international-downhill-federation-koma-kino

Koma Kino: Outgoing IDF President

Some of you might know me from other projects like Thane Magazine. I enjoy interviewing the people who make up this community and have had some posts on Skate Slate in the past. Working with Les, I wanted to cover the coming IDF Election Candidates. I felt this interview would be a good way to start. This conversation with current IDF President and Founding member Cyrille Harnay aka Koma Kino starts at the end of last season, weaves back to the start of the IDF and ends at the cusp of its next phase of life. Have a read and please check back for more interviews every day leading up the election.

Brother Koma, how are you?
I am fine, feeling mixed emotions. It’s the end of the season, I just came back from Brazil, as the IDF rep on Mega Grand Prix and 7 curves, the 2 Brazilian World Cups, and I am already back at work.

How was Brazil?
Brazil was amazing. I was looking forward to going there, and delivering a good “IDF” experience to both riders and organizers. The Brazilian scene has huge potential, is well structured and, deserved some kind of recognition by the IDF.

With the top 3 ranked open class riders, surely Brazil has more than potential?
Well, what I mean by “potential” is the number of people involved in the sport. Downhill in Brazil is not just practised by a few hundred dudes through the country, there are thousands of kids who already skate downhill there, and more to come if they continue to create schools, freerides, races, etc.

Leonardo Discacciati photo

Is growth of the sport important to you, as current president and, lover of skateboarding?
Well, I would like anybody who wants to try something new that could change their life, (longboarding, and especially downhill skateboarding) to have the opportunity to do it because there are safe, closed roads to practice, clubs to meet friends and skate together and make road trips, and because we are no longer seen as just “thrashers”.

Having ‘’Daggers’’ is important too! Aside from a sport, this piece of wood is salvation to the thrasher, redemption for the saint, restoration for the seeker. Right?
Of course it is, but daggers do not really need a federation to help structure themselves!

What kind of experience were you able to deliver?
Just what we were expected to deliver in a proper manner: doing timing, but also helping with schedule, communication within the organising team, and with the riders, providing services for all racing aspects, brackets, results, rankings, judging claims in a fair and appropriate way, etc.

I wanted to show that, what happened in Europe was unfortunate, but that the IDF usually succeeds in delivering riders the IDF experience they expect. Even if it is always hard, as a rider, to understand who does what between the IDF rep and the event organizer.

From your point of view, as the IDF, where does the praise/blame belong?
Well it’s simple: When we’re at an event, IDF is in charge of the racing aspects. The organizer is in charge of the event. A contract and an event manual is provided by the IDF to the race organizers so that s/he follows some requirements and respects some standards. But, as you know, things do not always happen as they should.

We could not deliver some proper timing service, sometimes. We may have not have a photo finish from the beginning, that‘s on our side, our responsibility.

But, some organizers barely respect the contract or the event manual: we have event meetings on Skype prior to the event (a week or 2 before the event) where we go through an excel checklist of things to provide on the event… some organizers aren’t even able to fulfil it or just don’t care and, we only discover the real situation when we arrive on site, 1 or 2 days before the event; it is then too late to correct some important issues such as finding more protections, or renting walkie-talkies that work properly.

Some other issues are easier to solve but, will take extra energy that could be focused differently (spending 3 hours to find some duct tape the first day of the event is such a waste of time, when it could have been provided and stored in advance, as requested).

In our first years, we were not in a position where we could be very selective on WC events. I feel that we will have to be more selective in the future if we want to guarantee riders a Word class experience. One way to obtain that quickly is to diminish the number of WC events and only keep the best. That may have some ill effects on subjects such as the geographical development of the sport: having a WC in a continent really helps the local scene to grow.


What should we do with continents whose best organized event is not at the level of a Word class event? Should we still award  them a WC status to help grow the scene and improve through experience, or not award a WC status in order to guarantee a certain level of organization?

