Obviously, trying to create a list of the "best" of anything in skateboarding or choose a "winner" is kind of a silly, futile exercise. We've heard it a trillion times in every skate mag article ever written: that in skateboarding there is no "best" and the concept of a "winner" only should really exist in the contest circuit, which is a world that isn't really our cup of tea. BUT, we do feel it necessary to try to call attention to the side of skateboarding that is just as inspiring and important as the pop culture side that is celebrated with Thrasher's SOTY, but that doesn't get celebrated or propped up nearly enough in the mainstream skate media.
Now, we learned a lesson with our effort to create an Underground Skater of The Year article last year for 2018 when we left the voting open to everyone: once you hand it over to the public, you completely lose control of where it's going to go. This is both a great and tricky thing. Although we are always extremely happy with the overwhelming responses we receive, it starts to look less and less democratic when we notice that several readers are voting over and over again in an effort to swing the totals over to their favorite. It creates an interesting dynamic and forces people out of the woodwork to come and stick up for their pick. This year saw an insane amount of votes in the comments. And although we could see that most likely a lot of repeat votes were coming from the same readers, overall, the amount of unique individual votes still backed up the same results as the overall full count of votes.
So, after reading every single comment on the website and the Instagram post, the results are in. You may be disappointed that your guy didn't "win" but we think that the most votes went to someone that you're all already big fans of regardless. And due to the fact that tracking the exact amount of unique IP address votes is hard to keep perfectly straight, we decided to choose a main winner along with a second place to help balance it all out.
Runner Up: Dom Henry
The TOA crew hotly debated our first choice for 2019 USOTY and the most common name amongst us all was Dom Henry. He has not only been an underground hero in the UK scene for years, but in 2019 he put it down particularly hard. No matter where you were in the world it was hard not to take notice, making Mr. Henry very deserving of one of the top picks for the year. Coincidentally, he had the second most reader votes, so it worked well since we already wanted to see him get at least an honorable mention. Congrats to Dom and thank you for your awesome work this year, it's been a pleasure to watch and we're looking forward to more in 2020.
USOTY 2019: Jon Rowe
As we specified in the intro to our initial announcement of the USOTY candidates, determining the criteria for the list was as difficult as determining who to nominate. One of the main requirements for us was that a skater needed to have put out a multitude of different significant content over the year. But then we'd remember a video part so strong that it superseded some of those stringent rules we had argued for. Jon Rowe was one of those skaters. From our research, Jon's full part in NIGHTMAREVAN was his only very significant output in 2019, but the outpouring of support from readers when we first announced our list was absolutely overwhelming. We were also reminded by one clever commenter that not only is Jon's part incredible, he also voluntarily gave up sponsorship in order to just do his own thing. How can you be more underground than that? We agree, the working man appeal of Jon's style and persona, mixed with a two-song video part filled with an amazing variety of super gritty spots, a wide variety of tricks and a purity and rawness that was possibly unsurpassed this year, made Jon a very hard candidate to ignore. Jon's skating and video parts emit a spirit that we agree needs to be recognized and applauded and we're stoked to name him the TOA 2019 Underground Skater of the Year.
Usually posts like these will get followed up with a wide variety of argumentative comments and rebuttals, but I think this time around everybody is going to agree that Jon is deserving to at least be in the top few picks. But let us know in the comments below, and thanks a ton to everyone who commented and participated in the debate. Congrats to Jon, Dom and all of the other candidates on an amazing offering of video parts, interviews and contributions to the underground scene.