Roller Skater Of The Year – What’s The Deal With It?

by Marta
Roller Skater Of The Year

There are currently two online competitions running to crown this year’s Roller Skater of the Year (RSOTY) and several other titles. While Fantom Media is hosting their RSOTY for the second time, an alternative competition (QSOTY) just popped up. We don’t know who’s behind it, but let’s call it an alternative event with a broader scope of categories. It’s up for debate whether we need a “best dressed” title but thanks to the skate gods this is as subjective as someone’s skating style. And it can be fun, so here’s some background information for those who care.

There’s been some online debate (as usual) on these competitions. But anyone who has ever started a project, large or small, knows how much dedication, time, and perseverance it takes to figure out a good concept. In 9 out of 10 cases, more is needed than one would expect. And there are always parameters that are difficult to take into account. But I am a strong believer in the DIY concept, do it yourself if you think something is lacking or if you want to see projects relized in a different way.

To get some more background info we reached out to Fantom Media and the QSOTY competition. While the latter organizers prefer to stay anonymous (more on this later), Karli Craig, who runs Fantom, took the time to share some insights.

Fantom’s RSOTY 2023 is a bit different this time than last year as it includes not just the skater of the year category but four additional categories: video of the year, product of the year, up and comer of the year, and trick of the year. Each is up for public voting (first round ends on December 3rd).

Karli explains that all contenders for the 2023 RSOTY came from video submissions or nominations made by others. “Categories such as Up and Comer and Trick of the Year were based on nominations and then narrowed down by a panel of skaters.”

How do nominations for roller skater of the year work?

In sports like skateboarding, blading, or BMX riding, there’s been these kind of awards for many years. Accomplished skaters and riders submit their video parts or are nominated because they received a lot of recognition or won competitions. It’s really up to the organization, magazine, or brand to decide. Fantom, e.g., built their brand around street skating. That’s their concept. “As we are a street-focused brand, for 2022 and 2023 we decided to do this based on skaters that put out full street parts. Last year, there were only a few videos made that we were aware of. This year, we saw a huge increase. This is amazing to see but will also most likely change our criteria in the future,” Karli says. 

There’s not been any transparency on who is behind the most recent QSOTY voting. There’s an Instagram account called QSOTY,  where you can find the basic info in their highlighted FAQs. In response to our message, they said they would rather not answer any questions and referred us to their FAQs. So these are all we have. The poll runs through a Google form (link in their bio). They shared some Instagram stories a few days ago, and it was pretty obvious that the community addressed many questions. It’s not clear how and by whom the nominees in the 14 categories were nominated.

Where are all the potential Euro roller skaters?

There were discussions, regarding both competitions, that hardly any European skaters were listed.

On the question why there wasn’t more inclusion of communities from around the world, QSOTY organizers state: “Since we are based out of the US, our exposure to other countries and their communities are fairly limited (…).” That’s a bit lame tbh. You find and follow 99% of the people on social media. 

@qsoty_ FAQ (screenshot)

There are only nominations from US shops, zines, photographers, events (okay, there’s one European event). But there have been lots of amazing events around the world, from the UK to Spain to Germany, as well as big events in Australia. If this is supposed to be taken seriously, it requires some work. Or consider calling this the US QSOTY, which is fine too. At least they said that people can now still nominate more skaters until the end of the first voting round on December 17th.

With regard to the Euro skaters Karli says: “This would purely be either a lack of video submissions or nominations. There are a number of skaters and brands from different countries up for various categories this year. We recognize there are certain areas of the world where skating is quite popular and progressing quickly, but they don’t always have access to filmers/editors to assist them with their video projects. It is a goal of ours to better support and aid these skaters with these resources. This is one of the reasons we expect to do a Fantom tour video each year while including different skaters from all over the world.”

When it comes to the general lack of video parts from Europe and other continents, there have definitely been fewer releases. If you, skaters from non-US countries, are reading this: You have to consider making video parts and submitting them if you want recognition. Don’t wait to be discovered.

Give projects time to establish themselves

This scene or industry in its present form is young. Many ideas are trial and error. It is really difficult to take all parameters into account from the outset, and you can’t please everyone. And there is also no need to exaggerate the importance of becoming the roller skater of the year at this early stage. But they can become fun and be good for the souls of the nominees.

Skating (and this applies to most wheel sports) is always personal taste. And that’s the great thing about it. It is difficult to make an objective decision, if not impossible. And it doesn’t have to be objective. If I want objectivity, I go watch javelin throw or speed skating.

Words by Marta Popowska

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