Words & Photos by Zach Baker
As the cloud of loud begins to dissipate from the stimulation of last week’s festivities up in Montreal, it is time to reflect. Tony Soprano once said, “I feel like King Midas in reverse, everything I touch turns to shit.” Since their inception, the Dime boys have proven to be a bunch of full-blown regular ass speed King Midases. There has not been a single public offering — be it a bowling montage, full-length skate video, a collab baby, or any of the annual skateboarding competitions to which they’ve played host the past three years — that has not gone off without a hitch. But this year’s Glory Challenge, with the newfound aide of DC Shoes, was more frivolous than anyone anticipated. DC, recently reclaimed by one of its original co-founders, weighed in hard with their trademark mountain of money, bringing the spectacle to a new echelon. We’re talking renting Wade D. a Ferrari and a helicopter for an Instagram post, a pyrotechnics exhibition that was described as “a buffet of fire,” renting ten limos to go bowling, and throwing a carnival-esque block party DJed by Darude that felt like a billionaire kid’s freakin’ quinciñera. These and every other tiny, speed shade-tinted detail amount to, from where I’m standing, the most expensive joke ever.
This long weekend of overstimulation has left us still unpacking all that happened. So these guys went out, invested all this effort, capital, manpower, organization…for…a joke? It took these boys the better part of a year to plan. Bryan worked tirelessly for weeks on end to construct the many rooms and modifiable obstacles of this year’s Glory Challenge. Legends like Tiago, Biebel, Kalis and Forrest Edwards were flown from the extremes of the continent to be in attendance…for a weekend of laughs? Listen — I’m no Miscavage, I don’t have all the answers — but the spectacle has left thousands of people at once psyched, inspired, shocked, and confused.
With skateboarding’s inclusion in the Olympics drawing closer, and the word “sport” frequently being used to describe our silly pastime, what does the future of skateboarding hold? If skateboarding is a sport, is the Dime Glory Challenge the shape that it as a sport will take on? What even is the purpose of a sport, and what’s good with humanity’s centuries-long infatuation with them?
Sport, by definition, is a competitive display of skill and athleticism for the entertainment of oneself and others. A sport is both a thing in which one can participate, as well as one that can be observed. Sports have been a source of cult-like fanaticism for millions of people: a reason to call out of work, quit your job, set a car on fire, or whisper in someone’s ear that their significant other’s netherparts taste like cereal. People flaunt a knowledge of history, statistics, and even biographical factoids of their favorite athletes. There are all sorts of wild superstitions that people hold sacred: underdogs will run inside-out “rally caps,” players casually patting one another’s butts for two hours straight, “numbers” getting “retired,” wild pregame rituals observed. To say that sports are nonsensical would be to put it gently.
At its core, the idea of sport — when stripped of the money, publicity, mythology, and fans — is mad dumb. Whacking balls of varying size with sticks and feet into a different types of receptacles, with opponents attempting to keep you from doing so is, in essence, not a productive use of time. It’s dumb. Bobsledding is dumb. Skateboarding is marked with all the traits that would classify something as sport. It is a sport, and therefore it’s dumb. However, being comprised of skaters, critics, PhD grads and comedic warlocks, the Dime guys have enough sense to enact a spectacle that acknowledges and ridicules these facts. Skaters have a rich history of talking all sorts of shit, and it would be a disservice to our rich history not to include shit talk in skateboarding’s iteration of a televised sporting event.
Modern spectator sports have been followed religiously for over a century. The practice of physical exertion as entertainment dates back to ancient times, starting with Olympian marathon races. But while many of these have been met with acceptance and adoration, skating has, up until pretty recently, been frowned upon as not only an illegitimate sport, but as a dangerous and stupid way to spend your time. But that was part of its charm — a bunch of rejects in a parking lot smoking pot, getting sacked and falling off stuff defies all convention as far as self-care and public behavior. The absurdity of skating has always been one of its strongest undercurrents, with some of its strongest voices calling attention to those facts e.g. World, Consolidated, Enjoi, Girl/Chocolate videos. Laughing at skateboarding is an inseparable part of skating, just like people making out on the Jumbotron is to other sports. Humor is evidence that someone is critically thinking about the subject enough to point out what is so dumb about it.
