IGSA/IDF – Gerhard speaks


If you’re reading this blog then you are almost certainly aware of the developments that have been going on in the world of Downhill Racing. If you’re not clued up, have a read of this post on SkateSlate, and this post on the IGSA website.

Here at Lush we try not to involve ourselves in these things too much, but our South African teamrider Gerhard Nel is heavily involved in the SA race scene, and has a few views on it all that we thought should be out there. Have a read and let us know what you think…

IGSA, IDF and the Death Star

“Hello, my name is Gerhard. I am an outsider to the international scene and I don’t expect to jump onto podiums anytime soon. I believe the amount of duct tape flapping on your leathers is directly proportional to your speed in a straight line. Still need to prove it in a wind tunnel, though. It comes as no surprise that the IGSA vs IDF debate might be a bit less personal to me and errs more to the side of entertainment. Days Of Our Lives kinda stuff.

So, in case you didn’t get it by now, the IGSA has been subject to a lot of criticism in the past year or two. Surely the frustration had been pent up for a long time, especially by people in the scene for years, but the signs are getting more and more clear. Some of the points that I could glean from online groans are the following: waning prize purses, less runs, delayed and diminished coverage and that the IGSA isn’t doing enough to secure cash sponsorships for events.

Aside from the above obvious points, a lot of races went south in the past year or two. I recall Insul 2011 that was speculated by Hopkin as “the weekend the downhill family died”, I also recall some gargantuan fuck-ups in South America and Tamara Prader being assaulted by over-zealous police pions in Canada or somewhere. Last, but not least, I recall reading about the Winsport Canada Cup where Kevin Reimer led a majestic putsch against the despotism of the sovereign racing mogul, Darth Vader of all things four-wheeled, the IGSA.

At this point I need to deliver a note on organising races. I am from South Africa, where we have a racing organisation called SAGRA. It’s not the strongest and most flashy organisation in the world, subject to critic from facekook on a daily basis, but it works. This organisation has been going since Redbull DHX in Cape Town (circa 2002/2003 I think) and has been going strong ever since. In the dark ages of downhill racing numbers went down to something like 20 or less riders per race. But, even though it has been faced with all this adversity, Hot Heels Africa 2012 is in its tenth year, with loyal and passionate internationals coming down on a yearly basis, and new converts every year. I will not speak for others, but can say with certainty that they come back for the vibe, the amount of runs, and the people. We expect a figure of 120 people at least, and we are balls proud of it.

It’s a pretty shit and unforgiving job – no pay, no thank you, countless hours of backbreaking labour, packing bales, phoning around, putting up with the red tape of the IGSA and of course servicing the grom-moms and their legion concerns. The grom-moms definitely take the cake with being a pain in the arse, right up there with the IGSA. But, all in all, organising a race is the most fun and fulfilling thing to do, should you have an assertive attitude and enough sunscreen. And water, of course.

This brings me to the next point. I am not all too sure that the horrid organising of races is the IGSA’s problem. Yes, admittedly, the IGSA does charge high sanctioning fees and give you a smelly rash all over your body when you deal with them for too long, but more than that, most of it is up to race organisers. If you don’t have the capacity to organise a race or at least gage what will be expected from you as a race organiser, you chose the wrong hobby. Try fly-fishing.

The series of problemmo’s at races is now attributed to the IGSA. It is all the IGSA’s problem, and Marcus Rietema is the poster child for capitalist tea-parties, with cakes and ale, in his presumable mansion somewhere off the coast of Hawaii. Where he spends his days lounging in jacuzzi’s with Tupac Shakur and sipping on cocktails. I don’t think this is true.

A few days ago the IGSA submitted an official statement, clearly showing that they are hell-bent on pulling up their socks. They are restructuring the entry categories, allowing for more runs per person (in the wake of the successes of the repechage system), they are streamlining an already decent points calculation system and, the cherry on the cake, they are allowing for rider input. A full-fledged, legitimate and democratic Federation, with the aim of getting sponsorships from big-ass investors to boot. If they keep by their word, big things will come in 2013, and I am super stoked on it.

Quite ironically, and by god I hope by accident, the IDF launched a very informative facebook page a day or two after the IGSA’s big announcement. No website, no constitution, no real info, but a facebook page. And, correct me if I am wrong, but the main message that I get is one of defiance. This has come as a big relief to a lot of skaters, keen on giving the IGSA the good old finger. For skaters, by skaters. I assume they will also aim at establishing some kind of ranking. In short, the IDF purports to be a legitimate and transparent federation, where all members can vote and give input, decisions will be democratic, all stakeholders will be taken into account and only capable event organisers will be allowed to host events.

From the above objectives, the only aspect that the IDF covers that IGSA was silent about, or at least not pertinently covering, is approving the standard of races. The only way you can really approve a new event, in my opinion, is by red tape. The rest of the IDF’s objectives are essentially identical to the new IGSA’s objectives – democracy, voting rights, accountability, transparency, and all these flowery terms that will get the readers’ attention.

Aside from their announcements, the other barometer that we have as to decide which one to support is the people involved. IDF has Reimer and Koma Kino, IGSA has Risch and Mischo. This is a proper polarisation of skill and passion, all people that want the same thing, but under different roofs. Race organisers are now faced with the big decision of which one to choose. Whether we want to or not, whether we give a damn or not, we need to choose one organisation. If we want entrants, and growth, we need to choose.

This choice that race organisers are faced with will force a polarisation of the scene. The top riders will not have the money to attend both circuits, so they will also have to choose. This, in turn, will essentially split the downhill family in two.

This brings me to my conclusion. Dear Mr IDF and Dear Mr IGSA, please try and hug it out. I am sure you guys all have the same dreams and ideals, don’t let this niggle break our family in two. No matter what the outcome, I wish everyone a bright future, and hope the IDF will have more info soon, so riders and organisers can make an informed decision, and start saving up for the big year that is 2013.

There, I typed some stuff, now I am eagerly awaiting the trolls. The comments will make my day. I better go get some popcorn and pop.

Over and out – Gerhard.”

Jakub Fulin photo