The Blading Cup: a View from Under the Ramps

Introduction & write-up by Brian Krans
Photography by Megan Petersen

We weren’t the first people there and we surely weren’t going to be the last. The buildup to that weekend had been months of planning, organizing, working, and we still had plenty of it ahead of us.

The weekend, like all of them focused on nothing but blading, was going to be a heavy buzz of cheap liquor, quick meals, depleted bathroom resources, amazing displays of athletic abilities, lost voices, gallons of sweat, a gray film of shit all over your skin, sore joints, fat blunts, and more homies than you ever thought you could cram into one town.

The next day, we went to check out the new Them Goods shop. Skate shops are rare nowadays, so it was hard not to stare endlessly at such a good-looking one filled with all that awesome gear. That, and we spent the whole day drinking kegs of Bootlegger beer Mike Opalek makes now that he’s returned to Southern California. It wasn’t until later in the day that we decided to climb some ladders and do some actual work. Hanging out drinking beer with Jason Reyna, Gav Drumm, Stokely, Leon Gallego, Keaton Newsom, and anyone else who rolled through will have that effect on your productivity.

When that was over, we went check out a place we know as “Open,” a basement bar and pool hall that was also rumored to be a brothel because men would go in the back with a lady but only the lady would come out. I have seen shit like that happen in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, but those weren’t no hookers. Still, that’s something you have to check out for your own. You know, for journalistic purposes only.

If you’re ever going to check out an alleged brothel across the street from where a major skate competition is going to be in two days, you should absolutely do it with Opalek and Reyna.

The next morning, Opalek, Reyna, and I were feeling unusually sloshy in the head. We might have been drugged, but thanks to our advanced alcoholism, we were able to return home without further incident.

Also, all of these allegations have absolutely no evidence to support them. It’s merely hypotheses we made over a weekend that involved enough sun exposure to lower your IQ a few points.

The next day I spent doing the most badass thing that exists on the planet: building skate ramps.

The ramps were either left over from the year before or rented from Spohn Ranch (Yes, that Spohn Ranch) or NISS (Yes, that NISS).

It was hotter than shit, the metal ramp pieces were ungodly heavy and complicated, the smallest gaps in those pieces created the biggest headache, and I had a hangover. Talk about the best days you can have.

I had a blast. The crew I worked with—Nick Wood, Damien Wilson, Andy “Wedge” Cruse, Alex Miranda, Miguel Ramos, and others—was awesome. Working with Miguel, who works at Woodward West, and Cruse, whose signature mizou has shaped my blading life more than it should have, was awesome. Alex was the shit because that fucker doesn’t get tired. As far as Nick and Damien, well, they’re Nick and Damien. They build and wreck shit for a living. They know what the fuck they are doing. I probably created more problems than I fixed, but the others were nice enough to tolerate my stupidity and clumsiness.

Afterwards, there was the shop grand opening. It was just a great gathering of the homies.

One thing about it very near and dear to my heart, was the release of the Shred ‘Til You’re Dead book. Ivan mentioned the project before the tour and two years later it’s finally complete. The photography is amazing. The layout and artwork is amazing. I consider myself very fortunate to be part of that project. I want to buy a coffee table so I have a place to properly display a proper tribute to an amazing blading road trip.

But back to this blading trip.

After a day of building ramps and complimentary beverages at the shop, it was time to watch the Strange Creature’s “Voodoo Show.”

At some point in the drunken daze, we were chugging beers as security and the police were everywhere. Security found our hiding spont and told us to empty our beers. I followed Stokely’s lead and chugged as much as I could in one shot. I’d lose him somewhere in the mix of the night. He’d return to Jon’s the next morning. He slept on the floor of someone’s house only to be roused by some unsuspecting realtor showing the place to potential buyers. The most surprising fact is that he didn’t end up in jail because of it, but if you’ve ever met Stokely, you’re not surprised by it.

Just before the premiere, some officers on horseback decided to question and detain one Keaton Newsom and Dylan Davis. It was minor bullshit, but their detainment was taking unnecessarily long.

Seeing how these are two good natured boys who only want to blade and have a good time, the bladers in attendance were generous enough to collectively donate $80 in 10 minutes to help the boys pay off any impending fines. Way to go, blading.

The boys only received tickets and were released, but the officers lingered around the crowd to ensure their ban of Dylan’s presence at the premiere remained enforced. Thankfully, Dylan was sly enough to get into the theater to see his section. I’m thankful I saw it, too.

Amir Amadi did a great job showcasing blading’s newest generation amidst amazing sections of seasoned pros like Alex Broskow and Brandon Smith. Still, in my dollar, the best bang for your am buck was Luda. The section was edited to see a progression in his style and skating, from Broskow’s technical abilities to Smith’s smooth, speedy hammers.

I’ll put it as nicely as possible: buy that mother fucking video.

Besides the Shred book and Voodoo Show, there was still more amazing blade media coming out that weekend. Copies of the first Haitian Mag were floating around and I can’t wait for the next one. Jason Marshall and the rest of the Hamer crew were showcasing the latest in rollerblading interactive media. That’s something you want to see when it comes out.

