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On Santorini 2012

Alexander Zyulev one am kong

Undoubtedly the most-hyped freerunning event of the year, the Red Bull Art of Motion competition on the Greek island of Santorini showcased an amazing variety of talent from all around the globe. Twenty-one traceurs and traceuses descended upon the Santorini rooftops for several days of training, culminating in the actual two hour long event.

Note: From now on there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the event yet, go watch it here. It’s worth the run time.

The 21 athletes, in no particular order:

  • Yoann Leroux from France
  • Marcus Gustafsson from Sweden
  • Jason Paul from Germany
  • Pip Andersen from the UK
  • Pasha Petkuns from Latvia
  • Ryan Doyle from the UK
  • Tim Shieff from the UK
  • Paulo Freitas from Brazil
  • Erica Madrid from the US
  • Alexander Zyulev from Russia
  • Pamela Forster from Austria
  • Luis Alkmin from Portugal
  • Luci Romberg from the US
  • Slava Petins from Latvia
  • Josh Yadon from the US
  • Stergios Doumanis from Greece
  • Cory DeMeyers from the USA
  • Kevin Fluri from Switzerland
  • Nathan Jones from the UK
  • Kie Willis from the UK
  • Jesse Peveril from Switzerland

The judges:

  • Anan Anwar from Thailand, judging flow
  • Paul Joseph from the UK, judging creativity
  • Victor Lopez from the US, judging difficulty
  • Gaetan Bouillet from Belgium, judging execution
  • Patrick Morawetz of Austria, head judge

Commentator

Andy Bell. The man is a decent commentator – the line about Zyulev needing a tan cracked me up. But he doesn’t know parkour. Everything was a “aerial twist” or a “pimp flip” or a “cork 360.” Ryan Doyle’s double cork wasn’t a “double cork 540.” His double butterfly twist was not a double cork. Marcus Gustafsson’s tunnel flip was not a “delayed side flip.” And so on for all 2 hours. Tricker Travis Wong from White Lotus/J.A.M. does live commentary; why can’t that be piped through the video feed? At very least get someone who knows parkour to do the play-by-play.

Judges

The choice of judges for this event was less than inspired. Anan Anwar is a member of Team Farang, as is competitor Jason Paul. Paul Joseph is a member of Storm Freerun, as are competitors Tim Shieff and Kie Willis. Victor Lopez is a member of Team Tempest, as are competitors Luci Romberg, Corey deMeyers, and Josh Yadon. Patrick Morawetz is a member of Ape Connection, as is competitor Pamela Forster. Gaetan Bouillet was a good choice, though.

Why would you pick judges from the teams of athletes competing? It doesn’t make sense. No, I’m not casting aspersions on any judge’s honesty, but it would have been easy for a judge to pump up his teammates’ score at the expense of the other athletes. I doubt it happened, but why take the risk when there are so many other good candidates for judges out there?

Santorinis final scores

I didn’t agree with some of the scores either. Ryan Doyle’s run was a particularly egregious example. He made one mistake, the bailed double cork, and maybe 2 slip-ups, but you could barely tell on those. But his other moves were very very smooth, and the difficulty level was crazy. And he got the lowest score of any of the top 8. But that was purely the judges’ decisions. Disagreement with judges happens in every competition. It’s not a big issue if some fan is upset.

Course

Andy Bell (and Red Bull in general) kept going on and on and on about how Santorini is literally the best and most perfect place in the world to freerun. It’s not. The course looked like a lot of fun, but it could have been so much better. The most glaring problem is a lack of bars. A set of bars would have added a whole new dimension to Santorini: a place for showcasing upper-body strength and skill on your hands instead of feet. You could debate the probability of bars being present in a real urban setting and therefore unrealistic – but what’s the point? Probability is not exactly a theme of Red Bull, the company that is trying to get a man to break the sound barrier while free falling 23 miles. Anyway: more bars = more possibilities for movement = more creativity = more fun for everyone.

Some more railings would have been nice, too. The lone set they had was used by just about everyone.

Santorini rails

Ryan Doyle coming out of a kong gainer. He was the only one to perform that move.

You know what else wasn’t present on Santorini? Soft surfaces. Yes, this is supposed to be an urban environment. We get that. But just a few weeks ago, we had had KRAP Invaders 3, which was held over grass. You know what? The moves that got thrown down over grass were orders of magnitude bigger than anything that happened at Santorini. Oh, and they could actually do cat leaps there.

KRAP Invaders kong

Click to watch this video.

Then there’s the Mediterranean sun reflecting off all that white. We’re not gonna see it in the videos because they’ll be color-graded to compensate, but I have no doubt that sun was absolutely glaringly blindingly bright. Must have been murder on the athletes’ eyes and depth perception.

Anyway, it’s not that I dislike the Santorini rooftops. It’s one of the most natural city environments for an AoM yet. It looked like a ton of fun and I would love to train there. But I don’t consider it the literally perfect best spot ever that Andy Bell / Red Bull seemed to think it was. I thought the London and Japan 2011 courses were just as good. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

Format

90 seconds per athlete. 21 qualifier runs, then the best 8 athletes go on to the finals.

The main problem I have with this format is that you only get to see eight absolute-best runs. The other thirteen athletes, who have been hoping to make finals and therefore saving their best moves, don’t get a chance to make a really huge effort. I’m betting this was the reason Tim Shieff didn’t make finals. I’ve seen comments from other athletes in past AoM’s saying that they were upset their first run wasn’t good enough to get them to the finals; they were holding back.

