Yndiara Asp. Photos by Cindy Lopez

A report from Montreal’s new skateboarding championship & skatepark

Vans Park Series showcased the driving force behind skateboarding: support, community, equality and pure fun.

A new standard of skateboarding and community support was achieved this weekend in Montreal as a new legacy bowl was inaugurated with the Canadian stop of the global skateboarding competition Vans Park Series. 

After five years based in Vancouver, Vans Park Series (VPS) found a new Canadian home in Montreal’s Olympic Park. The legacy bowl, named the Vans Bowl, had been in the works for roughly two years as a collaborative effort between Vans and the Olympic Park to promote skateboarding in the city as a permanent fixture.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, male and female skaters from around the world competed, setting the standard of what’s possible on the new terrain. Fans, friends and families piled onto the bleachers to watch as Pedro Barros and Yndiara Asp claimed the top spots of the event with phenomenal and new runs.

In an enclosed booth just off the bowl itself, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk was recording the live web broadcast of the event. As he changed his shoes just before heading to the recording space, he noted the diverse terrain of the Vans Bowl, which “takes a lot more skill set” than when he was the one competing.

“The fact that there’s now skateparks in these places is the biggest difference. We would go make a halfpipe and then tear it down,” said Hawk. “I’m so thankful they’re providing these facilities.”

The entertainment wasn’t restricted to the bowl itself, but spilled onto the VPS “village” which included pop-up shops, games, caricatures by Bob’s Burgers character designer Jay Howell, creative griptape workshops, photo exhibitions and a mini skatepark open to the public.

Alex Kelso, a local parent, was there with her five-year-old son Kyle for the better part of two days, saying Kyle was having the “time of his life.”

“It’s a strong community. You can travel around the world and if you skateboard, you can go to any kind of skate spot and meet some new friends. That’s how you connect,” said Kelso. “Being here with this day with all the people loving skateboarding is so amazing. It’s a special day.”

Annie Guglia

After skating the mini park on Friday, Kyle immediately went home to call his friend Max, urging her to join him the next morning. Max, eight, who was wearing a purple and pink leopard helmet topped with a rubber mohawk, was one of the young girls receiving free lessons from Annie Guglia at the park’s Skate Skool.

Community and encouragement is the driving force behind not only this event, but skateboarding, and it’s a community that now more than ever is including women. Guglia has been a staple in the Montreal women’s skateboarding scene for years, and an active voice in advocating for it. Not only was she hosting lessons, it was also her first time competing in the event.

“It’s awesome to have girls and guys paid the same. Not just paid but getting recognized the same. It inspires the little girls to come to the skate park and feel welcome,” said Guglia.

Lizzie Armanto

She also noted the quick growth of women participation in recent years.

“In 2012 we knew every single girl in Montreal. There were 18 of us and we all knew each other. Now if I go to a skatepark there’s at least two girls I’ve never seen before,” she said. “The interest of girls is growing a lot faster than guys right now.”

It’s the recent surge of female participation in Canada that pushed Vans Global Marketing Director Bobby Gascon to finally include women at every VPS stop. He explained that encouraging this participation was key for this year’s Montreal event.

“I have a sweet spot for what we’ve been able to achieve with women and to see the level from the first events we’ve done in 2015 to how some of them are so good today, how much they’ve excelled and performed and the field is growing,” said Gascon. “You can already kind of see the legacy for skateboarding’s future and how it’s growing and prospering for women. For me, that’s the biggest achievement.”

Lizzie Armanto, Yndiara Asp and Jordyn Barratt

Equal participation and recognition was also a key in the new Vans Bowl itself. Gascon said the previous location at Hastings Bowl in Vancouver was built at a time where women were less involved, thus designed with a strictly male perspective.

“This is a VPS certified course, where it’s a key even playing field,” he says. “Women are as impressive as the men, the park is designed accordingly where we have both women and men approving the designs before we go into final production.”

While Montreal is only now getting state of the art skateparks, it has been named one of the best skate cities in Canada for quite some time.

Calgary-born Riley Boland has been a competitor is VPS for a number of years, and a known face in skateboarding around the world. Montreal, however, holds his highest praise.

“I love Montreal, it’s the best skate city to me. The scene, the people. It’s a tighter scene, you can skate anywhere and there’s people around,” says Boland. “I’m excited that [this bowl is] permanent. Obviously Hastings is always there, but these bowls usually when you skate them they’re just temporary. This one’s forever.”

For all the competitors, the new bowl meant a new terrain to figure out, leaving out any chance for a familiarity advantage.

Pedro Barros, who has now taken home first place at the Canadian VPS stop for three consecutive years, says he just wanted to have a good time. After an impressive run by Cory Juneau, Barros needed a major score to surpass Juneau in the standings. But instead, took the opportunity to have the most fun he could on his last run.

“When you’re out skating with your friends having a good time, it’s usually about that and the results are usually consequences. I was already pretty satisfied thinking Cory [Juneau] won the contest today because his run was insane,” says Barros. “So I kind of just got in my last run like ‘whatever, all or nothing here, second’s good enough for me, or third.’ I’m really stoked I got to be here in Canada another time and have a good time with my friends and walk out with the first place, which is insane.”

Pedro Barros

In the end, Pedro Barros was followed by Cory Juneau in second and Tristan Rennie in third. Sharing the first place podium for the women was Yndiara Asp, Lizzie Armanto came in second, and Jordyn Barratt finished third.

Tristan Rennie, Cory Juneau and Pedro Barros

Barros was beaming, continuing to skate the new bowl with the other competitors once the event was over. After changing his shirt a few times, he took a break from skating and praised the Canadian skate scene, noting that if it wasn’t so cold, he would move here. “Canada has an insane vibe. The people still have a really good energy and they bring that out when they’re here cheering on. This park came out amazing.” ■