(Photos for the following article were shot in Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood with the aid of a sheet of reflective plexiglas, a flatbed truck, and a dream.)
WORDS: STUART GOMEZ
PHOTOGRAPHY: ATIBA JEFFERSON
The parking lot at The Berrics is full, but that’s not out of the ordinary on a battle day. There’s an assortment of typical skater vehicles here: A couple of white cargo vans (for hauling teams from spot to spot), some early 90s hoopties (partially covered with Krooked or Theories of Atlantis stickers), and an immaculate late-model sports car with a license plate frame that says “I’d Rather Be Skateboarding.” Skaters need to represent, even during rush hour.
Today’s battle will be one for the history books. For one skater, the journey will be over. But for the winner… shit’s about to get real.
Tom Asta / Switch Heelflip
Each year, 32 flatground masters are invited to compete in The Battle At The Berrics, now in its eighth year. BATB is a must-watch event, with the winner taking home a one-of-a-kind sculpture by Haroshi (constructed from countless broken boards) and $25,000. But the true motivation is slightly more complex: BATB is the cream of the crop, the tip of the top, must-see, appointment skate entertainment. People tune in to see the best skaters demonstrating their skills, and when a winner is crowned, no one can dispute that he is the king of flat.
Eric Koston / Nollie Heelflip
In reality, BATB is simply about the fun of doing tricks with your friends. After all, this is how the event got its start in the first place. In early seasons, you’d get the impression that the skaters have all but forgotten that the cameras were pointed at them as they gave each other shit and joked around—maybe even landing a trick that they’d never tried before. The skaters that progress the furthest in this contest and make the biggest impact are typically the same guys that are at the park hours ahead of schedule, playing random games of S-K-A-T-E with their friends, laughing and enjoying themselves. To get the most out of the BATB experience, the best strategy really is no strategy.
In 2014, The Berrics opened up the floodgates and invited unknown skaters to submit some of their best flatground clips for the opportunity to be a participant in BATB7 (Pros v. Joes). The result was a deluge of incredible footy from all over the world, an unforgettable BATB season, and the crowning of a new champion: “Joe” Cody Cepeda.
PJ Ladd / Switch Flip
This year, The Berrics invited fans to vote for their favorite skaters to be included in the BATB8 brackets. Once again, virtual unknowns are pitted against pros, and with this year’s fully democratic element, BATB8 could reasonably be considered the “Fan Favorite” edition. Not surprisingly, at the top of the list are four veterans of the BATB scene: Tom Asta, PJ Ladd, Eric Koston, and Shane O’Neill.
Each of these four accomplished skaters have won (and lost) their fair share of battles over the past seven seasons, but they’d all agree that whether they win or lose, they’ll be having a shitload of fun. That’s the only way to truly level the playing field.
Shane O’Neill / 360 Flip, under the now defunct 4th Street Bridge