Late in 2012, skaters worldwide were shocked to hear that the first event of the year, The King of Clermont, had been dealt a devastating sucker punch, and was now bleeding in the sand. Don’t take any of this as gospel, but the gossip was that a pack of locals got themselves a set of bolt cutters and opened a new front gate in the fence. They decided to have their own little KoC a few weeks early. Of course some kook goes and hurts himself, authorities are called, some skaters yell at some cops, some property gets damaged, and everybody’s trespassing. If you look up “Blowing It” on urban dictionary, I’m sure you’ll find a picture of this scenario.
Now may or may not be a tasteful time to address the stigma of the Florida longboarder, but we’re just gonna charge on and do it anyway. I’m from Georgia, and this phenomenon is particular to us American southerners, but I’m sure every region has someone committed to the same stereotypes. There seem to be recurring issues with riders coming up from Florida and hurting themselves in a big way on certain runs (that I will go into no further detail to describe for obvious reasons). And by recurring, I mean it happened once or twice, so this is not to say that Floridians, as a rule, blow it. Residents Will Royce and Prescott Majette, for instance, have likely been seen making you look like a bitch at more than one event this past year, and plenty of others like Benjamin Arcia and Cameron Kirkner uphold the greater values of the skateboarding world and the peaceful power that resonates in the perfect anarchy of a skate festival. It has, however, become a running joke among the Carolinas that Floridians are the ever-kook. “Blah-blah-blah garages”. “Blah blah blah mongo centrax carbon evo”. None of it is true, but we still find it as funny as any other racist joke. And this next line might land me in a week or two of sensitivity training, but I don’t think there was a single person in the entire world who expected the premier event in Florida to be Floridianed by Floridians.
Flight tickets had been confirmed, hotels had been booked, and racers from all over the globe had planned out every detail of their vacation to squeeze every drop of gnar from the fifth annual King of Clermont. Only a squad of selfish bastards lacked the courtesy to know not to face fuck the sanctity out of someone else’s hard work, done for you, you selfish bastards.
Yeah. I’m talking to you. You know who you are.
Going further than, I daresay with limited knowledge of other heroic hosts, any other event coordinator has in the past to salvage what was left of his baby. With irate property owners, police forces, and no lawyer, the outlook was bleak. He literally pounded his head against a table late into the night for nearly a month, and then shit got creative.
“King of Kona” anyone? With a quick swap of venue, salvation was in sight. Those no longer willing to attend got a refund, and everybody else went to Jacksonville. A charter bus was even contracted to shuttle skaters from Clermont to Kona. According to event official, Shawn Tseng, it had four people on it. That’s how hard these guys worked for you. If you were among the number who withdrew their registration, you ain’t nothing but a damn fool, and your mother is ashamed of you.
From January 11 to the 14th, the historic Kona Skatepark of Jacksonville Florida was host to its first longboarding event since the 1970’s. If anyone can describe it to you as much more than a blur, then they probably weren’t actually there. For four days the skatepark was infested with stinking hoodrats from the world over. A neon shantytown of dozens of tents popped up out of nowhere, mere footsteps from where concrete was being shred. You wanted to sleep at night? Sorry, drunk idiots screaming and crashing in the snake run kept you awake until six in the morning. At which point, the rising sun would either bake you out of the tent or kill you. You’d shamble around for a bit, find your friends, brush your teeth with cheap beer, have a cigarette and a piss for breakfast and then you’d mysteriously find yourself alive, alert, and thrashing out the kinks with blood and vinegar. Within what seemed like moments, the sky fell away and it was dark. And with the dark came the wet, the moisture in the air blanketing the transitions and ramps with a thin mist of wet and angry death.
Some people shredded the mini ramp anyway. Most hurt themselves. Eventually the condensation pushed everyone to the still dry snake run, where you could pump a line, get passed by a hairy naked man drinking his beer, or take a flying banana to the head. Not kidding about either of those, by the way. Where you ended up after dropping in was a bit of a tossup. Pierce Majette got launched out of the pipe when he dodged a crash and just about jumped over the rest of the park. And then you drop back in the snake for a couple more runs, and surprise, it’s dawn again. Have another beer.
After three more days of that, everyone left with a limp in at least one leg, bent and broken off over the knee of Kona, ready to go home, but ready to plan the trip back in 2014. Big thanks to everybody who helped out, I’m gonna wrap this up nice and abruptly. Just thinking about the trip is making me dizzy again.
Mason rides for jati boards, capsule boardshop, surf-rodz trucks, tiger skate designs, skanunu brands, riptide bushings, and g-form.
Day photos: Possala Wang
Night photos: Alex Mendez