I am the kind of guy who would give at least a first chance, and even a second chance. I would make a final judgement regarding how the event improved within those 2 editions… Somehow, I guess it is a matter of balance between reducing the number of WCs and still keeping an open window for new events in new places.

Photo by Alexis Cailaud

What would you normally feel at the end of the racing season?
Usually, I am just stoked to know who the champions are, who finished what and why, and I am already preparing for the next season.

Is this year any different?
Oh yes… I had decided a while ago, after deep thinking, that I should step back from my position as IDF president so this end of year is a bit different of course.

This has been a huge part of your life for 3 years. What made you retire?
Well, actually 4 years as the IDF was born in October 2012.

3 mains reasons I guess:

  • I have always wanted the IDF to be a democratic association, and that means turn over at the top management. I don’t want it to be a one man show that can die when the guy leaves. So after 2 terms, I feel it’s time to prepare a new generation.
  • I have a job, a family with 2 kids, and you know, Violette, my daughter needs us more than average, as she is disabled… this is too much on my plate for me to be as efficient as I would like to be, for the IDF.
    This year, I gave 4 weeks out of 5 of my holidays… my wife is not super happy with that… and I spend all my evenings in front of my computer for the IDF.
  • This year, I felt the criticism towards the IDF more than I have ever felt before. I am used to criticism as I have been organizing skate stuff for 14 years, but this is the first year that I feel personally affected, hurt. I guess it is a sign that I am not the best leader for the organization.

Creating and leading the IDF was an amazing experience that took me to places/situations out of my comfort zone

Photo by Alexis Cailaud

What do you get back from putting so much Koma into the IDF?
Self improvement. Creating and leading the IDF was an amazing experience that took me to places/situations out of my comfort zone. I had to face new challenges, and I guess that is the way you improve yourself.

It‘s also all about passion. Passion for the sport, passion for people. Even if the IDF is a very small federation, we still handle kind of complex stuff, from dealing with Timing system radio frequency issues, to meeting the IOC vice president in Lausanne or spending hours at the french customs to get the ATA carnet that will allow us to ship the timing system abroad without paying taxes.

It also means dealing with a team with no hierarchical link, which is harder than when you are in a position to be boss of something at your job. On a human aspect, it’s been great, really. So many great meetings, so many wonderful people I met.

But, I am not disappearing, just stepping back. I will still be there, somewhere behind, to help if needed. I may even go and help on some events, but I can’t spend 30 hours a week for IDF anymore. I have prepared, with the other team members, the transition and found some fresh blood with new potential candidates for the future elections, but also volunteers such as Marco Vidales, from Colombia, who has been IDF rep in South America even if he was not elected last time. He was just not a board member, but still, active member of the IDF team.

“…I am not disappearing, just stepping back. I will still be there, somewhere behind, to help if needed.

Has it been worth it?
Oh yes. As I said, it’s such a unique experience to “create” an International Federation… not something someone does twice in their life but, that is from my perspective. Somehow, the IDF is only “worth it” if riders are happy with the way it represents them and leads the sport if not, then the IDF has no value, and is, effectively not worth it.

Claudio Verardi photo – Brazil

Why did you guys start the IDF?
Well, the story starts for me in 2005, when I went to Are (Sweden) for the IGSA world cup. I was stoked about the sport, was training hard every day and, when I arrived, I was super disappointed by the level of the organization of the event.  This was not a world cup like they have in football, basketball, or even archery so, I decided to get involved in the sport to improve the “rider’s experience”.

I joined the IGSA as European “director” but, as I was working with IGSA and Marcus Rietema, it was hurting my very European culture about sport governance and development. For me, a federation, is a non-profit organisation, aiming to develop the sport or some aspects of it if its resources do not allow it to cover a full spectrum, has transparent functioning (decisions and finance), and democratic elections as the federation belongs to its members. Board members are elected and must be volunteer.

A “paid” person, can not be elected as a board member. IGSA was a company, owned by one man deciding for all, and aimed for profit (even if he did not really succeed in that part). Marcus has done a lot for downhill and, IDF would not be there if IGSA had not existed, but I had another vision for the sport and, the way it should be governed.

