Is The Downhill Skateboarding Scene In Trouble?

The last few years have been pretty tough for longboard producers and retailers. This year feels like we’re about to hit the bottom as the number of riders dropped to its lowest since 2009. Many businesses shut down because they simply couldn’t manage to survive on such low numbers and now the crisis has finally reached downhill skateboarding events.

Google Trend for Longboarding search term.
Picture: Google Trend for “longboarding” search term

During their Annual General Meeting, IDF (International Downhill Federation) reported a small growth in the number of their members in 2018. They had 1111 members in 2017 and 1146 members in 2018, which is only 35 members more. Compared to the total number of members, the small improvement is basically insignificant and also represents the smallest growth in the number of members since 2013.

Looking at the number of IDF members attending the races, there were only 78 more members attending the races. The improvement is again very small compared to the drop the events have been experiencing since 2015 when IDF had 1667 members and 1047 of them attended the races. To sum it up, compared to 2015, IDF now has around 521 members less and 429 racers less.

Last year’s incident at an IDF sanctioned race in Brazil, where a rider tragically died in a collision with a vehicle on the race track, seems to have affected the rest of the IDF races around the world too. So far, there’s only one rider from Brazil listed on IDF Kozakov Challenge riders list.

Kozakov Challenge struggling, KnK Longboard Camp already near full

For as long as of 2009, Kozakov Challenge (Czech Republic) has been to racing what KnK Longboard Camp (Slovenia) has been and still is to the freeride scene. A little over a decade, these two events had led the scene by having the best organization, best racing track and attracting the biggest numbers of riders.

Other noteworthy events, like Alpenrauschen (Austria), Velefique (Spain), Gioasteka (Switzerland) followed closely but never really got to hit the big numbers like KnK Longboard Camp which was running as a two weeks long event for 10 consecutive years. In 2016 it reached a record attendance by hosting more than 450 riders from across the globe.

Recognizing the drop in the number of riders attending the events, as organizers of KnK Longboard Camp, we decided to reduce the event to only one week this year in order to avoid struggling to fill it up or potentially being forced to cancel one of the two weeks. The decision proved to be good since, at the time of writing this article, we have 228 riders registered for the event out of a 250 riders limit. The numbers are still good and we are more than happy but the current numbers show that the general number of riders reduced more than expected.

It looks like KnK Longboard Camp will once again count the biggest number of riders and while the target of 250 riders is not far away, there’s still a solid month till the event. It just might fill up.

However, Kozakov recently had to make an announcement on Facebook urging riders to sign up in case they intend to participate in the race.  This obviously shows that there are no riders around, otherwise, they would normally already register.

Currently, Kozakov’s riders list counts 128 riders and they are still far below their usual attendance at around 200 riders. Considering that Kozakov’s announcement came out less than a month prior to the event the timing is quite tight.

Another European IDF race, Transylvania DH falls short with only 31 riders currently listed on the IDF riders list. The organization of the Transylvania event also took a blow earlier this year as the two main organizers decided to split ways. In order to organize a quality event and provide with sufficient safety, more than 31 rider registration fees will be required, so we’ll likely see this event fading out in the near future unless they come up with the money elsewhere, like from the sponsors.

Do we need more events?

As the number of riders was growing in 2016, more and more people started organizing events around Europe hoping to make a few extra Euros on a side or even make a business out of it. Some organizers stretched as far as organizing 4-5 events in a season and not giving a damn if that’s maybe too much.

However, the bigger number of smaller, unsafe and not properly organized events will not likely do much for the scene but will bring it further apart as the riders stay limited to their local scene instead of connecting internationally as they used to a decade ago.

On the other hand, this is a good situation for the riders since they are able to attend the events by having to spend less money on traveling.

Anyway …

Could event “sponsorships” help keep the scene going?

Looking at the event sponsorships, the situation becomes even more worrying.

Before we can continue talking about so-called “event sponsors”, we have to clear up one thing: Businesses are not “sponsors” at an event … They are “advertisers”. They pay for the exposure, the right to be present with their branding and to interact with the riders at the event.

Unfortunately, since longboarding businesses are run by skaters and not marketing wizards, they failed to recognize this throughout the whole decade. Obviously, they didn’t have to pay much attention since the sales where OK and nobody really expected the good times to end so suddenly.

Compared to other sport industries, longboarding brands always managed to get away by “paying” the advertising with goods by giving a few decks to the event organizers. Obviously, for a smaller event, everything they can get their hands on will come in handy, but for big event organizers who actually have to provide with big media teams and much more complex event organization, a few pieces of gear is basically not sufficient compensation.

However, there were and still are a few brands left who are actually paying some money for the services delivered by the event organizers but their involvement is getting smaller from year to year as they make up excuses like “We are a small company and don’t have money”.

