It is common knowledge by now that the 2013 Panhandle Pow-Wow had a few setbacks. With a relentless rainstorm overhead people still gathered at the park during the day and the bars and hotels at night. We huddled under whatever shelter we could be find and talked and laughed. Some even ventured out into the park to walk and skate around and inspect the obstacles that this legendary park had to offer. Something also happened that year to set the tone for years to come. There were a special group of people that attended that year, who despite the weather, stayed at Kona and camped out under tarps draped over a swing set and with dying flashlights continued to party on. It has been said that those people communicated to the blade gods and asked for them to grant us a sunny day to hold our event for 2014. And the blade gods answered blessing everyone with an amazing experience the following morning, and hopefully for years to come.
Text: Jesse James
Photos: Jeremy Stephenson, Kenny Owens, Kevin Dowling
Blake Taylor put together an A-team of people to help him organize the event for 2014 and we spent countless hours pulling it all together. Blake had a goal to expand and judging by this years record setting attendance, he achieved that goal. But our work is not done…
The Pow-Wow has found its home at Kona Skate Park in Jacksonville Florida for the past few years and its not going change. This year’s event solidified our dedication to hold an annual Skating Festival here at Kona as the United States’ premier event.
We have created a group of people that are putting in their own personal time and money to make this happen and we have sponsors that are showing increasing support. The festival is growing. Over 500+ people traveled from far and wide to spend the weekend, camping, skating, partying, and making friends with tons of other people that love to blade and have a good time. And all are excited to experience one of the wildest parks in the world, KONA.
Kona Skate Park has not stopped growing since it began in 1977.
This place is more than your average skate park it’s like a playground for skating. Locals who essentially began digging, pouring and spreading concrete across this craggy landscape, created a park that looks like something from the mind of Salvador Dali.
They also have an insane assortment of vert ramps, bowls, a street course, and many other street skating obstacles all over the place. As well as the legendary snake run. . However it is struggling to stay open, and the Pow-Wow is helping to keep it alive.
This year we added an event that will now be one of our featured attractions due to its overwhelming success and the rising interest in faster skating and powerblading etc. The“ Inline-X” is inspired by snowboarder cross events, except our version is on concrete and with inline skates.
This race begins at the top of the park, goes through the snake run then around the park, with four competitors racing to cross the finish line, first. People were bombing the course all weekend but no one knew what to expect in an all out battle against other skaters.
As folks strapped up for the event it was interesting to see the different setups. There were some serious powerblade frames and recreation skates out there with monster truck sized wheels. Many competitors used helmets and pads while others just skated as usual. Rob G. did it shirtless and one brave soul wore a full spandex-racing suit. Which is very impressive considering the unforgiving texture on the high speed turns that these guys had to charge.
You could start to see people thinking up strategies in their head as they stepped on the starting block, and watch all strategies fall to the way side as people just began to sprint. As the action began it was hard to tell who was going to win, but the finish line doesn’t lie. One of the great aspects of this event is that there is a definite winner. No one can blame a judge or complain about who won, if you cross the finish line first, you win.
And on Friday night to kick off the weekend, Ariel Surun took the first win of the Pow-Wow 8 and was crowned the first Inline-X Champion, receiving a $500 cash prize. Shout out to Joey Lunger for coming in at second place and Thanks to everyone else that was in the heats. Look out for next years race because I am sure there are some fools training out there right now and there will be many more competitors.
The first qualifier of the weekend, the 25 and up division presented by Sk8r4Life, was stacked. The older guys threw it down and everyone skated really hard. In the end Seth Loyd, David Dodge, Arsenio Patterson, Austin Hendrix and Chad Anthony, qualified for the Pro/Am division the following day.
The Main event for Friday is the “The Best Trick Contest”.
At this point the crowd was getting really fired up and the party had begun.
People had been out in the sun all day and were skating, drinking, and joking around, and still had such immense energy. With the sun down and the lights up, the battle for $1,000 kicked off. There were so many insane things happening that it would be rather tedious to list off. But, the tricks that stuck out and were talked about throughout the weekend came from skaters like Dave Lang, who boosted a huge switch 900. Jeph Howard attempting an insane X-grind across the vert ramp to death drop was terrifying and got people so hyped up.
The entire crowed raged on and we all got to see an episode of The Ben Weis Show as he launched onto the roof of the pro shop and back in, with true Stuntman Style.
Jimmy Spetz, Ben Henderson and Joey Chase all skated the giant beast rail up to the other side of the vert and did some crazy stuff up and into the ramp and Joey landed a huge acid drop into the bank from the top. But in the end the RAD’est dude of the weekend Montre Livingston took home the $1,000 cash with his relentless ninja spin and grind combos over the Ground Control box. Not to mention he was doing tricks on his fixed gear with his blades still on just for fun to please him and the crowd. He is ultimately one of The Most Entertaining Bladers on the planet. Turkey bacon.
