Vert got more coverage than street at Tampa Pro 1996. This was the opening page, Tas Pappas, foreshadowing Mayhem.
Technically the Internet was invented in the 1960s. None of us were alive back then but if we were we wouldn’t have heard about it at the time. I know this because I grew up in the 1970s, and I don’t remember even really even hearing the word computer until the 1980s. The Internet? It didn’t become a thing until the 1990s. I don’t even have to Google any of this to know because I was cutting edge, an early adopter if you will. I had one of the first jobs in skateboarding that was directly tied to the Internet. It was called Monsterskate.com, it was, as you could probably guess, a website. That was in 1999.
But before the Internet changed the way we consume skateboard media, before live webcasts, before non stop Instagramming, before video recaps, Periscope and Meerkat, there were only two ways to learn about what happened at a skateboard contest like Tampa Pro [besides actually being there or knowing someone who was there]. 1. You got the VHS copy of 411 Video Magazine and watched about an hour of footage from a 3 day contest, and while yes you saw the tricks and the winning run, you wouldn’t get much of the story. 2. A Thrasher or Transworld or Slap Magazine, or all three, arrived in your mailbox about three months after the fact with the contest article inside. This was your one shot at the inside story, to hear the scoop, get the skinny on some drama that might have ensued, like surprise team changes, noteworthy party incidents, etc. If it didn’t make the story, you were most likely never going to know about it.
John Cardiel with the melon grab. This was either before or after he came up short on a QP transfer, did a flip onto his head and almost died.
Today’s example of pre Internet contest coverage takes us back to the 2nd Annual Tampa Pro, from the September 1996 issue of TWS. The story was written by Kevin Wilkins who is still a great human btw [check him out @kevinwilkins or thegoodproblem.com. Pete Thompson and Chris Ortiz, also still great humans, took the photos. The story was 8 pages long, with 5 vert photos, 4 street photos, 1 street sequence, 1 outdoor bowl sequence, and 8 random portraits/ lifestyle photos. Here’s what you would have gotten from it.
Clockwise from top: Ray Barbee, Mike Frazier, Jamie Thomas, Ed Templeton. Not a bad lineup.
The article was written in three parts. The first is about Tampa. Wilkins lets you know the Tampa airport is comfortable, that the drive on Interstate 275 from the airport is bumpy and takes you past houses like houses in the rest of America, plus a Waffle House (which has agreeable employees), and downtown Tampa, which he finds to be rather handsome. After exiting the Interstate, he finds himself at SPoT moments later, and jokingly refers to it as “Florida’s most popular, if not the world’s most well-known sporting arena…” He also mentions that 200 of the world’s best skaters are packed in there, and together they make the tight space extra stinky while evoking a feeling of claustrophobia.
Koston, nollie front nosegrinding to his first of three Tampa Pro wins.
The second part is about the street contest. It gives recaps on the skating of all sorts of people, like Billy Lane, Jamie Thomas, John Montessi, Jeremy Wray, Mike Carroll, Kenny Hughes, Ed Templeton, Gershon Mosley, Jaya Bonderov, Tim Brauch [RIP], Chet Thomas, Andrew Reynolds, and even Bob Burnquist who we’re reminded entered street contests back then. And here’s the top 5: Danny Way 4. Phil Shao [RIP] 3. Ethan Fowler 2. Chris Senn 1. Eric Koston.
The highlight of the of the article is a bit about Phil Shao biting the head off of a pigeon that flew into the skatepark. Did this really happen? Text me on that Kevin.
The third part of the story is about the vert contest. Here we find out that I was in the contest and got Tenth. Not bad, not great. But just to blow my own horn, I was one of the few to get a photo. But the focus of course is on the top five. 5. Tom Boyle 4. Mike Frazier (yeah Mike!) 3. Mathias Ringstrom 2. Danny Way 1. Tas Pappas.
The thing that we come away with from this part of the story was that first place finisher Tas Papas wore Lycra undergarments. This was a few years before most of the stuff from his All This Mayhem documentary started to really bring him down. On a side note, and this didn’t make the article, but I remember when Schaefer announced Tas the winner, Tas turned to Danny Way and, while laughing, flipped him the bird straight in his face. This was before their falling out. I also remember it was fitting because the year before Danny had won and Tas had finished second. Things change.