72 Hours in Shanghai for Vans Park Series

With little more than a couple days’ notice, we asked Andrew Peters to drop everything in his life and fly from LAX to Shanghai to spend a mere 72 hours in the city.

Lucky for us, he accepted the task with a smile and open arms because he’s a team player. Or an idiot. Or both. Just the type of contributor/employee/dipshit we like around here. Onto the show… — MC

I’ve never before been so terrified of a language barrier. Sitting in the car service—during the two-hour commute from Shanghai to the Vans Park Series—I really needed to pee. My Chinese driver didn’t understand why I was pointing at my crotch.

The reason for my poor pee management was because my driver was an hour and a half late to pick me up for the event. Naturally, I decided to have a couple of 10 am beers in the hotel lobby while I waited, but about an hour into the drive they started to catch up to me. When we got to our rural rest-stop I realized I kinda needed to poop too, but when I walked into the bathroom and saw a row of holes in the ground with a bucket of water and a wet rag next to them to clean yourself up, I decided I wasn’t brave enough to poop.

To Vans’ credit, they had done an amazing job organising everything for everyone as far as accommodation and transportation, but had been completely stitched up with the location of the event. You might remember the monumental pictures from last year with the epic Shanghai skyline in the background of all of the photos. This is what they were going for again this year, but just weeks away from the event the Chinese Government pulled the plug on that plan.

The President of China visits Shanghai once a year and when he does there is a city-wide cleanup, which means there are no events in the weeks surrounding his visit. Skateboarders are the first to go. Walking around Shanghai, it’s hard to remember that this is a communist country as it seems more like the Wild West of illegal businesses. The stronghold the government has on the whole country is put into practice when they make these blanket bans. No amount of guanxi (the Chinese term for having connections) or money will help in these circumstances, which otherwise both could get you nearly anything in China. 

As I mentioned before, I was running very late due to my driver, so by the time I got there I had missed the entire women’s finals. Luckily, I went out the day before for the semi-finals and was able to get a glimpse of how gnarly the girls are. I’m not very savvy with the competition circuit these days, but the girls were killing it. The progression is huge since the last women’s competitions I’d witnessed a few years ago. None of the names in this World Championship could be found in those previous lineups. The winner, Brighton Zeuner, is just 14-years-old. Come to think of it, you couldn’t find a competitor in the line up over 20. The other interesting contrast in the girls ‘Top 8’ was that there were only three from the USA; Japan had three of their own in the mix and Brazil and Australia (go Poppy, ya bloody legend) slipped in there too.

Much like the girl’s competition, the lineup of men’s qualifying skateboarders weren’t the familiar old bowl carnies I knew from years ago at the Bondi Bowl-a-rama contests. The cast was fresh-faced and full of 15-year-oldsthe only faces that seemed familiar were the old skate photographers waving their fisheyes around and poking their hand-held flashes out into each other’s pictures. These guys have been at every event with pool coping since the 80’s. The level of difficulty in tricks was a pretty obvious comparison from the last competitions I’d attended. This shit was serious and the Olympics were obviously on the line. Competition lines used to be much more on the fly and sporadic which made for a lot of excitement. The approach of the new generation is definitely more thought out, which can seem weird for the older generation used to the spontaneity of the “golden era.” The lines are mapped out and completely premeditated. 

I have a hard time getting past Tom Schaar’s bionic stalefish grabs, where he thrusts his pelvis in an attempt to fuck the air that we all have to breathe, so I didn’t really notice the rest of his run, which landed him in third place. Second place winner, Pedro Barros, is definitely one of the most exciting to watch on the course, flying around with one of the better styles in the comp and most certainly going further and higher than anyone else. He attempted a boneless off the top deck into the deep end in his last run that would have assured him first place by a mile, but he spat out at the bottom which put his first place standing up for grabs. He went back up and made the boneless for the crowd, but it wasn’t going to affect the score that he had already posted.

In the end, I think Ben Hatchell won and everyone went home scratching their heads. Shout out to CJ Collins and Roman Pabich who would have placed, had I been one of the judges. But what do I know? I don’t even know how to get to the bathroom.

Actual winner was Alex Sorgente. Check the gallery below to see what a skate contest in China looks like… Weird and cool and… WEIRD.

Full results and video recaps at vansparkseries.com.

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