After the all the official skating for that day was completed, everyone started to gather around the gigantic vert ramp to watch some live Music. Local band Winter Wave opened it up and got the crowd together. Following them was Modern Primitives, a band whose drummer is none other than Phillip Gripper, long time Southern Shredder and member of Oso Mfg. one of the featured vendors of the event. Modern Primitives rocked it so hard that a mosh pit/ royal rumble ensued which did get a bit out of hand, but I think everyone thoroughly enjoy participating and watching it, and that’s all that matters. Some roman candle baseball went down behind the band and Ben Weis went down the crazy roll-in in a garbage can.
All I can say is that was one of the most fun concerts I have ever been to, thanks to both Winter Wave and Modern Primitives for playing and we hope you can play again next year.
To whined things down Cody Porsche hopped on the Mic and played a few of his own songs and jammed on the acoustic guitar for a while which made everyone smile.
Friday night also was the first chance for people to see the premier of the Shredweiser “Americana Tour “ video. As everyone laid out in the grass and stared up at the huge projection screen we watched the Shredweiser guys tear up the countryside and shred some gnarly spots on what seemed to be an epic journey. The music is great and it’s a fun video to watch. You can tell Chris Dafick and Marc Moreno put their heart and soul into that production. I highly recommend you get a copy and support any future endeavors coming from that crew. A somber tone was felt whenever the “FOREVER NEGRETE“ image was shown on the screen, but the smiles and laughs remained and his legendary participation in blading was honored, amongst family friends and fans and he will live on eternally in our hearts. As the campfire began to blaze, smoke signals were sent up to the full moon overhead and drinks were shared as we laughed and told jokes into the night.
Awaking on Saturday morning was a struggle for many people but was eased by the delicious coffee being brewed up by a man that goes by the name of Safe Journey. He is a man that takes his coffee very seriously and shared his passion with everyone that stopped by the SOFLO collective tent. I know for a fact that the proper Irish coffee with foamed milk and garnish he poured for me helped start my day off right. We started seeing everyone poke there heads out of there tents and smile and then get up and put their skates on for some morning blading before the first event began.
We kicked off Saturday with a side event sponsored by SOFLO. The “Mush Blade” event offers $50 to the person whose skating style that is the most original, creative and technical. It was a great way for everyone to warm up and was cool to see what kind of things people are capable of when trying to do the “weirdest” tricks they can think of.
Young, Hunter Kale, put the money in his pocket after doing about 7 consecutive, toe-roll-kick-grind-spins (it was insane lets just put it that way) by a crowd’s reaction decision. I have to say Ben Weis although not exactly following the format of the event did lace an insane combo on about 7 different rails that was awesome. Robert Guerrero did a series of zen toe-roll grind box lines, but there were about 100 other mind blowing tricks landed by so many different people, by the end I felt like I was in “Fear and Loathing, Kona “
I think that if we didn’t move onto the next event, the AM qualifier, that session could have gone on for days. The Amateur Qualifier kicked off and was deep was some high level skating. So many huge tricks were all landed across the Oakcity box during this division. Only hand full would go on to qualify for the evening’s main event, the Pro/Am. It was a stacked division but in the end, Ray Kronenberg, Luke Rappa, Scott Hatten, Nate Snowden, Tucker Freeland and Chemi Semyu, skated the best and moved on to skate in the “Big Show.”
Every year. We are very proud to have a “Women’s Division” at Pow-Wow.
Ladies from all over the globe traveled to compete. These “bladies” or “blabes” as they are affectionately referred to, can shred just as hard as the boys and have style to match. Chihiro Azuma came all the way from Japan, skated amazingly and took home the 1st place prize of $500, defeating Coco Sanchez in a Pow-wow first ever Sudden Death format. Cocoa took home $300 for second and Chyna Weirstal not only took home 3rd place, which won her $100, but she landed the best trick and received an additional $100. Its great to see women’s rollerblading growing and we hope it stays on the rise. Shout outs to Fabiola DaSilva for coming out and skating and supporting the girls that are coming up.
With the day rolling by and the fun continuing to grow we all gathered back around the cement part of the course to watch another side event sponsored by Southern Scum.
Side events are chose by the sponsor and Chad Anthony chose to have a “Stall The Wall” battle. It took place on the legendary tombstone, which only a few people were actually able to lock on to. Jimmy Spetz had a sick mute – fishy-mute. Howie Bennet stuck a zero makio with a drop landing into the lower transition. However, the man of the hour was Eric Hallimen. Eric did a bunch of crazy tricks on that wall, but when he launched above the coping and stomped a true top-porn on the top, the crowed went wild and he instantly won. Congrats to him, it was perfectly executed.
