Interview by Daniel Nodzak
Images provided by Ryan Loewy
Video by ButterTV
Ryan Loewy is the Chief Photo Editor at Be-mag.com and the owner of Rudy NY. I got the chance to talk with him about his latest collaboration, the upcoming LES Survivor Series, which he is hosting alongside NYC staples, Mal Ashby, Craig Benabu, and JP Primiano.
The LES Survivor Series takes place on Saturday April 13th at the lower east side skatepark in Manhattan.
Hey Ryan thanks for taking some time to talk with us about your latest competition. It sounds like you’ve got a solid group working together on this so why don’t you start by telling us about the team behind the LES Survivor series.
Thanks dude, appreciate the opportunity to chat. The LES Survivor Series is the brainchild of Mal Ashby, a talented blader and fashion guru (you see that TOO EASY collab tee?) who aptly goes by the name AIRTOTHE as donned by Kanye West - (yes, this is true, just ask Mal the story), Craig Benabu of I ROLL NY (11 years in the game of promoting and cultivating the NY scene), JP Primiano of Butter TV (one of the most gifted videographers I've met who continuously produces beautiful documentations on blading) , and myself (a rookie in training).
It was Mal's idea originally to host a competition and to do it at LES park ( aka Coleman Skate Park in the Lower East Side of Manhattan). While hosting street comps are always ideal, they yield much more of a liability, so to keep it concrete, the park felt fitting and it hasn't seen a competition in a while.
What are your goals for this contest?
Aside from just kicking off the 2019 NYC season and getting people psyched on skating, we are looking to incorporate and promote different disciplines of skating. I think it is important that we recognize the these facets that make up the sport; they're critical to one another and pertinent to overall growth. So we decided to depart from the standard format and break it down into 4 different events : a best spin contest, a longest cess slide contest, a lap race, and a game of skate. We are looking to not only encourage the existing participants in the sport, but hopefully cultivate some new comers as well. I feel the lap race is going to be something that will be nifty to include in this.
Last October you hosted your first contest, the Astoria Park Professional Conference, are there any specific lessons you’ve taken away from that contest and kept in mind while organizing the Survivor series?
I'll be blunt: I've been weary about sponsors. I have had great relationships with a lot of them, but I have had on more than one occasion people either bailing or not sending products, or let alone promoting the event, even after they get their bargain of a deal, which is essentially advertising. And I am not saying I have some sort of clout or anything, but I ensure to perform my due diligence and promote those that are involved and supportive of the project accordingly. So when that fails, it is always disheartening. I won't lie, part of me is like, " you know, you're a fucking asshole.", but I bite my tongue about it, because really, it isn't going to do shit. That said though, I have learned heavily that just because I may put in a certain amount of effort into these projects doesn't mean someone is going to do the same and, most importantly, I shouldn't expect it either. And it doesn't make them a bad person, it just makes them a person I do not want to work with in the future.
Okay, on a related note I’m going to put you in the hot seat for a moment. What do you think are some of the most common mistakes made by contest organizers?
Not having your ducks in a row from the beginning. Planning is absolutely key and you can never be over prepared in my opinion. Competitions aren't just putting a flyer together and picking a spot to compete. Prize money is a nightmare to put together if you aren't working with the right people. Don't expect that to be funded by anybody but the people involved in putting the contest on. Yeah, you can do a Go Fund Me to raise the money, which sometimes works, but I wouldn't depend on it. Art direction, such as flyers and means of promoting should be figured out long before you even announce the competition. Logistics of the competition are another aspect. Where is the comp being held? Is it accessible? How is the competition going to flow? How are you going to be able to attract a large crowd? Who's judging? How do you judge? There are a lot of elements that need to align in order for a competition to truly succeed. I think one of the reasons something like Winterclash or Blading Cup are staples in the industry is because of the amount of thought and planning that go into it; the people involved are invested in the project and want it to be better every year.
This might be a difficult question to answer but how do you measure the success of a new contest? Let's ignore the major comps like Winterclash and Blading Cup, but is it useful to compare it with more established local and regional events?
That is definitely a tough question, because what is success really? I know for a fact that no one that earnestly runs these competitions really walk away with anything other than the satisfaction of investing time and effort to make an event for people to enjoy. I think if people have a good time, if it gets people to come out and skate, and gets new people interested in skating, it has done more than enough and that's a win in my book. It would be difficult to judge a comp's success solely on the number of people that came out or the amount of money that is given away, or the caliber of skating, as I do not think that is what the events are about. Part of the joy I get from hosing competitions is for the sole purpose of getting people together that share a common passion and to keep it going. If I did it for money or any other stupid reason like clout or anything, I would've quit after I worked on the first BPSO...
It sounds like there's a story there. Can you tell us about your experience working on that?
I met Boschi at the NYSS Staten Island competition back in 2016. He just got home a few weeks prior and I forgot exactly who told him about the competition, but there he was. I was doing a story for Be-Mag, it was actually the first time I did a story where we used IG to cover the event. So I had taken a photo of Boschi, and Josip, Be-Mag's chief editor, messaged me a few days later asking if I could shoot a story on Boschi and his return to the scene and what not.
So I reached out to Boschi and he was game for it. We met up a few weeks later to shoot and then we met again to shoot a bit more. It was August 4th, 2016 to be exact when we met the second time. I don't know why I remember the date, but I do. And so we are sitting in a cab driving up town to the 181 park, and he turns to me and he goes, " I am gonna do a competition. Me, Fish and Mike. ", and I look at him and I'm like, "...yeah?", and, with a stern as shit look in his face, he goes, " Yeah, and we gon have $1,000 first place prize. No entry fee". And I'm like, " so...where is this going to happen?", and he's like, " where we are going right now", which was 181.
So we shot that flyer portrait, the one of him wearing the crown, in the park that night, and immediately announced the competition that night. It is kind of crazy, because we had less than a month to put everything together, but with all the factors involved ( the prize money, no entry fee, having 3 NYC legends judging the comp), the competition promoted itself in a way. Like how the fuck could you not go to this? I think we were expecting like, 50, maybe 75 people to come, and it ended up being close to 300 people.
Speaking of which, NYC plays host to several events throughout the year in a lot of different blading disciplines. It sounds like The LES Survivor Series will be bringing a lot of those different types of bladers together to compete, does that present any unique challenges with how you promote this event over a specifically aggressive oriented contest?
It does. I reached out to Jan Welch at Big Wheel Blading to help promote because he is more familiar with that community, and I am hoping that helps, but I know that there is more that probably could be done. I'd like for there to be more of a cross-over between rec skating, speed skating, and aggressive. I really think we can all benefit from one another; we should look to work with the fellow disciples of inline, like the ones I've mentioned, because we share a lot in common and I think we can equally get to learn and understand what each other does and have a respect for it. So I'm hoping by us doing a lap jam it can garner some non-aggressive participants.
Okay I'll wrap this up with a question a gifted young journalist once asked me. What does blading need more of and what does it need less of?
More open mindedness, less of this macho-attitude I've seen over my years of what is acceptable skating. I think we really need to cater more to the younger demographic along with female participants as well. Rollerblading has a handful of competitions and events that people host each year, and I hope that continues to build as I think community events are pivotal to the sport's growth.