As much as my body needed rest, we had to be up early for the am contest. It was a damn good show.

Kevin Yee, Drumm, Michael Garlinghouse, and Mike Froemling shred the living hell out of the course. Unfortunately, Garlinghouse and Froemling collided in the finals, taking Garlinghouse out. Thankfully, an MRI said he was all good.

Drumm may have won, but Yee was hands down the fan favorite. His cheering section began with his SF homies and spread further down. I’m not wasting another feeble word attempting to describe it. It was young blood shredding the fuck out of old school ramps. Awesome as hell.

It was an impressive sight to see the Bladies, the collective group of female skaters who rolled into the course, shred it for the women’s class, and spend the rest of the weekend together. Solidarity among the ranks at its finest. We men blader folk bow to the Bladies.

Then there was a pro contest. I’m sure you’ve heard about it already. There aren’t 10,000 edits all over the place because Jon worked out a deal with Fox Sports Net to broadcast a blader-edited version of the event. The last time something like that happened, NISS was still a tour and Jon was in the competition, not hosting it. I think that’s worth noting.

As far as the pros, that’s a different one to write about. It’s hard to watch a comp like that and cheer for everyone. You have legends like Brian Shima busting some classic big shit on that steep down box with a small runway…just like it used to be back in the day.

There’s the skaters you love watching all the time, the ones you wish you’d see more of, and the ones you can never get enough of.

And it was hot as shit out, so just being there was a sweaty workout. Blading or working in it could have been lethal, but the fun part of the way was that no one died.

For me, I had the pleasure of watching Nick Lomax skate in person for the second time in two months. I’m the American prick who doesn’t watch European skaters often enough, so it was awesome to see him shred the course, take some falls that looked worse than they actually were, and listen to him discuss the falls later. Good dude.

CJ won by a judge’s landslide. He shredded the hell out of the thing all day and won the awesome blade-knuckle knife trophy.

Kennan Scott and Erick Garcia did a great job emceeing the event. They kept the crowed juiced and laughing for a total of about eight hours. That’s no easy feat and they deserve everyone’s fucking respect.

As you would expect, the rest of the night was chugging beers at the local taqueria, drinking wine out of the bottle at the shop, sipping Opalek’s lethal homemade whiskey, and pounding the Jack that Jero thought was necessary to factor into the equation. The remainder of the evening was a blur and rightly so. That much booze and heatstroke will do that to you.

Kennan and Jon Vossoughi got kicked out of the club for some unknown reason. In response to this, I felt it necessary to pick up one of the barriers and throw it, informing the rest of blading family to congregate

My words may have been something like, “Fuck this! We’re fucking out of here!” but my memory of the event isn’t the clearest.

After taking down the ramps the next morning with some of the other volunteers and some new ones, the weekend was officially over and it was time to go home.

By the time I was back in San Francisco and in bed it was 4 in the morning. I was up at 6 to take the rental car back and make it to work on time. Now that I’ve managed to get the first night of good rest in one week, I feel slightly recovered.

I could do it all over again immediately.

In essence, I was able to I volunteer building ramps with legends who skated those same ramps in 1995 when I began skating, grom the fuck out the whole time, see so many homies do some awesome skating, see the next generation of skating in video form, release a book, black out without major incident, not have to drive or take a bus, and somehow make it work.

The most important thing I learned was that crew work is the fucking shit. It’s all problem solving, endless physical labor outdoors in the heat, and refusing to stop until all the work is done. It’s a wonderful break away from the dull and drone of the daily cubicle life, especially for someone with a viking, lumberjack, and a blue collar Midwest lineage.

I know that even with these 2,500 or so words I’ve written about the weekend, I can never do it justice. You have to come out to the Blading Cup and experience it for yourself. Let me know all the stuff I missed by putting it in the comments. I, just like everyone else, will be telling stories of this year’s Blading Cup until next year.

Right now, my skin feels and looks like tanned old leather. My precious writer hands have calluses all over them. I’m still extremely sleep deprived. I still have white paint on my fingernails from tagging ramps with sponsor logos. I did laundry for the first time in a month and my sleeveless crew shirt was the first thing I put on.

Others worked longer and harder than I did, so I’m not self-delusional to think anything I did was anything special. I only went to the event to see friends and write about it. Just as I expected, my expectations were complete bullshit.

You should try it. Sign up to help next year. You will have the time of your life as long as you don’t mind putting in some work for it. (Actually, that works for everything.)

The Blading Cup was an amazing time only because people put in the time and effort to do it.

Thanks, Jon and Viola for everything you’ve done and continue to do. Thanks to everyone that came out. Thanks for the companies that sent riders out, sponsored the event, or contributed in any way.

Thanks to the rest of the homies in orange shirts. Thanks to all the sponsors who made it possible. Thanks to the City of Santa Ana, the East End, and all the local businesses who kept us fed and boozed up. To the police there, remain on your literal high horses all you want, but you know you want to party with us.

It was one of the best vacations of my life.

I can’t wait for next year.

My tool bag is already packed.