In April 2019, I was invited by the Fise World Series to go and represent South Africa in Hiroshima, Japan. While I was in Hiroshima I was also invited to skate the ARKLEAGUE contest in Tokyo the following weekend. I took this opportunity to go to these events because the level of skateboarding in Japan is possibly the highest in the world at the moment. They have so much talent and their country is investing a lot of money into the sport by building world class training facilities as well as holding contests weekly with a minimum prize purse of up to US$ 25 000.
My main focus was to go out and try my best in order to see where my level is in competitive skateboarding against the Japanese. The conditions in Japan are also really different to the conditions in South Africa. However, my main goal was to represent my country and try my best.
I skated the qualification round in which I made it through to the semi finals in 6th place. This was a huge achievement already as I qualified in 6th out of over 100 skateboarders from Japan and other skateboarders from around the world. The following day I skated the Semi Finals, I was feeling confident in my approach and in my run as a whole. The format consisted of two 45 second runs in which both of my runs were flawless. In my run I did bigspins in and out of slides, flipped and 360'd into rails, as well as skated all the big obstacles while using all 4 different stances. I thought that I had done enough to qualify through to the final 8 skateboarders. However, the judges thought otherwise and I finished in 13th place.
My journey from Hiroshima to Tokyo has now began and I was travelling with my good friend Maxim Kruglov from Russia. We were staying at the Redbull Japan Team managers house where we had to try and take the subway to our location. Honestly, there's nothing harder than travelling in Japan when you can't understand the writing and your phone doesn't have a connection so we were bound to get lost.
ARKLEAGUE PRO SKATEBOARDING CHAMPIONSHIPS TOKYO
Arkleague is one of the biggest skate contests in Japan. I was one of the invited international skateboarders amongst some of the biggest names in skateboarding such as Felipe Gustavo, Manny Santiago and Sora Shirai to name a few. I was an invited rider therefore I had a straight pass into the semi finals and didn’t have to skate the qualifiers which honestly was the highest level of skateboarding I had ever seen.
After skating an introduction run for 45 seconds, then a jam session for 3 minutes and then 1 last final trick. Each one of the sections counted a score out of 10. The introduction run is extremely important as it allows you to get all the judges attention when you later skate the Jam format with 3 other guys. My introduction run was perfect, I was also able to do everything that I had planned in the jam format and still had time left over that I had to improvise and freestyle. It all came down to my final trick. Its extremely important to strategise in these contests because if you fall you get a 0 out of 10. I had never done a backflip or even attempted doing a backflip before but I left it to my final trick. Strategically this wasn't a very good idea but I wanted to go big or go home. I flipped the whole rotation and landed on my board, however I was slightly off balanced and slipped out. I won the hearts of the people in the crowd and was fan favourite but that 0 in my final trick made me miss the finals cut of 9 riders, where I took home 10th place overall.
After the contest had ended I knew I had to go and attempt a few more backflips just to get comfortable with the rotation. I ended up landing a couple making myself the first ever African and South African to do a backflip on a skateboard.