The energy was building and the main event was about to begin. The main event we had all been waiting for had arrived and you could tell the crowd was ready to see some world class skating from some of the communities most respected and accomplished athletes. So many jaw-dropping tricks were landed in every heat. The crowd was raging, yelling, drinking and laughing. Pure joy and excitement filled the air as the finals were announced, and the competition continued.
Howie Bennet skated that course like it had been set up in his back yard for years. He flew across the course landing insane disaster tricks on the Amall box and flowing lines together like water. Kevin Lapierre came all the way from Canada to display his precision style and trick execution and always provides a professional impression on the crowd. He annihilated the shop-task sponsored ledge box. Dave Lang skated that course like he was mad at it. He was doing gaps almost as if he was taunting the ramps for not being farther apart. Even with his frame falling off his skate he repeatedly laced lofty spins and fully committed to grinds on anything that got in his way. He wasn’t scared of the challenge. And then there was David Sizemore…
A 3 time Pow-Wow champion comes into an event like this with a target on his back. Everyone wants to be victorious, but when you’ve won it before I assume there’s an added pressure. David didn’t seem to care. He skated in true Sizemore style. He perfectly lands technical tricks with major amplitude on everything and stays mellow and focused while he does it. He knows how to use a course to his advantage. He knows what is needed to win.
All weekend people had been eyeballing the “Sk8r4Life” sponsored obstacle, a deadly down box known as the “X-box” that has been used in countless Florida competitions, over a vert quarter, that only leaves you with a small bank to land on, after you jump about 10 feet. It had been questioned weather it was even possible to land such a hammer if one was even brave enough to try. People had ask to move it throughout the day, but founding father Uncle Blake knows that “ if we build it …they WILL skate it “.
As the competition became seemingly impossible to determine who was going to win, David decided he wasn’t going to leave it up to the judges. He went for the knockout trick, charged from the top, gaped over the railing, laced the grind box and then somehow leapt into the small bank and rolled away, with the victory. It is cliché to say “ and the crowd went wild!” … But they did.
He was raised up onto the shoulders of his peers and fans and was crowned the Pow-Wow 8 Pro/Am Champion. David received $2,000 for first place.
Howie Bennett took home $1,000 for 2nd
Kevin LaPierre got $500 for 3rd
and Dave Lang got $100 for fourth place.
After the winners were announced we kicked it into full swing party mode and had a band called “Bogsie Brigade” rocked out right on the street course. Another local band called “the Glory Hole Refugees” followed them. Both of these bands were really cool for coming out and helping us rock the after party. Of course the Modern Primitives played another awesome set as expected and people were dancing and rocking out all over the park.
Before we wrapped up the music, Cody Porsche and another friend got back up on the mic with their acoustic guitars while Robert Guererro followed along with his Flute. They set such a cool tone for the rest of the night and I know that everyone really enjoyed it while they played, including them.
All sorts of craziness were taking place across the park throughout that night. The campfire was blazing away. Food was being cooked, beers and booze were being shared and consumed. More smoke signals filled the air. Many jokes were told, that were either laughed at for being funny or for being terrible, it didn’t matter at that point.
There was a group gathered around the snake run with LED lights and headlamps bombing the snake run after the lights were off. And Jeremy Stephens and some other guys took some really cool pictures. Everyone was genuinely having a great time and was happy to be there talking about photography and sharing knowledge and tips.
There were games of Dice being played around the campfire until dawn, while exhausted sun burnt bodies slept in nearby tents all around.
Sunday morning was filled with people scrambling to get on the road and get home, or people lounging around that didn’t want it to end. Everyone shared the dread of having to return to there normal lives. Telephone numbers and social media contacts were exchanged, plans for tours and visits were discussed and arraigned amongst people that just days before had never met each other in person if at all. People helped each other pack and find lost items. Others stepped up to the plate and used their mechanic skills to help broken down cars come back to life. There was an energy buzzing around, as if everyone had a new love for rollerblading and was looking forward to getting home and resting up so they could continue to shred, get better at skating, get more clips, travel more places and collaborate with there new friends and tribesmen.
In sunny northern Florida, year after year, People are coming from all over the U.S.A and beyond to attend this Festival. The tribe is forming and people are getting together to continue the tradition and share Kona Skate Park as a home for a few days. We encourage more to join us next year. Bring your friends, and I promise you will leave with some more.
For some this trip is Work. For some it’s simply a blade vacation. For others it’s a shamanic retreat, or spiritual pilgrimage or maybe something that can’t exactly be described in words…but one thing it is for sure, is a gathering for ALL and we hope to see YOU next year and the year after.
Thanks to all the sponsors for their continued support. Thanks to all the competitors for putting their skills to the test at this event and keep coming back for more, year after year. And thanks to everyone else who has helped us make this event happen. We could not do it with out all your love and support for this event.
All photos from here: Jeremy Stephenson
All photos from here: Kevin Dowling