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Justin Regan about the Olympics

There are a lot of speculations about what skateboarding in the Olympics will be like.


A lot of things have been said, since the IOC anounced skateboarding for the Olympics Games 2020 but still nobody really knows what it’s gonna be like and how the Olympics will change skateboarding. Justin Regan, Director of Global Brand and Product Marketing at Vans, has a closer look on how things are going, cause he organized the first world championships in Park Skating, a new discipline that will be olympic. When we met him in Malmö, we took our chance to find out more about all those confusing things regarding federations, doping tests and many more.

Will the Vans Park Series be the future qualification event for the Olympic park event?

Our world championship is the official International Skateboard Federation world championships. The ISF is managing the Tokyo 2020 skateboarding comission. That comission plus the national Olympic Commitees in every country will determine, what the qualifying events are. But there will only be one world championship, that’s official and that’s this event. So more than likely, and we still have to figure it out, there will be other park events in other countries that could feed into our world championships. It will be a part of the qualifying process. It won’t be the be-all end-all but it will be one of the main qualifying events. The world champion of our series will definitely be in the Olympics. But there’s a lot more that goes into what qualifies for the Olympics. They’ll need qualifying events for each continent and for Vans, we probably can’t scale that quickly. So the ISF will sanction other events. But we’re the only park event, so we’re kind of defining the discipline and the criteria how the ISF sanctions the other qualifying events.

Is the ISF the only federation in charge? Cause I read something about the FIRS as well.

The Tokyo 2020 comission is a partnership between ISF and FIRS. FIRS is the official Olympic federation for all rollersports and you’re not allowed to have any new federations. Any new sport has to come in from an existing federation. And the federation that exists for rollersports is FIRS. But skateboarding said, no we won’t go in with just any federation. So FIRS partnerd with the skateboard federation ISF to bring skateboarding in. That’s what the 2020 skateboard comission is. It’s the partnership between FIRS and ISF to bring skateboarding to the Olympics in 2020, which bascially means ISF will be managing skateboarding.

So the FIRS has nothing to say or nothing to do with it, it’s just a partner?

It’s a partner. What they’re gonna control is the WADA drug-doping thing. But ISF will control the competition, the part that we’re experts in. Making sure that when we show skateboarding to the world, we’re showing a correct view of skateboarding. The best view of skateboarding.

"I think that’s the part that people don’t understand. No one was championing skateboarding to be in the Olympics, it was more like defensive."

Is that why Vans started the Park Series? Because you guys saw it coming that skateboarding will be in the Olympics and thought: „We have to help and try to present it the best way possible?“

No, with Vans we’ve been doing skateboarding events forever and for a long time we’ve been like, we need to do something were we all globally get together and focus on one thing. We looked at street and thought Street League ist doing a good job. There’s no point doing that. So we thought, is there something new we can bring to the table? The thing that felt right for us is that park terrain, cause I’ve always felt that bowl and vert were getting confused. If you think of this line of skaters from Wade Speyer to John Cardiel to Tony Trujillo, all this Vans skaters, they never really had a plattform to shine.

They’re like tranny guys and maybe skate the Pool Party, but they can’t win the Pool Party, that’s for vertskaters nowadays. It’s for guys with pads flying 8feet and spinning. So we were trying to find and establish a plattform for skaters like Curren Capples or Grant Taylor, what we called park terrain. When you get to vert it’s weightless and in park you have to ollie to get air. So we wanna define a plattform for that skillset and that’s where this idea came from. And then we’re doing the Van Doren Invitational, which was like this idea of park terrain but it wasn’t building into anything and we wanted to all come together and make an event series that we build to something. To really create a plattform that’s on the level of Street League. When the Olympic discussion came around, they were looking where skateboarding is happening.

Were it’s self organizing and they looked at our event series with the Van Doren Invitational involving into Park Series and because in the Olympics it’s male and female equal, they looked at the womens contest, which we had the whole time with the Van Doren Invitational or the Park Series. When we do an event, we’re always doing an womens event too. And they saw how good the women skateboarding was and they’re like: „That’s where it’s happening for womens skateboarding.“ So street obviously is the most established and it’s established mainly through Street League and this park terrain is new, it’s exciting. I’m from an era of skating out in the streets.

For someone my age the street terrain makes a lot of sense but kids growing up since like 2000 with the proliferation of skateparks they have happening around the world, they grow up skating everything.

So it was just a coincident?

Yeah, exactly. Basically they saw it and were like: „This is awesome, this is exactly what we’re looking for.“

Do you know who actually was pushing it, that skateboarding became Olympic?

Oh, nobody.

It was just the IOC that wanted skateboarding?

If you ask any skaters, they’re like, maybe it will be good, it will get more people into skating, maybe it will suck. Skaters don’t care. Some of the athlets are like, if it’s in I go skate, because it’s a cool thing to represent your country, maybe you get laid because you’re famous or something. This is what skaters think. The industry is like, maybe it will help grow participation overall but we’ve seen that it didn’t do anything for snowboarding. So the main thing for skating in the Olympics, as far as the industry was concernd was: if the Olympics decide to add skateboarding, it’s gonna go in, cause it’s their choice. They say: „Hey, we want to add skateboarding“, and the Olympic commitees around the world send skaters. And then the event goes to the fucking Rollerskating federation, cause they’re in charge of it and they’ll do something really wack. And you’ll watch the Olympics and it will be a terrible picture of skateboarding.

