“If It Was Up To Me, I Would Pay Riders In Gold"

Risto Kalmre on Simple Session 17

31 Jan 2017

Simple Session Lead

Photos Vince Perraud

For nearly twenty years the small city of Tallinn in the Baltic regions of North Europe has played host to The Simple Session, a weekend that has become more a rite of passage for most riders than any other contest on the planet. Last year DIG openly spoke out against the judging process and we offered riders and industry people a chance to also speak out and voice their opinions on the contest format. An article that expressed various mixed opinions.

Now in its 17th year, we talk to Simple Session organizer Risto Kalmre about how the contest has evolved, the new format, and the process that goes into choosing the judges. We also discuss dealing with those recent personal and 'unwarranted' attacks online.

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Hey Risto, Can you explain the reason for the change in this year’s format?

There was some behind the scenes talk going on about if we should change it and I was also thinking about changing it for this year too. So we’ll give it a go this year. Do things a little differently. It's just a bit fairer to the street riders I think. It was like comparing apples with oranges before, which always made it hard. In the same time I know a lot of people love the idea that Simple Session is all about ‘riding everything’, about unique courses and bringing the whole BMX community back together under one roof. 

I guess it was a bit old school but it was unique in today’s world and a nice idea. But since we’re still using one big and one-off course with park and street sections (and gray areas for both disciplines) and that the jam groups run after each other then I think it still has the same great atmosphere this year. So everyone can ride together, but they will be scored separately. This should be a great way to keep the vibe of the event while making it a little fairer. It’s hard to judge when you have to compare riders like Nick Bruce against riders like Simone Barraco. Qualifiers jam format will remain the same with one score given out to each rider. We’re changing up the finals format a bit, so it’s more transparent and easier to follow. The riders there will be scored for every run in their jam session. Three runs, two best count. The exact format will be on our website later today. 

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The buses of Simple Session, nearly as famous as the contest itself.

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Brian Kachinsky is the least judgemental guy we know yet when it comes to judging a contest he's actually very good at it.

"It’s hard to judge when you have to compare riders like Nick Bruce against riders like Simone Barraco"

Sounds interesting, so what process goes into choosing the judges each year?

We select judges who are active pro riders or veterans who stay very updated on what’s new and who follow the scene. We like to have judges with both street and ramp background and also from different nationalities. Judges who judge contests actively and do consistent good work is important for us. Judging is a hard job, especially at Simple Session with so many riders and styles. So of course there’s always some debate there. But I’m confident this year’s jury will do an awesome job again. Judges this year are Hank, Markus Wilke, Brian Kachinsky, Antti Huotari, Toms Silins and Bart de Jong.

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Every year SS is a huge party (every night), how do you cope with it all?

Yeah, it’s a crazy rollercoaster week for sure. Depending on the year, I sometimes only get to go out on Sunday’s after party when the main event is over. I’m just too busy running the show to go out. Sometimes the machine works smoothly though and then I can go out other days too. Let’s see this year, I enjoy working hard for our collective cause and partying with everyone (if I can find the time).

You've gotten a lot of online flack from ex presenter Catfish about the purse? Want to say anything?

First and foremost – anyone can become an object of random hate online, conspiracy theories and twisted “truths”, that’s just the world we live in. Secondly, we trust all the good people who have been supporting us for all these years to think with their own mind and not let a bit of cyber bullying spoil their mood. 

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Okay, and the stuff about the purse?

We spend 1/4 of the whole events budget directly on the riders. The purse and hospitalities we provide. We also do skateboarding. The rest is being invested so the event could actually take place. The course, the arena rent, the coverage, some advertising and other zillion small things to make sure everything works. 

We’re not able to compete in prize money with some of the big comps in the States or Western Europe. But that’s quite a ridiculous comparison. Those are huge TV Company or city owned events. We make stuff look good, so some people start to think we’re dealing with enormous budgets. 

Our purse has never been a secret. The event is loved for other reasons. It’s the vibe that draws in so many people from all over. The coverage, the hospitality and the exposure we offer, the awesome parties, the whole celebration.

If it would be up to me, I would pay riders in gold and diamonds, but Estonia is still Europe's smallest country and economy with its 1.3 million people. Most of our sponsors are local representatives of these companies and even though the exposure is global, we still deal with local size. 

I love BMX and I give back to it by throwing awesome events and building awesome skateparks for people to shred on. When we started riding years ago then there was nothing like this here. We built it from scratch. I don’t actively ride any more because of past injuries but I still love BMX. That’s why I do these events.

So Simple Session really is something you’ve built from the ground up?

Yeah, Simple Session is exactly what it claims to be, a rider-to-rider event, and has always been. 

We’re going to have the best riders in the world here this week and we’re all going to have a blast.

Any shout outs?

Peace and love to all of our supporters and love to the BMX community. See you on the course or over the webcast!

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It's all laughs, it's all BMX.

Simple Session 17 Starts Feb 4th in Tallin, Estonia. Check out digbmx.com for the live stream.