The Dime guys have enough great thinkers that they’re content to just laugh amongst themselves. 85% of their jokes don’t make it past Peace Park or a couple of group texts, and they seem fine with that. The 15% that rises to the top, is still sometimes too stoned to explain, but people connect with them and delight in the feeling that they know. Cue up to Glory Challenge.
Lee Yankou is reeled down from the rafters, covering his eyes with his hand, arm outstretched, flipping his board in his hand. He unhooks and immediately starts charging toward the quarterpipe. “Montreal! Lee Yankou just did a fucking Miller Flip!” Then Rob “Sluggo” Boyce, last year’s MVP and a renowned stunt actor, gets blasted through a wall and rips off his shirt. Speed shades rain from the sky, everyone gives a salute to Valdez, the Speed Challenge commences.
Major sports, while plenty useless, are valuable to our society in many ways. They create a sense of unity between people who might otherwise have nothing in common. Spectator sports situate people as members of a community — “Red Sox Nation” or whatever the team and place — give people a sense of identity. Part of that identity is shaped by fostering a seemingly useless database of statistics and historical events. In skating, as much as anything else, there is satisfaction in relaying this stupid information. Part of it is to flaunt a familiarity, like some dude telling you a pitcher’s career average against left-handers, but these details situate events past, present, and future into a narrative, helping us know what’s already been done and what hasn’t. It tells us what is normal and what is extraordinary.
The Challenge is riddled with this type of niche reference, as it is one of Dime’s strengths. Imagine being Joe Valdez. He’s flown to Montreal once a year to be treated like a prince for a weekend based on like four minutes of footage from over two decades ago. Imagine tasking Bryan with finding and fully refurbishing the yellow couch that Wade D. skates in It’s Official for the Gangster Challenge.
Then there’s the volcano. Not to be a suppressive person, but let’s start with the fact that Steve Berra is a scientologist, not to mention a guy who made fake street spots over ten years ago for a video part. The cover of Dianetics, ‘tology’s founding text, is a volcano and there’s something in their theology about particles of human souls coming out of a volcano that you have to suppress to get to the next level of musical chairs. Dime made t-shirts with volcanoes on them. They went to Italy and sought out an active fucking volcano. They constructed a jump ramp in the likeness of a volcano and had it breathe fire. Then they remade the fake Allstate sign that Berra presented as a found spot and had everyone skate it. Nerding out on these peripheral details is intrinsic to all sports fanaticism, and the ones that have nothing to do with the sport are even more satisfying.
Dime toes a blurry line in regards to what’s serious and what’s not. The Glory Challenge is the pinnacle of this ambiguity — it is hard to tell whether they’re celebrating skateboarding or shining a light on how stupid we are for taking it seriously. Sometimes, it is equal parts of each. The Glory Challenge is a blatant satire of sports and skateboarding’s popularity as an example of one. This is most notably displayed via the Gladiator Challenge, where people wrestle each other off of a platform into a giant foam pit a la American Gladiator, but on boards.
The word “glory” itself is ridiculous. It evokes visions of Danny Way jumping over the Great Wall of China (he was there, by the way, most notably knee-sliding a bail out of a three flip on flat). The announcers, Conor Neeson and Adam Green, were the glue binding the charade. They were at once a continuation of great color commentators as J.R. Ross, Clyde Frasier, and Dick Vitale with the emotionally-manipulative prowess of a modern day P.T. Barnum.
If there’s anything I can infer about the motives behind the Glory Challenge, it’s this: it’s cool to take skating seriously, it’s stupid to take skating seriously, and it’s cool to laugh at how stupid we are for taking skating seriously. They’re making fun of us as much as they’re making fun of themselves, while simultaneously getting the thirteen-year-old Quebecoise in all of us as giddy as a possum in a bucket of molasses to see fifty of our favorite skaters in one room, trying whatever they ask them to.
Sports are indeed of paramount worth to the individual as well the society surrounding it. Sports function in a number of ways. They provide entertainment and leisure. They provide an escape from life’s woes. But most importantly, at their highest level, they motivate and inspire by displaying the extraordinary potentials of what a human being might accomplish. Sometimes it is a season average triple-double or a no-hitter on acid. In the case of the Dime Glory Challenge, the lesson is simple: with a network of talented friends and a whole shitload of pot, you can make your wildest dreams come true. It’s stupid, but that’s what’s fun about it, and if skating’s a sport, we can at least be proud to say this is what it looks like. Argus.