The "Ohmega" hairpin is where the view switches and is also the fastest section.
The “Ohmega” hairpin is where the view switches and is also the fastest section.

The beauty of the view may be a distraction for riders but a bunch of turns will try to keep them focused on the way down. As you reach the bottom you can choose to take a walk towards the coast where you can take a dip in the ocean as the hot summer Sun charges you with some “vitamin sea”.

UNITED and Zero Gravity team rider Caloy Sambrano approaching the last turn of Seaside.
UNITED and Zero Gravity team rider Caloy Sambrano approaching the last turn of Seaside.

It will be the third time the race track would be raced on but the first ever time during the hot Philippines summer.

Freeride will be on the April 14th, Qualifying on the 15th and Race day on the 16th.

Keeping It High - Seaside 2017 flyer

Current World #1, Mauritz Armfelt from Sweden as well as a Spanish rider Javier Tato and a German rider Jenny Schauerte are confirmed to race.

I’m super stoked to come to the Philippines! I have heard so much good things. I don’t know what it will be like and I don’t really know what to expect but i always enjoy going to new places! I think I will like the Philippines ~ Mauritz Armfelt, Sweden

Check out the track

If you haven’t made plans yet or if you have never felt some Asian stoke register via IDF or stay updated via the Facebook Event page.

In case you think there’s not enough time to plan your trip overseas, you’ll be happy to know that the Philippines has a 30 days visa waiver policy for EU travellers.

Philippines has a 30 days visa waiver policy for EU travellers

I hope this inspires you to come over to Asia or maybe see you next year.

Photo: Owen Licop, Ally Hemmady and Carl Sambrano
Poster: Abigail Viloria

The Italian Downhill Skateboard Championship Calendar 2017

The Italian Downhill Skateboard Championship Calendar 2017

Several months passed since the end of the Italian Downhill Skateboard Championship 2016. With the late arrival of cold winter weather, our thoughts of rubbing shoulders with fellow racers on the road and hearing the sound of wheels sliding still warms us. Making this holiday season even better is a Christmas gift that is the CIDHS calendar for 2017!

The Italian Downhill Skateboard Championship (CIDHS) promised an interesting tour for next year with substantial news regarding the race tracks. The championship tour will take part from June to August, taking in account all other IDF competitions across the globe.

The stages for the Italian Downhill Skateboard Championship 2017 will include four events and two new race tracks.

Italian Downhill Skateboard Championship 2017 calendar

Downhill Falls – 24th and 25th of June, 2017

Downhill Falls Track – 24th and 25th of June, 2017As the new entry in the CIDHS series, Downhill Falls will take place in the province of Frosinone, in the center of Italy.

Held in a very special city called Isola del Liri, it’s also the only European city with a waterfall flowing right in the heart of town. As something I never thought I would see, it is also the particular characteristic that gave the event its name.

Apart from seeing the beautiful waterfall, you shouldn’t miss the 1.3 km long race track with brand new asphalt. We invite you to take a go at it and try being the first one to win the podium at Downhill Falls.

 

Official hashtag: #downhillfalls

Ambrose Challenge – 1st and 2nd of July, 2017

Ambrose Challenge – 1st and 2nd of July, 2017Ambrose Challenge was a part of the CIDHS circuit last year and got a very positive feedback from all the racers attending. It is located in the province of Verona, in Valpolicella. For next year’s season, we are expecting another pleasant weekend on this road that will cater to all adrenaline seeking longboarders.

The track is 2.8 km long with an average gradient of 6.5 % and a maximum gradient of 10 %.

Here is the 2016 video from Ambrose Downhill Challenge:

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugxgmDWWP3s”]

Official hashtag: #ambrosechallenge

Verdicchio Race – 27th to 28th July, 2017

Verdicchio Race – 27th to 28th July, 2017The next new/old entry of the 2017 tour is Verdicchio Race. As the third edition of this race, its coming back better than ever after a years break. Verdicchio will be held on the Poggiocupro race track in a village called Cupramontana, the capital of Verdicchio.

As one of the most technical and fun packed tracks in Italy, riders will descend down the 2.7 km long race track with 6 hairpins and long straights with fast corners.

This event will last for four days and is going to be a part of the IDF Eurotour 2017, as a World Qualifying Series. Two days of the event will be dedicated to the Italian Championship.

Official hashtag: #verdicchiorace

Euroskate 2017 – 3rd to 6th of August, 2017

Euroskate 2017 - 3rd to 6th of August, 2017The 14th edition of the Euroskate will finish the CIDHS circuit. The Roll Club of Padua, led by Sandro Marandin, is back with the Euganean Hills and an impeccable organisation which includes big shows and the famous torchlight ride along the race route.

The track is famous for its curve called “Schivanoia”, the first one of a series of hairpins following one another and inevitably leading to racers showing off their best skills while pumping and taking advantage of the hairpins apex.

[facebook url=”https://www.facebook.com/videoe20/videos/10154808745674239″]

Official hashtag: #teyolo

Surely the 2017 Italian Downhill Skateboard Championship FISR will not fail to surprise us. In the mean time, while waiting for the race season to start, go out and skate. Get ready, because the starting line is waiting for you!