Jackalope x Vidéotron: Combining Sports and Digital Technology

Jackalope 2017 ended in a very special way on August 21, when Vidéotron teamed up with three professional skateboarders from the Montreal scene for an unprecedented immersive skateboarding competition. A great way for these athletes to forget their minor injuries and how worn out they are after the Jackalope!

As soon as they set foot in the TAZ, one of the largest indoor sports centres in Canada, skaters Annie Guglia, Julien Gagnon and Gabriel Proulx are like kids in a candy store, having fun in the many bowls, ramps and curbs of the multisport complex.

Their level of excitement skyrockets when they discover the technological installation where they’ll be performing later: “It’s like being in the movie Tron!” Gabriel says after seeing the visual effects. “I feel like I’m at a hockey game, with projections as the players skate onto the ice,” he adds.

Reinventing the ramp

The very unique project organized by Vidéotron takes the traditional skate ramp to another level. The installation transforms a seemingly traditional 3D surface into a high-tech space where visuals and technical effects are added to the skaters’ tricks.

The visuals, which are inspired by retro video games from the ’80s such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders, interact directly with the skaters’ actions by reacting to their movements and tricks using mapping and tracking technology placed on the ramp. “The interactivity with the board is really nice! Seeing the display on the floor and having it follow you when you skate over it is something you don’t see often!” says Julien Gagnon after trying out the ramp.

In addition to having to perform in this unusual setting, the three skaters must also act as judges and evaluate the performances of their colleagues using reactions they can display on the wall using a smart tablet: “Wow!” and “Super!” are used for good moves and a more devastating “Ouch!” when a skater falls… A score on 10 is given after each performance. Three rounds are required to determine the winner of this friendly yet fierce competition.

Adapting to change

The skaters are used to the urban vibe of streets and outdoor skateparks, and will have to adapt to the Vidéotron challenge: “Skating in the dark requires a few minor adjustments at the beginning, but after a few seconds, you don’t think about it anymore,” says Proulx. The technical challenge is greater for Annie Guglia: “I don’t skate many ramps, so it will be extra challenging for me, especially against Julien and Gab, who are more used to the style. I’m usually more comfortable with street skateboarding,” says the 26-year-old skater, ranked 12th worldwide in women’s skateboarding.

As for the idea of being evaluated by their peers, the skaters try not to think about it too much… “Julien told me he would be really strict!” Guglia laughs.

Going for it!

After spending the day testing the facilities, the team is ready to welcome the three skaters and officially start the competition. The skaters begin their performance without thinking about it too much: “You shouldn’t plan in detail ahead of time; you just have to go for it,” says Julien Gagnon before his performance. Despite a few falls (“Ouch!”), he obtains a score of 8 in his first run. Same for Annie Guglia, who starts the competition cautiously. Gabriel Proulx starts at full speed and wows us with several good tricks. His score of 9 reflects his great start, and after three rounds, he wins the friendly competition with a score of 28/30.

Being persistent and training the next generation

Although they are obviously a bit rusty after three challenging and completely crazy days at Jackalope, the three young skaters will not rest long… They cannot get enough of skating and plan on doing it for a long time! In addition to training hard, all three want to train the next generation through various projects. Doing so successfully means being a good teacher. Julien Gagnon is very involved with the Spin Skatepark in Quartier DIX30, as well as with various elementary and high schools on the South Shore of Montreal. The same goes for Annie Guglia, who in addition to dreaming of the 2020 Olympics, is dedicated to sharing her passion with young girls by teaching her sport at Jeanne-Mance high school and organizing several girls only skateboarding events: “Only 4 or 5 girls earn a living through professional skateboarding, as opposed to several hundred guys. Girls face a more challenging step, which is not being scared to skate, to just do it. I think skaters have an additional responsibility of encouraging them to go for it,” she explains. Gabriel Proulx, the winner of the Vidéotron challenge, also teaches the sport, and takes part in several other collaborations for upcoming skateboarding videos, another way of making a name for himself in his field.

Annie Guglia, Gabriel Proulx and Julien Gagnon are young, dynamic and focused, and all embody the determination, passion and fun that their sport provides on a daily basis. Values that sporting events like the Jackalope allow them to pass on to the next generation. Who knows, maybe the next Tony Hawk will be a Montrealer!

Journalist at Voir

Vidéotron is a proud partner of Jackalope

To learn more about the event, click here

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