So the industry kinda was: „If skateboarding is going in the Olympics, we’re not gonna go in unless it’s done in the right way.“ And that’s what the ISF is. It’s the industry coming together, to say: „Hey, we can’t control if skateboarding goes in the Olympics, but if it does, we’re gonna make sure that it’s done right.“ It’s not downhill, it’s not megaramp, it’s not highjump, it’s not slalom.

There was this other federation as well, World Skateboarding Federation. What’s up with them now?

That was another guy, Tim McFerran. He had one event in South Africa. It was originally the Maloof Money Cup, but the true federation that represents the industry of skateboarding is the ISF and they really honestly only organized to protect skateboarding. To go like, if skateboarding goes in, we have to all hold hands, otherwise it’s gonna go in under the rollerblading federation and it’s gonna look crazy and we’re all gonna be bummed and it’s not gonna be good for anyone. So at least if we can all agree to partner on this, which the industry did, they all came together behind the ISF and kinda put the Olympic Commitee in a chokehold. They said: „If you want us, this is us.“ And the Olympic Commitee said: “We can’t add any new federations, cause there’s a charta. We get sued if we add a new federation. Is there any way you can work with the rollersport federation?“ And they figured out a way to work together, because the IOC was like: „Look, we want skateboarding and we want it to be done right and we trust that you guys know how it’s done and we know the rollerblade people don’t know how it’s done. Please, help work together to find a way to make that happen.“ I think that’s the part that people don’t understand. No one was championing skateboarding to be in the Olympics, it was more like defensive. If skateboarding is going to the Olympics it’s not going in unless through the ISF. And still the relationship between the rollerbladers and the skateboarders is weird.

"Even with the weed restriction it’s not the issue everyone thinks it’s gonna be. I’m not worried about it for skateboarding."

There are different doping lists for different sports and I heard that the IOC removed weed from the doping list for skateboarders. So they seem pretty desperate to get skateboarding in.

I mean snowboarding has been in the Olympics, BMX has been in the Olympics. Michael Phelps is a stoner. They’re looking for performance enhancing drugs and they’re realizing that what people do in their spare time, drinking a beer, smoking weed… They’re not gonna be able to show up stoned to an event, that’s not allowed.

But is weed removed now? Cause didn’t they once disqualify a snowboarder because of weed?

Snowboarders smoke weed, but the Olympics are once every four years and they figure out a way to either stop for that period of time or do what’s required. Even with the weed restriction it’s not the issue everyone thinks it’s gonna be. I’m not worried about it for skateboarding.

I thought 90% of the skateboarders couldn’t participiate if weed isn’t allowed.

The same thing is true of snowboarding or BMX. And more as time goes on in probably four years from now what they’re really looking for are performance enhancing drugs. And weed, if anything, it probably makes you worse in skateboarding. [laughs] And they’re coming round like, we’re wasting our time getting people in trouble for weed, it doesn’t even help them, it doesn’t give them an advantage.

But I think in some sports even alcohol isn’t allowed.

Alcohol is out of your system in 24 hours, so you can drink the week before and you’re clean. And you can smoke weed three months before the test, the thing is, they don’t want people intoxicated ever during the event. That’s something skaters probably have to make a decision. But I know these guys and they take it serious. When it’s time to compete, they’re not like getting faded before dropping in. Maybe the night before, yeah, maybe right after, but when it comes to a contest day they’re taking it pretty serious. So it won’t be hard to stop for the day they’re gonna be on TV.

So will Street League be the qualification series for street and…

It will be the same for Street League as it is for Park Series. It will be the main event and really defining how you judge the discipline, how tall the ledges should be, what material they should be made out of. You know, Street League will be defining that and Park Series will be defining it for park.

And the Park Series will grow over the next years?


What is planned?

Right now Vans is self funding the Park Series and we can only afford so much. It’s expensive. Our hope is as we move into 2017, 2018, we can get some other sponsors to get on board to help us and hopefully make it financially viable to where it makes sense as a business, so the skaters can earn a living and it can be self-sustaining. And at that point we’ll be able to grow it. If we don’t have any sponsors we’re gonna continue doing it, but it’ll be hard to grow as fast as we like it to grow. We have scenarios for either doing the same thing or takeing it up a notch. And in the long run the series can scale over time to like sanctioning really small local events, where a local event can feed a state event, can feed a country event, can feed a regional event, can feed a global event, can feed the World Championships. We’ll see how this can scale over time and we’ll need partners to get it to this scale. That’s the long term vision.

What do you think, what will Skateboarding in the Olympics be like in the end?

It’s topical right now, because they announced it and they announced park and nobody knows, what park is. We’re defining it right now. So people have all these questions. For a lot of sports everything leads up to the Olympics as their defining moment in that sport. For skateboarding it will never be the defining moment. The same way it is for basketball or soccer. The World Cup or the leagues are really more important then the Olympics. The Olympics come every four years and it’s kinda like an All-Star game. That’s what it’s gonna be for skateboarding. It’ll be something that happens every four years and if we put on a good show, people will see a good picture of skateboarding or a true representation, but it’s not gonna be the defining thing. We’re looking at the Olympics as a demonstration of skateboarding to the world and wanna do a good demonstration, but it will never define skateboarding. Skateboarders will define skateboarding forever. It’s up to us what defines skateboarding. I’m not worried. It will come every four years, it will hopefully get more people interested into skateboarding and then it goes away for four years.