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Created by T. Gentsch | Feature

ESC Basel 2018

A family feast of it's own kind!

Photos & Text: T. Gentsch

There we were, it was Sunday evening in front of the YMCA Hostel in Basel where skaters young and old, male and female, from 7 different nations sat together and reviewed some history of the legendary ESC Basel contest. Alexis Jouzion, Martin Karas, David Luther and myself were actually present for the first contest in 2001! Since then, Alexis has switched his role from competitor to contest judge, and we reminisced shooting a photo of a 360 flip together. Despite French being his mother tongue, he still remembered perfectly the caption I had given the photo 17 years ago! Our group has grown a few grey hairs since the first contest, but we’ve also traveled places we only dreamed of and even after all that time, we’ve remained good friends. Honestly, it’s all possible because of our incredible love and passion for this wooden toy with four wheels. Welcome to the biggest skateboarding celebration in Europe, the ESC Basel!

When I look back on the article from 2001 that’s mentioned above, I can’t help but smile at the picture of Steffi Weiß next to Alexis. At the time, Steffi was one of the best female skaters in Europe and Basel was one of the first contests to offer a female division. Even back then, the level of female talent was high, but what the women did in 2018 on the Basel course was seriously impressive. Julia Brückler is a true athlete and 14 year old Kees Oldenbeuring show that women’s skateboarding is heading for an incredible new era. The crowd today really goes wild for what the girls have to offer on the course. Many female skaters had a relatively similar look and style years ago, but today, the girls aren’t afraid to show true individuality in both their personal style and their skateboarding – that’s the way it should be!

Skaters from a total of 13 nations competed in the men’s division of the contest - A pretty remarkable turnout! It was definitely interesting to see how many pro riders would be showing up in the early stages of the contest. In the end, 130 skaters were present and it was easy to see that the German skaters, considered by many to be great contest skaters, have a lot of catching up to do to compete with skaters from other European nations! Only 25 skaters were set to make it into the finals. Germans Alex Mizurov, Justin Sommer, Titus Mönchengladbach Teamrider Dominik Wenzel and Titus Osnabrück rider Mika Möller made the cut to face up against strong French competition in the finals.

Highest Ollie Contest

The next side event was the “Creapure highest ollie contest”. Marcel Rieger and Alex Mizurov both reached their limits at a crazy 97cm. As both reported, it was not so much the height of the jump that was difficult, but rather to judge when to pop while keeping your eye on the height bar. They both determined they had reached their max and decided to split the winnings between them.

P-Stone Memorial Challenge

“P-Stone Forever” was the motto of a new “side event” that took place this year in Basel. Preston Maigetter was an acclaimed photographer/filmmaker for Thrasher Magazine. His life was taken just a year ago in a tragic car accident involving his close friend and fellow skateboarder Cory Kennedy. I met P-Stone on a few joint tours years ago and I can definitely say that everything you hear about him is true. Whether on his board, behind the camera, or at the BBQ grill, he was busy having the time of his life with people he loved.

In memory of Preston, event organizer Oli created a wallride event which began with a collective opening of beer cans (which were distributed beforehand), which was enough to give anyone goosebumps. The side event began soon after, which offered a hard battle for the skaters to get on the 1,50m vert wall! Jürgen Horrwarth paid his respects with an epic frontside nosegrind tailgrab.

OG Game of S.K.A.T.E

The OG Game of S.K.A.T.E. featured an intense final round between Alex Mizurov and Kilian Zehnder. Announcer David Luther predicted that the game might last a few hours, but you have to factor in that Kilian partied pretty hard the night before while Alex got a good night’s rest. This was certainly an advantage, but “Mizze” really threw down some tricks that would be hard for anyone to land first try, including a Frontside Double Flip and a Switch Laserflip. Alex is a true flatground master, but it was certainly a game for both skaters!

On Saturday evening, those who didn't have to skate the next day drove to Portland. This is a huge DIY Bowl and essentially an awesome party spot. Beer was sold here for a "donation" (just pay what you think) which made the guests especially happy considering the high prices in Switzerland. Besides yet another session (these guys can’t put their board down!) there was live music, drinking, laughing and an all-around “family” party atmosphere that couldn’t be beat.

On Sunday, the skaters shook off their hangover quite well and were back in the game. The Dutch skaters, many of which were a driving force behind the cheering crowd on Saturday, were however a little quieter, not sure why THAT could be… The crowd was certainly roaring again for Mika Möller’s run though. He might be accused of being awarded extra points for his age, but rest assured, the judges claim that he wasn’t given any special treatment for his age, he really killed it! Not only did he deliver gnarly runs, he did so without copying the same runs over like some skaters. One run included a backside lipslide, while the next run stepped it up with a kickflip back lip. The Basuha Scoring System allowed for a direct evaluation after each run. This made it extra intense as Mika was fighting to keep his position as the last German in the final rounds!

The level of skill at the 2018 ESC would have been hard to imagine just 10 years ago. Aurelien Giraud essentially tore the park to pieces, but in the end, Benjamin Garcia convinced the judges with a  winning run. Just watching the contest you will think “I’d hate to have to judge that!”. Mika earned a respectable 7th place and, according to Alexis later that evening, he had gone under the nickname “our kid” by the judges. Again, you can tell that it’s treated like a real family atmosphere, even if Mika wasn’t aware of his nickname at the time. Who knows, maybe in 10 years Mika will join the judge committee and learn that he has been the “kid” of the skate family all along!

Thanks to all the sponsors including Titus, the City of Basel, and of course Oli Bürgin for the amazing event!