I submit that the Kuwait Art of Motion was a much better format. For those who do not remember, 5 teams of 4 athletes had complete access to the island of Failaka for 36 hours. They were all given standard filming equipment and told to make a video. The team whose video was judged to be the best won the competition. That was pretty cool. The downside was that there was no live performance, which means less exposure for Red Bull. But what if Red Bull added an obstacle course in which the best time wins? Members of the top two teams could compete for a 1st/2nd/3rd place speed prize. Or it could be reversed. The obstacle course comes first, then the top 8 or 10 or 20 finishers could go on to make a video.

Final Thoughts

I don’t mean to criticize Red Bull too much. They’ve sunk a lot of money into Art of Motion events over the last 5 years, and for that I salute them. Some really great videos have been produced and I have no doubt that everyone who participated in an AoM was happy with their experience, if not necessarily their rankings.

There’s so much potential in a gathering of the world’s best traceurs and traceuses. I hope Red Bull taps into more of that during the next Art of Motion.

Santorini winners

Which was your favorite run? I liked Kie Willis’. Pure parkour except for one sideflip.

-Alan

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  • TJ

    Complains the judge “doesn’t know parkour”, then a list of Tricking/Freerunning moves…
    At least get your own terminology right?

    • http://www.facebook.com/ParkourLuka Carl Luiker

      lol TJ yes he used the american term for arm jump, but his point was still valid

      • TJ

        I didn’t mean arm jump.
        None of the things listed can be considered “Parkour”
        “aerial twist” or a “pimp flip” or a “cork 360.” Ryan Doyle’s double
        cork wasn’t a “double cork 540.” His double butterfly twist was not a
        double cork. Marcus Gustafsson’s tunnel flip was not a “delayed side
        flip.”

        • http://www.facebook.com/ParkourLuka Carl Luiker

          dude what are you talking about and who are you complaining about

    • http://www.facebook.com/OSOK23 Bryan Coiffman

      nothing wrong with his naming standard. There ARE other countries who train pk/fr, you know. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/OSOK23 Bryan Coiffman

    I agree with most points, if not all.

    I will also say the judging system needed help… and I mean this because of two main things:

    1. Lucy’s run was probably the flowiest run of all. She would land and immediately throw a move without back stepping. But her moves werent that difficult? Keep reading.

    2. You cant judge men and women on the same scale of difficulty…. its just not fair. I feel the women didnt score as high mostly because their moves werent as “difficult” … but difficulty is relative. Its like having a men and women weight lifting competition… its just not fair. Of course the men are gonna throw sicker moves… no need to explain why.

    And lastly… they needed better camera coverage. :)

    • AlanSchex

      I wish they had used the helicopter cam like they did for the Verzasca event.

  • Steve McCartney
  • ihatebloggers

    You know what pisses me off Alan? You do.
    You’re all high and mighty with your blog thinking you are contributing to the discussion, thinking you’re part of communities because you post in their facebook groups. Noobs probably look up to you and think you’re some kind of Parkour authority.

    And then you show blatant disregard and disrespect for the word Parkour and all the struggles traceurs have gone through with public perception over the past 10 years, or maybe you are just demonstrating your ignorance of anything Parkour related.

    “Andy Bell. The man is a decent commentator – the line about Zyulev
    needing a tan cracked me up. But he doesn’t know parkour. Everything was
    a “aerial twist” or a “pimp flip” or a “cork 360.” Ryan Doyle’s double
    cork wasn’t a “double cork 540.” His double butterfly twist was not a
    double cork. Marcus Gustafsson’s tunnel flip was not a “delayed side
    flip.” And so on for all 2 hours. Tricker Travis Wong from White
    Lotus/J.A.M. does live commentary; why can’t that be piped through the
    video feed? At very least get someone who knows parkour to do the
    play-by-play.”

    Nothing you just talked about had anything to do with Parkour. And yet you just presented multiple flips, tricks and twists as being terms associated with Parkour.

    If you’re going to publicly commentate on shit and use the word Parkour in your blog title and throughout your posts, pull your fucking finger out and show some respect. “Parkour” is not a blanket term for all modern urban displacement arts, so stop using it as one.

    You rag on Take Flight every opportunity you get, but at least they are promoting real Parkour by David Belle, something that adds value to this world.
    Not like your bullshit opinions.

    • http://denny.me Denny

      Dear god but the ‘freerunning isn’t parkour’ conversation is tedious. It’s the guaranteed yawnathon on every freerunning video on YouTube. There must be all of half a dozen people who actually care enough to argue about it, but wow do they like to make their point. Over, and over, and over…

      By the way, I believe Alan is actually the person who explained the difference to me, a year or so ago, when I asked about it in a public discussion group on another site. But yeah, clearly he has no clue and no care for parkour and/or any of the movement arts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cbmacdonald Colin MacDonald

    The best part about the setting was how much flow it seemed to inspire. Sure the moves weren’t as big as KR3, but there were many more options for uninterrupted routes. On that note, I was actually pleased to see the lack of a high-bar. IMO one of the worst parts about Jump City was how the producers went to each amazing, unique spot and dropped in an identical set of bars which then produced an identical set of giants, releases, and dismounts. Parkour is about adaptation, and AoM seemed to understand that more this year. Good show overall, minus the awful commentary (no, Andy, that wasn’t another pimp flip).