To sum it up, instead of investing in the scene to help it grow and promote their business, producers and retailers are cutting their financial involvement even more which doesn’t help anyone. After all, who can blame them when at this point they are basically fighting for their own survival.

Will skateboarding at the Olympics save the day?

The hopes are now all-in on the Olympics, hoping that someday downhill skateboarding will be a part of it and the sales will pick up where they stopped in 2016 … But let me ask you something – Does it really make sense to take an effort and include downhill skateboarding while, compared to other sports, there’s basically only a handful of downhill skateboarding riders around the world?

Thanks to less investing and thanks to the declining number of riders in general, we might see even more events disappear in the upcoming years while those who manage to stay intact might raise their prices.

Who can we blame, for real?

While this article is not aiming to blame anyone for the drop in the number of riders attending the events, probably the only thing we can all blame is the generation shift we started experiencing during the past few years.

Those who started skating back in 2009 when the boom started, are now 10 years older and most probably have other interests in life like a serious job, kids and so on … In simple words, they are not skating as much as they did and one thing the event organizers started noticing is that they are not coming back to their events.

Instead, there are more underaged riders on the scene. They are still in schools and they are financially still dependent on their parents. Getting the gear, traveling to an event and paying the registration fees is a big expense that’s only growing from year to year. Next to that, one thing to note is that they don’t own driving licenses or cars yet, making it so much harder for them to travel around on their own.

Finish line

What can we do now to make it better, you ask?

It will take a great group effort to get the scene back to where it was in 2016. The biggest events like Kozakov and KnK Longboard Camp will most likely continue running as usual but the advertisers will eventually have to step in or the number of riders attending the events will have to increase. Otherwise, the remaining riders might end up paying higher registration fees which could lead to the attendance to drop even further.

Rather than organising smaller events to continue breaking up the scene, it could be much better for local riders to organise classes and demo days in order to introduce new people to the scene.

The 2nd Xert Freeride by RidersFly is just around the corner

Xert Freeride - Photo by Carla Sanjuan

The RidersFly season opener will be the 2nd edition of Xert Freeride which will once again take place in a small town in Eastern Spain called Xert, on the 24th and 25th of March. The town is not more than 25 minute drive away from the sandy beaches of Vinaròs and only about 45 kilometres away from the Castellón–Costa Azahar airport.

Watch the video
1st Xert Freeride aftermovie by Bunker Media

With a population of 800 inhabitants where millenary olive trees, oil and typical pastas predominate, RidersFly expect nothing more that relaxed and friendly vibes.

The event’s track is located in “Les moles de Xert” on a 2.5 km long road with fast corners, forks and fast sections with speeds up to 75 km/h. The crew describes it is a technical circuit but at the same time very fun!

Photo collage from the 1st Xert Freeride in 2017

The price for this two day event is set at 75 eur and includes shuttles, rider insurance and an ambulance crew with a doctor, as well as camping and lunch.

To learn more about the event and register, visit www.ridersfly.com/ii-freeride-xert.

RidersFly Events 2018 Schedule
RidersFly Events 2018 Schedule includes 4 freeride events.

Abandoned towns, BBQ’s and longboarding – The 2017 Ghost Town Freeride

Ghost Town Freeride 2017

Organized by Sbanda Brianza, a Sports Club based in Brianza, Northern Italy, the Ghost Town Freeride is run by multiple adventurous skaters with a passion for longboarding and obsession for extreme sports.

Affiliated to FISR, the Italian Skateboarding Federation, the association is active in the Italian longboarding scene through event organization and get-togethers for riders with a “sbanda (swerve) state-of-mind”.

The Association is also deeply involved in offering longboard classes/camps for beginners, with certified instructors.

Ghost Town Freeride 2017
The Sbanda Brianza lifestyle – Adrenaline, music, bruised knees, wasted boards and parties!

GHOST TOWN FREERIDE

Ghost Town Freeride is a two-day event organized by Sbanda Brianza, and supported by FISR, the Italian Roller Sports Federation. It offers 48 hours of longboarding, skateboarding, music, adrenaline and bruised buttocks.

Ghost Town Freeride 2017

June 17th and 18th, 2017 will mark the second edition of Ghost Town Freeride.

Ghost Town Freeride 2017

Last year, more than 80 riders came from all over the Italian peninsula to skate the road that extends down from the peculiar ghost town of Consonno.

The track features 1.3 km of pure asphalt, with 10% average gradient and a 2016 track record of a top speed of 82-kph.

Ghost Town Freeride 2017

Consonno is an ancient village hidden in the hills around Lecco, close to the Alps. After being drastically turned into a little Las Vegas, it fell from grace in the mid-‘70s and the town slowly became uninhabited.

Nowadays, it has become one of the most famous longboarding spots in Northern Italy.

Ghost Town Freeride 2017

Ghost Town Freeride promotes the longboarding lifestyle by combining the sport together with its cultural side. This translates into a weekend of not only longboarding, but also music concerts, skate ramps, street-art corners, BBQs, street markets and a Saturday-night party to scare the ghosts away.

