For at least two years, there’s been a lot of talk within the blade community about Chris Haffey being part of the Nitro Circus Live tour.
Some of it’s been good.
Some of it’s been ehhh.
Glad at least there’s discussion, because that’s what healthy communities do. They discuss.
But if you’re saying anything from the “ehhh” category, we’re not sure you’re thinking about the big picture… or what’s best for our friend and blading’s heavyweight champion of the world, Chris Haffey.
Two weeks ago the Nitro Circus Live crew was in SoCal at their training facility, testing out potential new riders and playing show-and-tell with media types. You bet your ass we got in on that.
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The first surprise when we arrived on site was the non-presence of Haffey. Why did we REALLY go out to the desert on a Wednesday? To get footage of Chris throwing mega tricks on the Gigant-A-Ramp. But he was nowhere to be seen.
Surprise number two was that the resi-landing zone was converted into a giant foam pit. Complete with a dude on stand-by in a crane to re-set the foam when an errant landing left a divot. Slight change of plans.
And the third and most unexpected surprise (is that a thing?) was finding Wake Schepman taking “laps” on the ramp.
After chatting with Wake and finding out what he was doing out there (try-outs, dude) we got a chance to talk with our on-site contact, Keith. His exact title is lost to the winds (or a Google search, but puh-leeez) but he gave me some insight into the tour’s growth and mounting success, while explaining to me how Chris and the inline portion of the show have developed in a manner that exceeded their expectations.
In fact, Wake was trying out because they want another blader on tour.*
Okay, I guess we could call that surprise number four.
After chatting with Keith I set up to film some of Wake’s practice jumps, and that’s when Haffey pulled up. Turns out he’d been there right at the start time, did a couple tricks, got tired of landing in the most filthy foam pit foam you’ve ever seen, and went to eat lunch. But like a boss he came back over to shoot the breeze and talk more about the tour.
Expanding on what Keith had told me about needing another blader, Chris explained that while the team was coordinating and planning the shows for the new tour they realized there was more and more responsibility being placed on Chris’ shoulders.
If you know Chris, you realize this isn’t really a problem for him — he lives to rise to the occasion, but it was gonna put strain on the show. So it was time to think about adding another wheel-booted body.
Turns out that the Nitro folks had heard/seen Wake’s 1260 video from Woodward East, and that got him a trip out to skate the ramp.
With Chris and I standing near the ramp’s flat-bottom, Wake was working on a double viking flip. He was getting a little floaty so Chris offered some pointers. Faster initial rotation. Slow down to spot the landing. Give yourself time to adjust if needed… For someone who never plans to roll down a Gigant-A-Ramp and jump that monster gap, it made perfect sense. Moments later, Wake was putting that advice to work.
As the event wound down I asked Chris what it was like blading amongst so many other action sports. He told me that everyone more or less follows Travis’ lead. He wanted a rollerblader on tour, and that was all it took. On the ramp, ability and balls are the currency that matters. What tools you use to display those traits isn’t exactly what counts.
Our conversation progressed and I asked Chris if there were any other Nitro guys around we should talk to for their perspectives on riding with a blader. He looked around and said, “That guy.”
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“Jed Mildon. First guy to do a triple flip on BMX.”
Chris had to cut out to handle some personal matters**, but when he took off I found Jed and asked him to tell me about riding the tour with a rollerblader. “Ever have much experience with rollerbladers before meeting Chris?” I inquired.
“Yeah mate, I grew up on inlines. That’s what got me into action sports, watching blading on the X-Games.”
The first guy to ever do a triple flip on a BMX bike is a former rollerblader from New Zealand.
Jed went on to tell of the respect he had for Chris as an athlete, as well as the respect he carries for blading. He mirrored Chris’ sentiment about the tour: it didn’t matter what you were doing, just that you were pushing yourself and going big.
About then Jed got pulled away to film a bit for the TV show, and our schedule dictated a departure. It wasn’t until about halfway home that it occurred to me, “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I didn’t ask if he knew Brooke Howard-Smith?!”
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In January the Nitro Circus Live tour comes to North America for the first-ish time. They did a one-night show in Vegas a couple years ago that we got to check out, but it’s clear from the TV show, Chris and the people pulling the strings that blading’s part of the tour is growing. Call it a barometric reading if you will, but if the guys atop the money pile that is the NCL can see the potential in blading, there really must be something there. For them and us, Chris Haffey is the bridge between the two worlds. Don’t underestimate that.
Go see the tour when it comes to a city near you.
Nitro Circus Live North America Schedule and Tickets
*Once before another blader was added to the European tour. That rider was Stefan Horngacher. But unfortunately he sustained an injury that left him unable to perform as needed.
UPDATE: Wake Schepman joins the Nitro Circus Live tour on November 16.
Awesome article and so stoked for Haffey and now Wake to be representing rollerblading on such a huge international level.
Thanks for the write up.