Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Part 3 Flatchat with Diversion TV's Bobby Carter

Great stuff Bobby, not much left to ask you... Is there anything you think I've missed???
I guess we could talk about tricks. Chad Johnston and I had a huge discussion about how styles are being funneled into a similar direction compared to back in the day and the need for the older school riders who have a different set of skills to keep putting their new tricks out there... That could be interesting.
It's up to you.

You judge some of the biggest contests currently, ninja spin, voodoo for example, do you think for the most part riding had reached a stagnant point, everyone’s doing very similar stuff...
I wouldn't say that progression is stagnant, but it has slowed down and also it's mostly going in a similar direction with few exceptions. Contests pre-1997 was about showing off new tricks and at the end of a pro run, you definitely were going to see a very new trick that may not have been dialed. Touching didn't matter as much back then. These days, touching matters a lot! A couple of touches and you may not qualify. Everyone plays it safe.
Most pros are concentrating on the contest circuits, so they have to stay dialed. Staying dialed and learning new tricks are two different objectives- both take a lot of time. Not only that, but it seems that since the late 90s more and more stylistic "rules" have come into play that I think is pushing a lot of riders towards the same style of riding and limiting the variety in creativity we used to see.
It used to be "freestyle." The only rule was don't touch the ground. These days, you hear all sorts of rules, "don't touch the tyre, don't change directions, don't scuff, step in on one side, step out on the other, don't use brakes" and on and on it goes. For an individual rider to set rules for him or herself, it may push the rider to progress and innovate. However, for all riders to follow the same set of rules, in my opinion, is limiting the variety of progression of what can be done on a bike. Riders are restricting themselves to innovating in similar ways.
Flatland's main focus used to be pushing the limits to total mastery of the bike. Riders wanted to explore what could be done. Check out the Dorkin's and Baco's. Now it's more about how can I spice up my contest routine.
On top of that, if riders try to learn something that drastically different from what they can already do, it's going to take much longer to learn and even longer to get dialed for the contest. For the most part people stay in the same general area when they learn new tricks.
There's so much unexplored territory and paths that were started that have since been abandoned. For example, all the decade to pedal tricks that Dylan Worsley did in the Loiter videos. All those tricks are VERY difficult even to this day. Nobody really touches that style or incorporates it with the riding of today.
Eventually I think there's going to be a group of riders that branch off from the contest scene and just innovate. Perhaps they will follow what Martti and Viki did with the Impulsivity video. Learn a trick, get it on tape and move to the next trick.
I know that there are some older guru riders out there that are still innovating with a much different skill set than the new school riders. I think the older, guru riders need to start dropping more videos to show their latest innovations and inspire the new school riders. I also hope that the older riders are inspired by the new riders and incorporate new styles into their bag of tricks. We should all be pushing each other to progress! No limits!

Perhaps stagnant was a strong word, I've always believed in almost like a flatland utopia. Ie, there's a hardest way to do a particular a combo, for me the judging should be a bit harder on the riders. At the moment it seems as though the judges are overlooking originality almost turning a blind eye to it. Like you say riders are playing safe, I think that's one of reasons why flat comes across as boring to general public. People like to see someone put on the line, of course there are video tricks and contest tricks, but being conservative doesn't really help anyone in the bigger picture..
What's going on with originality these days is that most pro riders are doing original tricks. They just happen to be the same original tricks they've been doing for the last 5-8 years or more. When you judge, you have to judge a rider for what they do in their run, that day. You cannot say, I saw him do XYZ trick at this other contest or at the parking lot years ago, so points off.
I will tell you that if touching doesn't matter, things get super exciting, quickly, for the people at the event. The best example is the very first Voodoo Jam. During the final 3 man battle, we had to judge only what the rider pulled, if a rider touched, points were not deducted. Since riders couldn't repeat tricks, it pushed them to try harder combos that weren't dialed.
However, watching riders touch all the time doesn't make for good TV/video clips though. Another issue...
I think video parts from outside the contest realm, push the progression of tricks the most.