The registration fee for Ghost Town Freeride 2017 is set to 50 EUR which includes the event registration and a FISR membership.

For the registration form and more detailed event information visit the official Sbanda Brianza website or check out their Facebook event page.

Ghost Town Freeride 2017

Ghost Town Freeride 2017 sponsors, partners and supporters are:
FISR (Federazione Italiana Sport Rotellistici)
Comune di Olginate
Provincia di Lecco
Nilox
Zero31
Boardstyle
Assicomo
Carrozzeria Goglio
Officina Bonacina
Blossom Communication
Stage Diving

RidersFly longboard events schedule 2017

RidersFly 2017 7 Horquillas Freeride

RidersFly was a small crew of Spanish riders back in 2006. Since then, they grew and aren’t limited to only a group of adrenaline junkies anymore. Under their name you will find a competitive team, that takes part in national and international events, a school that prioritises safety and teaching newcomers, a junior team, swag longboard gear and of course freerides.

Their 2017 event plan includes 4 freerides, all taking part in small Spanish towns. If you’re in the mood to visit Spain next year, you should definitely stop at one of their events.

Xert Freeride, March 25th – 26th, 2017

First on the RidersFly calendar is Xert Freeride in March. The first edition of this freeride will take place in a small town called Xert in the province of Castellón (Spain). Located a few kilometers away from Salzadella and Sant Mateu, Xert is also conveniently located close to the airport.

The spot is amazing to skate and the town is very welcoming. We also like doing events in tiny villages because we prefer to bring tourism to small towns rather than large cities.  Maria Giner

RidersFly 2017 Xert Freeride
Sergio Sebastia turning into a right corner at the Xert Freeride track. Photo by Maria Giner

Besides the relaxed and local vibe, attendees will enjoy a 2.5 km long and dynamic road with a bunch of corners and sweapers. With the top speed of 75 km/h, Ridersfly makes sure you’ll get to feel the Spanish breeze.

Furthermore, Xert offers 2 days of freeriding with shuttles, rider insurance and an ambulance crew with a doctor. Moreover, rego also includes water during the event, two meals (lunch) and also a nice camping area in a sport center with showers and toilettes.

The riders limit is set to 100 skaters and the registration fee to 70 euros. If you are interested in Xert freeride, note that the registration starts on February 15th, 2017. All further information will be posted on their event page.

7 Horquillas Freeride, June 3rd – 4th, 2017

Second in line is 7 Horquillas Freeride in the beginning of June. This event will be held in a small village called Condemios de Arriba.

Until now the crew celebrated a birthday of a fellow team rider Tato with a small skate session, but next year they are doing it bigger than ever, as 7 Horquillas Freeride.

Located in the province of Guadalajara, the track is short but sweet. RidersFly said it’s technical, but offers a lot of fun with your friends.

RidersFly 2017 7 Horquillas Freeride
An aerial view of the 7 Horquillas Freeride track

Seven corners packed into 1.4 km of road promise a fun time, while the straights provide an adrenaline rush with a top speed of 80+ km/h.

The riders limit is set to 100, but there is no further information regarding the price at this moment. If you are interested in the 7 Horquillas Freeride, follow their social pages and website for fresh upcoming information.

Salzadella Freeride, July 28th – 30th, 2017

Salzadella is the most known event by RidersFly. Although last year they had decided to cancel their IDF race, because of the low number of riders, they made a decision to keep going with the freeride.

Furthermore, they are also considering doing a race, not and IDF race, but at this moment we can’t promise anything.

This well known track is 2.6 km long with fast corners and smooth pavement. Moreover, longboarders can reach a top speed of 105 km/h and streetlugers up to 115 km/h. In addition to the good protection of the track, marshals will be placed on every corner.

RidersFly 2017 Salzadella Freeride
A shot from last year’s Salzadella Freeride

This three day freeride will host 100 riders. The price of the registration in not know yet, but RidersFly promise that everyone will get their moneys worth. As per usual, rego includes shuttles, rider insurance, an ambulance team with a doctor and a protected track. Moreover, everybody will also get lunch, water during the freeride and will enjoy a camping area in a sports center with showers and toilettes.

Sant Mateu Freeride, October 28th – 29th, 2017

Last but definitely not least, October will mark the 6th Sant Mateu Freeride. The crew will stay in the province of Castellón, but this time move to a different village called Sant Mateu.

This event is described to be appropriate for all riding levels with it’s 1.2 km length, a few corners and some fast sections.

Moreover, the riders limit is not know yet, but the registration price is going to be 70 euros.

As on all RidersFly events, participants will be covered by a shuttle, insurance, ambulance team and two day’s lunch. Besides the track, the camping area is also backed with showers and toilettes to keep you clean after a hard day of riding.