Resilience is a big deal in Detroit. The Delta City Open is in its fifth year of existence, and organizers Sean Quinn, Noah Zipser and James Fisher continue to grow the street event, striving to make each contest better than the last. “No Repeat Spots” is their mantra and badge of honour. The DCO is Detroit’s street contest, now twinned with the Motor Town Classic at Modern skate park this weekend- the 12th and 13th of June. Working away in the background, Al Dolega provides support and power tools when needed.
We begin at the Wig. Previously the Wigle Recreation Center, the abandoned basketball courts became the latest in a long line of “build your own” mini parks that the Detroit scene have collectively raised from nothing. They haven’t had the best of luck so far, but to me it’s a real indication of the Detroit mentality. Take knocks, get back up, go again. The Wig is everything you want in a warmup / session spot; a perfect shotgun ledge runs along one side, flowing to a waist high breezeblock ledge. The centre of the court plays host to a quarter / hip / spine combination that affords transfer opportunities in every direction. It’s rough around the edges, but that seems fitting. The courts are surrounded by knee high grass on all sides, giving the park the feeling of a reclaimed oasis in an otherwise neglected neighbourhood.
Bladers arrive slowly at first, then all at once the park is filled. I’m struck by how many there are, and how diverse the group is. Detroit has a real, active, ladies blading scene and a vibrant youth team- no doubt propped up by Modern skate park’s blade nights. The session is loud and chaotic, and the contest participants are keen to score first blood. Early points go to fresh-from-tour Brian Weis for an elegant backslide to dark ao fish to cess in on the high spine; to Grant Hazelton for a popped 450 transfer; to Alex Rugburn for an impossible zero ao top porn over the pump bump; to Chynna for being incredible on the shotgun rail with all manner of darkside switchup variations and to Don Bambrick for a flawless disaster soul over the top of the spine to flat.
Spot two finds us at a pair of dirty great upward ledges on either side of a wide road. With grassy banks for reclining, the crowd are entertained by bladers lining up to strive for the summit. After copious layers of wax, the ledges are dialled in. Tricks are laced but the spot is a challenge- Luke Naylor brings switchups and clean exit rotations. Luke Nappa lofts an enormous 180 into the road from atop the grassy knoll. It starts to become apparent that Don isn’t playing around any more. After a couple of full length back farvs he seems to mentally switch up a gear, and all manner of tricks fall from his feet.
Next spot! The masses jump in cars and after a short drive we find ourselves reclining on grass again- this time on the manicured lawn of a nearby school. The gaggle of bladers at the top of the stairs begin the familiar ritual of pacing up to the brushed metal kink rail, steeling themselves for that first commit. Someone’s mum has catered, and we eat fresh fruit and chicken wraps under a tree as progress is made down the kinks. LJ Fanti sweatstances, Jake Cawley pushes through with a fishbrain. Brian Weis makes a soul grind look incredible. Luke Naylor laces a topacid, and Don steps up with a beautiful frontside followed by a topsoul transfer soul that has the crowd shouting. Al Dolega slips away to go build the next spot in advance of our arrival. Mothers cover children’s ears as bladers’ frustrated cursing echoes across the grass, something we’re collectively not very good at keeping under control. Theo Partin continues to attempt to mizou the kink, which is beyond my comprehension. The session begins to lag, and as vocabularies are exhausted the crowd looks to the organizers for information on the next spot and we move out.
Our journey to the next spot takes us through the heart of the Market District, and affords us a glimpse at a revitalized Detroit. New, trendy businesses are thriving and the rejuvenation of the area is in full swing. It’s a positive example of how a city can rebuild itself despite so many setbacks, and it shows Detroit has a strong future ahead.
We turn along a nondescript lane and find ourselves at a gigantic loading dock, crowned on either side with chest-high yellow barriers. Al has drilled a small bank into the side of the dock and the session begins in earnest. Grant Hazelton works the zero savannahs and ao topacids along the length of the concrete wall. Theo Partin, Alex Rugburn and Luke Naylor start a session for themselves from the far side of the yellow rail, with all of them successfully transferring down into the dock.
This spot is meant for more though, it has more to give and the skaters know it. It falls to Don to step up and give the people what they want, and he doesn’t fail to deliver. Attacking the little wooden bank, he rises first to soul the lower square section of the rail before returning to fishbrain stall one of the upright supports. Then, almost with an air of inevitability, he finds pop where there should be none- gapping up to the topmost rail before disastering to flat in the dock. The line was always there; it was the logical conclusion of the spot and with it achieved there is nothing to hold us back from the final round.
The final spot is such a direct contrast to the loading dock that my brain struggles to process that these places are so close together. Two perfect handrails part the grass under leafy green trees while neighbours play basketball on the courts. The masts of the yachts in the adjacent yacht club sway back and forth in the gentle breeze. No, we cannot use the washrooms. The sun continues to shine upon the final rails as we hit our late afternoon stride. A frenzy of progressively harder grinds are inflicted upon the rails and the neighbourhood kids run around the gathered crowd, fascinated and heckling each other through the megaphone. The rails are deceptively steep, and the darkside grass claims many a victim. Grant finesses a flawless top mistrial. Luke Naylor brings his park game to the street, and after some intense visualising he spins and locks cleanly onto a 450 backside royale. Jake Cawley puts work into a zero fishbrain and after a few attempts he rolls away smiling. Eli Lindauer reminds us that misty flips are still cool, and is rightly stoked to have landed it cleanly.
In the end, it was only going to go one way. Don steps on the gas, bringing a masterclass in rail skating to the final round and reminding the assembled masses why he’s so respected. He puts on a display of effortless rollerblading that is both stylish and solid, working through his vocabulary with steady progression from alleyoops through truespins to 360 soul. It is a joy to watch.
We arrive at the afterparty sunburnt, aching and happy. Hotdogs await us loaded with chilli in true coney island fashion courtesy of Charlie, Gary and Crystal. A fully stocked beer cooler apparates into existence and all is right with the world. Final results place Grant Hazelton in third, Luke Naylor in second and the win goes to Don Bambrick. Eli Lindauer takes home the Haunted Wheels Co prize for spookiest trick.
The Motor Town Classic takes place in Modern Skatepark, Royal Oak, MI this weekend on the 12th and 13th of June. If you live anywhere within an eight hour driving radius you owe it to yourself to go- it’s one of the best blading events of the year. More information can be found at motortownclassic.com.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Sean, Noah and James for organizing the DCO. Thank you Chris Gerard who did an incredible job with the accompanying photos. I also want to thank Al, Charlie and Ryan for being incredible hosts and damned fine gentlemen to boot. Cheers lads, see you soon.