What was this vision?
I do not believe in private business models for sport federations. When a sport is “governed” by a private company, the only goal is the development of a “show” made by the best athletes and as soon as the ROI is not there anymore, they leave and let the sport fall apart: look what happened to street-luge when X-Games and Red Bull  took them out from the X games.

They do not care about the development of the base, they don’t care about little Tommy who wants to try a sport and sees how it affects his life, they just see him as a potential future customer. It may sound very antagonist to say that, as the IDF only deals right now with a World Tour which is actually targeted to the best downhill skateboarders.

Julien Dessevre photo

Have you been faithful to your vision?
Yes and no. I would like to see National Downhill Skateboarding Federations pop up in every country, and they would be part of national skateboarding federations, recognized by their ministry of sports. The IDF would be then a real international federation….’’federating’’ national federations.

Actually this comes from the fact that IDF should not exist! The classic model would be that each country organizes itself through national federations and, an International federation is needed to co-ordinate the sport at a world level. In our case, there are not many countries that have national downhill skateboarding federations so, there should not be an international federation, as there are nearly no national federations.

“…IDF should not exist! …each country should organize itself through national federations and, an International federation should co-ordinate the sport at a world level.

But, we are a bit different, as every “extreme sport”: our sport is not accessible without setting up important dedicated structures, so our rate of growth is very limited, and can be even decreasing very fast if lethal accidents happen. As all extreme sports, we have small numbers of athletes, and mostly not big enough numbers to create the need for a national organization so my vision of the development of the sport is that we need to help national federations pop up everywhere so that, locally, some “safe playgrounds” can be offered, and attract more newcomers to the sport.

Unless we can develop freerides, training camps, events on closed and protected roads,in every country, we won’t be able to attract massive numbers of kids. We will stay with small numbers, mostly depending on how on fashionable our sport is perceived.

Unfortunately, everybody must understand that it’s not the IDF, with 7 volunteers, that can accomplish that in over 200 countries on the planet. It is up to every country, to get organized, recognized, and structured. The IDF crew can only help in mentoring the process by giving feedback and sharing experience on how things can be done but every country has its own laws, rules.

So, on that part, I am disappointed to see that we did not have enough human resources to help some more countries get organized.

But, on a strict point of view regarding the governance of the sport, yes I feel IDF made a huge step forward and brought concepts that many thought would not work: membership fees to allow a sustainable model for the IDF, as far as there are members, elections, AGM, transparency on the accountancy, polls, better timing, more race formats, rankings update faster, live results, all things I did not experience when I was a racer.

What went wrong this year?
We had safety issues on Killington, and low attendance in the USA. Then, Europe we had problems with the timing system (mostly due to human errors, like I did in Norway, but also because of a broken antenna cable that we only diagnosed after Kozakov, when the timing system came back to my house for maintenance) and, inclement weather that did not allow the riders to get the best out of what was expected as a great euro-trip.

We also had a few events cancelled due to a lack of registrations in time, or some events that could not deliver the prize money they were supposed to offer as a world cup. All in all, I feel it could all have been much better.

Photo by Alexis Cailaud

What could you have done to salvage the situation?
I think we should be more selective about the WC status, and had less WC. I should not have made that mistake in Norway with the timing. Globally, the more experienced is the timer, the better it is. Now that I timed more races in Brazil without a single problem, I am confident with it. Colin Beck will be the IDF rep and Timer in Europe next year.

How can tech help us have a better race experience?
Tech can also make us live a bad experience! Tech helps when it works, when the people who use it, know how to use it. But look back 5 years ago: we had a maximum of 2 runs of quali! IN A FULL DAY!

We did not have results until the first run was done, and the full results were available 3 to 4 hours after the last run. Now we can get 10 runs in a day, and have live results on site and the internet. Now, we haven’t got to fullfill 10 times the same info when you register for an event. We have periscope and live Facebook to get live coverage of events, we have GoPros, finish line cameras, tech has really helped the sport in the last years.

