In the weeks leading up to Shred for Life 2, I was beginning to realize the event would not be profitable and that I would be taking a financial loss after everything I had been working on over the last nine months, from planning the event to coordinating all the details for the event and also producing a magazine for the event that highlighted now East coast skateboard legends. I don’t know how I came up with the confidence, vision, or drive to take on producing this major event and dealing with the reality that I would be broke once it all was over.
In 1996, while still an active photographer, and the Photo Editor of The Source Magazine, I began to find myself daily thinking about the “days of my youth,” participating and attending skateboard contests and events.
In the late 80’s, skaters only had bi-monthly skateboard magazines and VHS tapes from popular skateboard brands. In the Summer, if you were lucky, skateboard teams would travel to local market areas to do demos and help support the relevance of the local skateboard stores.
Contests brought the community of skateboarding to a central place. Amateur contests in the 80’s were the only ways to access skateboarding culture, and brought out the upper echelons of skaters, though at the time they weren’t yet sponsored. Some people on the B-team weren’t ‘popping’ as of yet, though they were in the mix, and many were ear-marked as the next generation of ass-kickers.
As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Jersey, skateboarding was more accessible for me. But as time went on, these slowed down. I wondered and pondered, what would the next generation have, if there were no culture hubs to provide that energy or space to explore the culture?
I began to outline in my head what it took to make the 80’s skateboard contest scene. From there, I imagined a structure of what the next generation’s contest scene could become. With no financial backing, and only the support of a handful of skateboard industry friends, I ventured out to create an amateur skateboard league.
I modeled it initially after the event series I came up under, the Eastern Skateboard Association (E.S.A.). The E.S.A. was the contest circuit in the Northeast that had frequent skateboard events in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
At the time, we also had the National Skateboard Association (N.S.A.) for elite amateur skateboarders. The N.S.A. only hosted one regional qualifier in the Northeast and a finals. Their structure was designed not to develop amateur talent; rather, they showcased experts as the next generation of skateboard professionals.
For me, the E.S.A. had provided an arena to foster culture, and that was what I wanted to emulate for the next generation.
After Shred for Life 2 was over, I still had bills to pay to cover the cost of producing such a massive event. The one up-side from the event for me from a planning perspective was that Shred for Life 2 had provided me with a large direct contact list of every notable amateur in the Northeast, since they had all attended the event and filled out an event waiver.
This was 1997, no internet, no cellphone, no email. Having this contact list with everyone’s mailing address and house phone number was like gold. I had a direct line of communication to the community.
So, a little over a year after Shred for Life 2, I launched the United Skateboarding Association (U.S.A.), an amateur skateboard contest series, initially just in the Northeastern United States. The first year was a starting point. I started with the contact list and a homemade event flyer that told the message of what I was trying to create.
This was the beginning to my entry into a whole new world. As things developed, I eventually found a graphic designer to make better quality contest flyers. I was fortunate to meet many more talented people along the way that helped make the United Skateboard Association a success, and allowed us to see a first full contest year.