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Gavin's Underground

SLUG's Ghettolympics

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2008-07-17 -

Forget your average “extreme sports” competitions on TV, this one is worth watching and attempting!

The 9th annual Summer Of Death series hits the streets of Salt Lake City again, challenging the finest the state has to offer, bringing in new twists to your usual challenges, while still keeping the excitement of competition and fun about the event. This Saturday kicks off with the series with “Ghettolympics” over by the downtown Sears, with more dates coming down the road. I got the chance to ask Mike Brown (SLUG writer and Events Coordinator) about this weekend's competition, Summer Of Death, his thoughts on skateboarding, and some other stuff that came to mind.

Mike Brown (and his cat!)

http://www.summerofdeath.com

Gavin:
  What's up Mike. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

Mike: I’m Mike Brown and I have like 5 jobs right now.  I bartend at night and Hustle Snowboard equipment at day.  By Duties at SLUG are as follows:  I write a monthly opinion column for the mag, I do ad sales, and I am also the Events Coordinator for our amazing Snowboarding and Skateboarding contests!

Gavin: For those who don't know, what is Summer Of Death?

Mike: The Summer Of Death is what we call our annual skateboard contest series.  We produce at least two comps every summer, sometimes three or four.  

Gavin: Where did the idea for it come from, and what was the process like getting it from idea to reality.

Mike: I’m not sure where the idea to call the contests the Summer of Death came from, as far as I know no one has ever died in one of our contests,  but just in case someone does, we are fully insured.

Gavin: When and why did you take over planning for it?

Mike: I took over four summers ago, because SLUG asked me to.  I used to manage Salty Peaks Snowboard shop so they knew I had experience in such matters.  Taking over has been one of the funnest and best things I’ve ever done with my life.

Gavin: Has it been difficult or easier for you to plan from year to year?

Mike: It gets easier year after year.  The consistency of good events has helped us solidify sponsors and I also work with an awesome hand picked crew of SLUG Staffers that are experienced at planning events and make my job easy.

Gavin: Tell is about the Ghettolympics!

Mike: The Ghettolympics is going to be kind of a jam style contest in north side of the Sears Parking lot off of State Street between 700 and 800 south.  We will be holding different skateboarding events that have never been done before, The Hippie High Jump Hurdle, Longest Power Slide, and Synchronized Skateboarding.  For more details check out our
website

Gavin: A lot of the events aren't your typical skating displays or competition-like events. Was it done that way simply to be original, or because you were looking for contests that would be a challenge?

Mike: We wanna set ourselves apart for sure.  Not in an elitist arrogant ‘we’re better than you’ sort of way, but skate contests can get pretty routine and pretty boring.  I feel like we are giving back to the skaters and local skateboard scene by keeping our stuff original and fun.

Gavin: Have there ever been any issues with it over the years, or has the city and the skaters been pretty cool with everything?

Mike: There’s always issues and you’re never going to keep everyone happy so I don’t really try any more.  Whether its skaters complaining about unfair judging or crappy ramps, or upset soccer moms thinking their kid should have won.  I try to make things as fair and smooth as possible but I want skaters to come to our events to first and foremost have fun, and not worry about ‘winning’.  Most skaters get it and that’s been part of our success.  As far as the City goes, I’ve never had any beef with them and they’ve never really helped out.  We do most of our comps on private properties and not in skate parks.  But insurance is usually the biggest hurdle.

Gavin: This year marks the 9th annual event, and this is your fourth year planning it. What are the differences you see between this year and the first year you started?

Mike: The biggest difference is probably that there are just more kids skateboarding.  Its more popular.  I’ve noticed more little kids at our events and more parents involved, which is pretty cool.  Skateboarding isn’t as rebellious as it was when we started, and although I personally kind of miss that it’s helped legitimize what we do so I guess that’s a good thing.

Gavin: What's your opinion on the way skateboarding is handled by the city and state?

Mike: My personal opinion as to how the city and state handles skateboarding varies and would require a 10,000 word blog to explain it, so I’ll try to be brief.  When I started skating there was no such thing as a skatepark and we were treated just like vandals spray painting graffiti (a lot of us did graffiti too though).  Some how skateboarding got popular and marketable and there have been good things and bad things that have happened.  The best example is the skate parks. The local bureaucrats are now willing to shell out tax dollars for parks which is great, but sometimes they build them wrong or not as good as they should be.  That’s the easiest way I can sum it up.  But on a personal level I’ve paid way to many skateboarding tickets (just like traffic tickets but for doing something harmless and fun) to really gain the respect of the city and state in regards to skateboarding.

Gavin: Is there anything you wish you could change?

Mike: There’s about a billion things I wish I could change but over all skateboarding in Salt Lake City is great right now.  I’ve always tried to have the mind set that if you don’t like something don’t complain, do something about it.  Instead of complaining about how there’s no good skate spots in Salt Lake, build your own!  That’s one thing SLUG lets me do with the contests and its awesome.

Gavin: What's your take, both good and bad, on the way "extreme sports" are presented nowadays with the X-Games and time on ESPN?

Mike: The popularity of extreme sports have always gone in waves and right now as far as that goes I think we are on the way down or that it’s plateaued.  It’s good that pros can make a legitimate living doing what they love, but it’s bad that corporate people who once viewed us as vandalizing trouble makers now wanna cash in and make a buck off of what we’ve been doing all along, you know who you are!  But I guess it’s that way with a lot of things.  It happened to punk rock, it can happen with anything.

Gavin: Is there anything you think could be done to make it better?

Mike: I have no idea what could make things better other than me not worrying about the kind of stuff I can’t control too much. Just trying to focus on making my events how I want them.

Gavin: Do you see anything on the horizon changing for skateboarding, or do you think things will remain the same for a few more years?

Mike: Other than the silly fashion trends that seem to go in and out of skateboard culture I don’t forecast too much changing.  I think it will stay popular for a while because of all the skateparks we have now.  There’s no excuse not to skate now.  But I do foresee the big baggy raver pants coming back, I don’t know why but I think its gonna happen.

Gavin: What can we expect from Summer Of Death the rest of the year?

Mike: I don’t like to divulge too much info about what we do, I don’t want anyone biting my style. But we do have another comp on August 16th, check the
website for details!

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug?

Mike: Yeah I’ll plug
SLUG, our MySpace page, and my monthly column that doesn’t get plugged enough but read it and let me know what you think!  I’ll plug myself at mikebrown@slugmag.com.  And I might as well plug my eBay store to try to hustle some stuff, Big Air Bargain Bin.  And all our Summer Of Death sponsors and all the local shops that keep skateboarding alive and breathing in Salt Lake, we can’t do this cool stuff without you guys!  So support your local shred shop and Skate Or Die.

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