Of course you have to judge what happens in the run, I would disagree on the originality though... A few riders do original tricks, the majority pad their in out with filler. I think the only way it will change is if the judging gets tougher and actually becomes a record of what happens, some judges may be swayed on a decision by a famous name. I'm not convinced all judges know who did what when?
There is a lot of filler. Some riders go in hit their main trick and roll out. Others do a bunch of filler, hit their original switch, then more filler and roll out.
So much happens during a pro flatland run, you would really need a video camera to really evaluate thoroughly what happens.
At a contest, you don't have that kind of time.
Usually the organizer is pushing you because they need to keep the whole event on time.
No one really knows all the tricks and their origins. You might see one trick and think, that came out in this year and that guy was doing it. Then you meet someone from another country and you find out another guy was doing the same thing years before.
Judges getting swayed, by famous names, riding expectations, the crowds enthusiasm, guys half pulling hard tricks and not finishing the combo, small touches that are easily over looked. All that and more are issues you have with judging flatland.
Judging flatland is very difficult and a formula that will never be agreed upon. It's like judging paintings.
Flatland is complicated. It's not like BMX racing where the first one over the finish line wins.

I hear you Bobby, the worlds is coming up this weekend as you know, any predictions for the top three?
Catfish answered this question one time - The guy who rides the best will get first, the guy who rides 2nd best gets second, and the guy who rides 3rd best gets third. HA! HA! HA! Anybody could ride well and anybody could fall all over the place.
I don't even try to predict. I just watch and see. Trying to predict could cause a judge to be biased to his or her own expectations when scoring the runs! Oh no! We're back to the judging issue! AAAAHhh help! ;-)
Effraim, You've seen evolution from way back, all the KOC events, etc. How would you compare flatland these days to the Dorkin' era. Let's say around Dorkin' 5?

I would say back then the riders featured in Dorkin 5 were groundbreaking, original tricks, stands out of course Kevin Jones and Chase Gouin, a video such as Dorkin' 5 was dedicated to pushing the creative side as much as possible, the only thing recently that I think has come close to that in terms of thinking along the same lines is the KGB vid. That was a Dorkin video of our time, the difference was that video took years to film and Dorkins were filmed in less than a year. There are of course similarities, to be perfectly honest I haven't been that impressed with much of the riding I see nowadays, I'd take that Dorkin era over now anyday. Was more about the riding less attitude.
That also might be because the riding level is so high these days. It took Martti and Viki years to make this last video, how long will it take for them to make the next video? On top of that, a lot of those tricks were hit only one time on camera. It's like the energy and dedication to make something ground breaking is so high, you almost have to dedicate your life to doing just that, not trying to get it all dialed for the comp. It's easier just to innovate with new combinations of switches that may not have been done before. The difficulty might not be increased, the main positions may be the same, but the newness is in the creativity of the switch.
To me it feels like we are entering into the next era after the formative years. New positions are rare, but now everyone can compose an infinite number of combinations with those positions. Then, with the influence of styles from all the past years, things could really be interesting.
Martti told me in Thailand that he realized that a lot of riders who started around 1998, are very good riders, but limited by the fact that they are missing some basic moves and bike control that riders learned who started before that time. It was holding them back.
What do you mean by "less attitude"?

Back then I didn't feel any attitude, and certainly didn't see it, nowadays I see other riders cutting up other riders deliberately, that brings a bad vibe to the whole feel of the contest, it's nature of beast with battling I guess, the whole battle format way of doing contests is very cut throat, is probably more media friendly. But I don't think it's as good for the rider.
I think that attitude is part of the contest scene. It's competitive. People want to win. That coupled with small riding areas, means in the practice session you have to muscle your way in to get a combo going. Even before battle format, that 1-up mentality came through at contests.

TV definitely feeds off drama.