Are you still involved with the local/French federation?
Not really, I also stepped down from that position.

What’s the solution for the attendance problems?
Downhill racing on a worldwide circuit is the only the visible part of the iceberg, if we want more downhillers on the world circuit, we need more downhillers in general and, for that, we need more local events, in each country, as said before.

That is outside of the IDF’s influence but, it is the main reason, in my eyes. From an internal point of view, it is also our responsibility to promote the sport and give kids some examples they can dream of. We have been bad on that point and on communication more generally.

How realistic is the dream of having majority of the countries having their own DH leagues, like the French, English, Germans etc..?
It’s a dream that may take something like 20 years. It is realistic, completely, but needs more involvement from the community. We have the luck to still “own” our sport; riders have to get to the point that, if they want things to happen the way they want, they just have to make those things happen.

How can the IDF empower individuals to deliver better race experiences?
We already have a lot of documentation, and when a volunteer feels ready to go to an event as IDF rep, we train him on events before, with a “master” IDF rep. If we had more human and financial resources, we could of course, do longer training sessions, outside of events schedule, be more formal, etc. Still, experience is something that sometimes can be hard to transmit.

Will 2017 be different?
Yes and no. It will be a transition year, with the new board members, and the old ones helping them if needed. But, big changes might only come in 2018.

Meanwhile, I hope our communication will be much better as, we will, as asked by our members, structure a communication strategic plan, and Max Vickers will operate it with external help from contributors that we will pay to deliver quality and original content. We hope to be more organized too with potential media partners such as Thane magazine ;)?

Haha. That would be dope. When is SAGRA coming back on the calendar?
No Idea to be honest, we haven’t had much contact with Candice or Gaby for a while.

Now that you’ve hung up your gloves, will we see Lord Freezer back, competing?
No, this time is gone, but you will still see me on a board at some freerides in the french pyrénées, maybe the alps.

What are your fondest memories from the last 4 years?
I loved most of it all to be honest, operating under stress, until late in the night, was always exciting, but meeting the crew on Skype every week nearly during 4 years just was awesome.

“..it is important (to vote)… you will get what you vote for… consider who is gonna give their time and sweat to the IDF, and who will only have ideas but, no time to make them happen.

Is it important for skaters to vote in this weekend’s upcoming elections?
None of the 7 founders of the IDF will be there next year. That means it will be a whole new team, a new generation, that will have to build a higher house on the foundations left by the “ancient” haha.

So, yes, it is important as riders will get what they vote for: they better consider who is gonna give their time and sweat to the IDF, and who will have ideas but no time to make them happen.

There is a lot of work to do behind the scene to get the boat floating, and riders, even if they don’t care that much about who does what, have to take a few minutes to think about it and decide who they think is going to do the job.

Koma, buddy. Thanks for your service over the years, amidst the challenges. Stoked for all the good memories. See you around

Any last words?
I want to especially thank the following people for their belief and involvement in the IDF since the first day: Colin Beck, Dave Robertson, Haggy Strom, Maga McWhinnie, Lee Cation,Gregory Martin, Kevin Reimer, Mischo Erban, Zak Maytum, Norman Kinnish, Patrick Switzer, but also the event organizers who showed their support when we needed it, such as Jan Profous, John Ozman, Louis Pilloni, Sam Priestley, Mateus Felicio, Marco Vidales, Candi Bowers, Gaby Roberts, Brent Dubendorf, and of course all the people who volunteered such as Berry Plasman, Federico Barboni, Oliver Gires, Joel Hill, Max Vickers, Gary Reimer, and of course all the IDF members.

I may have forgotten a few names and I hope I will be forgiven for that.

<3

To all, don’t forget you learn more during the trip, than when you arrive at your destination.
Good luck, have fun, enjoy life!

Check out all the candidates for the coming IDF election. Here: IDF Election Candidates

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