The least interesting thing in this pic is Nick Wood’s AO Top Acid.
As I begin to write this, I’m 30,000 feet in the air on a flight back to the desert and I’m nursing a hangover like you wouldn’t believe. I’m attempting to wade through the sleepless blur of the previous 48 hours to fill this mostly blank Word document. I landed in Jacksonville early Saturday morning after flying through the night from Phoenix. Before I could come to terms with the Florida humidity, I was picked up by Jimmy Spetz and we made our way to a hotel that had booked dozens of rooms to a decidedly rowdy bunch of rollerbladers. Thoughts of storming the hotel lobby at 3:30 a.m. and pissing off the night receptionist, Tammy, are coming to the forefront of my focus. ONE booked me a room with a king sized bed and I ended up falling asleep on the sofa next to my bathroom; the clothes I went out in serving as PJs.
Since childhood, to pass time on airplanes I have always silently observed the other passengers and internalized stories for each of them—giving the sardine in the middle seat who keeps nudging my elbow off of our shared arm rest, or the guy who won’t stop snoring, individually fabricated lives—if only in my head. I imagine that I’m not alone in this social observation and I wonder if the person sitting next to or behind David Sizemore on his flight returning home has any idea that he just won $1000 at a rollerblading contest at one of the oldest (if not the oldest) skateparks in the country. Hell, I wonder what images the words “rollerblading contest” would even conjure up to them?
Upon arrival at the hotel, in fact as we were pulling onto the side-street that led to the parking lot, we were met with a grisly scene. Blocking our path was a car that had been T-boned by another and was completely flipped over. It must have happened within the two minutes it took us to get from the exit ramp of the I-95 to the hotel’s crossroads because the wheels were still spinning on the overturned Nissan. Like most of the people in the horrendous traffic around us, we parked and jumped out to help, but before we even reached the car Jimmy had one of those stop-dead-where-you-stand, epiphanic moments. The blonde girl being pulled out of the car is Blake Taylor’s wife. We rushed over as thankfully she and her friends got out one by one, quickly learning that they were okay. Shaken up, badly cut, and disoriented, but okay and lucky to be alive. The car was totaled. It had literally flipped in the air and landed on another woman’s hood before coming to a stop on its side. Within minutes, Blake and others were on the scene and the police were attempting to figure out who had hit the girls, because for a moment it seemed that the driver of the other car had fled. Before heading to the hotel, I remember seeing Blake hugging his newlywed wife in the street with a look on his face that expressed how thankful he was in ways that my words cannot. At first I was surprised that after such a traumatic morning that the event would go on with good vibes, it seemed like some bad juju was brewing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Kona Skatepark is nestled on a hill in a Jacksonville neighborhood; it’s surrounded on all sides by a thick layer of trees and it was built in 1979. When you walk through the lobby and out the back door, it’s like walking into the proverbial “skatetopia.” Except the concrete is rough as shit, the transitions are gnarly, huge and unforgiving and pretty much anywhere you go, chances are it’s at like, mach 10. Bowls, vert ramps, street course, gaps—the works—this park has it all. I talked to Jacksonville local Fallon Heffernon after the comp and she said this was the first time she’d seen more than 10 bladers at the park all at once since the RFCC tour stop in 2005.
Steven Tat / Liu Kang
David Dodge / Top Acid to True Top Acid
Fallon Heffernan / AO Top Soul
Steven Tat / Christ Fishbrain
Mike Lilly / 540
Kona is divided into two sections: A street course at the bottom of the hill with boxes, spines, and a custom built rail that looked more like a log, aptly dubbed “the beast.” This wooden section was where the qualifier and old man comps were held. Some of the skaters who made appearances in the Old Man comp were Derek French, Marcelo Mariaca, Jimmy Spetz, and Florida’s own Robbie Squire. The sun continued to beat down on us throughout the day and dudes (and ladies) continued to shred in the am qualifiers.
Under 18 Competitor / Fishbrain / Background: Envy
Daniel Pope / Misfit
Daniel Henderson / Front Torque
AP Hustla / Sweatstance
The other part of the park is a series of bowls connected by two different snake runs that weave down the hill as if the original planners hadn’t yet determined what a quarter pipe was. (Because they actually hadn’t) The concrete is rough, the transitions are cracked, and you literally fly down these mugs. I could have spent the entire day just boosting 360s into the back snake run. Like most contests, there were special additions; new sponsor box setups, “the beast” was carried up the hill by some locals and put in between two bowls. Oh yeah, there was also that big disaster death rail.
Walt Austin / Fishbrain
Alex Alcantara / Huge Liu Kang Transfer
Unidentified blader / AO Fish
Michael Braud / Royale
Keaton Newsome and Michael Braud. Beat.
The contest was a series of jam-session style heats that went on for most of the day. Juan Herrera, infamous Be-magger (and the tannest human being I’ve ever seen) Greg is cool and Blake Taylor took turns on the microphone. Like any other contest, it seemed the time was measured in what I like to refer to as “Tracy White Units,” a standard measurement developed after years of being the loud voice on the mic at the BCSD. “One more trick for each of you” turned into “5 more minutes,” turned into “Okay, we’re gonna jam for 15 more minutes,” which then turned into Wake Schepman landing one of the biggest 540 gaps from a deep bowl into the snake run and Andrew Hendricks doing a 360 off the roof of the skatepark lobby into the bowl. At some point, I remember Sizemore walking up the stairs of one of the elevated spectator huts on the side of the park as if he was done with the comp. A few minutes later he gapped out of the elevated hut into a bank. Fallon and Aarin Gates held their own against the guys, in fact, I’m pretty positive Fallon was the first one of the day to really try to hit the big death rail.
Nick Wood / Backslide
Walt Austin / AO Christ Fish
Andrew Hendrix setting up for his 360.
Organizers and bladers. Discussing.
Kona couldn’t have been a better location for the contest. The uniqueness of the setup and the ramps almost forced the skaters to be more creative in their lines. I also feel like it’s rather poetic that a startup contest like the PowWow, essentially the grassroots of our industry, was held at a park that is deep rooted in “extreme sports culture;” another generation of shredders proving themselves in the heat and on the pavement. (But that’s probably just the gay English major within me.) Everyone skated hard, and in the end it was Sizemore who took home the win. I only spent a total of about 27 hours actually in the state of Florida but this trip was an experience I won’t soon forget. — Ben Karris
Photos by Corey Oringderff