There might be a division of riders in the future. You'll have your contest riders (getting their routine dialed), your street-style riders (just straight progressing with a large variety of tricks, perhaps not super dialed, but brings something new to the table often), bomb droppers (very few, but SUPER hard tricks), and show riders (focusing on performances). Of course people will be a combination of different types, but will focus more in some categories than others.
If teams can make use of all these different riders, I think you'll see flatland growing to be all it can be in various areas.

I think there already are a division of riders, like you say, its just not happened competitively, I know with myself im not confrontational like that, to be snaking people, generally getting in the way, for me that doesnt interest me, but like you say i'm already inside the sport, so im hooked anyway, in a sense i dont matter.
I agree that competition is good, definitely helps the sport progress, always has done, always will.
It will be interesting to see how TV make flatland look, focussing on the rivalries of competitors for me would be one of the most interesting focus points. I know when Mirra competed in vert at X Games, the rivalry with him and Bestwick was fierce, and personally I loved that, and I'm sure the viewers did to.

They (ESPN) set it up Trevor Meyer Vs. Andrew Faris too.
Back to the division of riders- I think when sponsors can understand the true value of all kinds of riders, not just contest riders, we will see the riding progress differently and flatland will make it's way to many more outlets successfully.

Yes I remember that rivalry, I competed at the same time, was intense, the machine against the artist, rivalry is definitely good for progression, I just don't think it's good when it gets to personal. I guess there's positives and negatives to every scenario.
Wait, I think we're getting a little confused.
I think that 1up mentality started in the contest scene pre-battle format and increased since the battle format started. It's cool for the contest scene, not when it carries over between riders as people though.
When I speak of the division of riders, I don't mean that there is a rivalry between the riders, I just mean riders can specialize in their personal approach to riding.
Way back, the contest wasn't the main focus, so the free form style of riding you see in Dorkin' and Baco, was main way people approached riding. These days it's mostly the contest mentality.
This is all good. However, I think we will start to see more riders with different approaches to riding in the future. Sponsors willing to support non-contest style riders will help that development.
That would be awesome, guys like Chad Johnston, Jesse Puente and Pete Brandt spring to my mind, great riders who don't compete much anymore but contribute in other ways, equally as valid as riding the contest circuit.
Yes! And the list keeps going with older riders and new riders! There's a lot of valuable talent out there that is overlooked by sponsors because the rider is outside the contest scene.

This is Kind of off topic but related to what we were talking about with jams and how they do more for the growth of flat, these are often attended by guys such as Chad, Jesse, Pete B, especially in Cali where you almost have a circuit of jams going on periodically. Do the jams in Cali show any evidence of helping the sport grow there?
I think the main thing that it does is keeps the scene going. It's only a few times a year the the riders from all over really get together and have fun. After a jam, you feel like you're part of a group. Like a family reunion or something.
There's a couple of new faces here and there, but for the most part it's the same group of riders every time for the last 6 or 7 years. I think there are other issues at hand that keep new people from riding.
In 1999 there were about 25 everyday riders in the socal area between the ages of 18-25. These days there's only a few riders in that age group. Most riders are 26 and over.
How have the jams influenced the scene in the UK?

Hmm, I would say the jams have a more positive effect in terms of numbers riding than contests do here. The most positive i've seen the Uk scene in a while was last year at the Southsea groundroots contest and James Whites birthday jam, on both occasions it rained,the Southsea contest turned into a jam in the rain, people overcame the weather factor, and the atmosphere generated from the fact it rained and we overcame was something I think is unique to the uk scene. I dont think riders are fussed with contests here, what matters to them is the social side, getting together, riding, meeting new people.
In the grand scheme of things, that's what matters the most.
Everyone around the world coming together and having fun, doing what we do with flatland! When we're all old, what will stand out in our minds will be the fun we had along our journey with flatland no matter where it goes. (((Worldwide!)))


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1 comment:

tod.borndead said...

Thanks for doing this interview and commenting on topics yourself. I agree with almost everything you and Bobby talk about. Very good read...and I think a lot of people should read this and should consider what you "old timers" say. Sorry, I'm older than you...but excellent read! Thanks again.