Relive the chaos of the Vans Shop Riot 2023 as skate shops from across the country descended on Cardiff for two days of fire-breathing fun.
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If you're reading this it probably means one of two things: either you were foolish enough to not clear your calendar in order to make it down for the event or, like us, your recollection of events have been somewhat clouded by excessive consumption of fermented, grain-based beverages. Despite our somewhat hazy memory, we're gonna do our best to try summarise as much of the chaos as possible, but luckily the far more attentive legends over at The Skateboarder's Companion have got their own recap and photo gallery to help fill in the blanks.
Kickin' things off with a raucous jam at Bute on the Friday, the mischievous minds behind Fore-Cast and Carve Wicked devised a suitably Welsh obstacle for the occasion which the legends at Slap Ramps quickly made a reality. Complete with an assortment of ramps and banks and a dragon head quarterpipe on top, everyone quickly got to work skating the contraption in every way possible, whether that was hitting the quarter on top, gapping over the middle section or just launching straight over the top in true Keen Will fashion.
However, much like the fictional dragon it was modelled on, the fearsome beast soon began to claim the lives of those around it. Brave Stevie Thompson suffered the worst of its wrath, badly breaking his arm as he did battle with the creature, almost leading to further casualties as squeamish onlookers began to faint at the sheer brutality of it. However, like an absolute trooper, he still managed to make it down to Spit and Sawdust after his surgery the next day so hopefully he'll be back on the board in no time. Wishing him a speedy recovery!
With the Bute Jam promptly shut down following the bloodshed, the hordes of already fairly rowdy skaters migrated across the road to Jacob's Market for the afterparty, where it all spiralled further into chaos. My main recollections of this stage of this stage of the night are frantically searching for the fabled free beer tokens while being hounded by Oscar and the Gaffer looking like he was about to fall asleep leaning on the sink at any minute. As all good nights end, everyone eventually gravitated towards Fuel where, against all odds, the Gaffer seemed to have a second wind and was soon back on top form.
As the survivors of the first day began to drag themselves out of bed with their heads absolutely pounding, preparations were well underway for the main event at Spit and Sawdust. Cardiff's finest indoor skateboarding establishment had been given a serious makeover with the addition of an Only Cans outdoor bar (complete with a photobooth) as well as a load of Vans branding and some bonus obstacles in the park, including an extension for the big halfpipe and a hectic rainbow rail over the manny pad.
Things soon started heating up as qualifiers began and the chosen champions from 19 of the UK's finest shops started battling it out. Blood was spilled early on as Keen Will took a nasty slam on the rainbow rail (after cruising over it first try before the heat actually began) resulting in the second hospitalisation of the weekend - but thankfully the last (to the best of my knowledge). It was sick seeing so many new people skating spit and bringing their own flavour to the newly renovated park, especially Black Sheep's Jiri Bulin who skated it in ways that few people would think of and even fewer could actually pull off.
With a load of the UK's finest skate shops in attendance making it through to the final round was never gonna be easy. Our boys fought hard with Oscar laying down hammers on the rail and the hip, Jack getting tasteful on the ledge and Gabe floating one of his signature kickflips over the box, but unfortunately the competition was really tough and they didn't quite make it to the finals. They'll always be winners in our eyes though. Smashed it boys!
Unsurprisingly there was absolutely no messing about in the finals as the five teams battled it out for the top spots, with Lost Art, Black Sheep, Route One, Super Eight and Flatspot going head to head. The level of skating was absolutely bonkers with some runs that could've been lifted straight out of Street League. You can't really argue with doing hardflip backlip and treflip noseblunt mid run but we'd still rather watch Lost Art or Black Sheep's runs instead.
Last but definitely not least we had the Best Trick contest with a chaotic banger-a-minute jam on the street section before an absolutely bonkers session on the Vans extension in the bowl. Of course the main event was the one-man demo himself, Dean Greensmith, who rattled off countless death-defying manoeuvres including a terrifying feeble fakie and switch front rock to win the overall prize, as well as Carve Wicked CEO, Sam Pulley who pulled out his signature Dragon grind to earn the appropriately-titled Dragon Award. Always a pleasure watching these two in action!
Of course we've got to say a huge thank you to Amanda, Manhead and the rest of the legends over at Vans for all the hard work they put in making the event a reality and for even choosing Cardiff to host it. We've also got to thank the legends from Slap Ramps, Carve Wicked and Fore-Cast for all their graft sorting out the Bute Square Jam; Christian and all the lovely staff at Spit and Sawdust for their endless hospitality and patience; and of course all the shops and spectators who made the mission to come take part! While there's an argument to be made that everyone who attended was a winner in some shape or form, you can check out the more official winners below:
Dragon Award: Sam Pulley
Best Trick: Dean Greensmith
3rd Place: Route One - Diggs English, Jordan Sharkey, Tony McSorley
2nd Place: Black Sheep - Jiri Bulin, Leo Turner, Seb Batty
1st Place: Super Eight - Joe Hinson, Josh Mayson, Joe Hill