Florida racing is dirty. And I don’t say that to mean that it’s unfair, because I don’t think that any kind of racing with multiple people in a heat is especially “fair”. On any given day I’d speculate that racing success hinges on 1% equipment, 49% skill, and 50% luck. Florida’s racing style is dirty mostly because the roads themselves are dirty. The Sunshine State is probably the worst state in the union for downhill skateboarding, aside from maybe Kansas, so the inexplicably large and mobilized Florida longboard scene makes up for their lack of terrain with sketchiness.
To keep things fun and challenging, racers favour narrow race courses with tight choke points with only one practical line, home-made obstacles, and shit in the road. You have to push yourself, but pretty soon you forget how slow you’re going and you get caught up in the rhythm. Carnage on the Coast is the most fun you will ever have on a sidewalk that isn’t on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.
Carnage on the Coast is a total immersion event. Most of the rest of the competitive skate-world is probably accustomed to rallying around the same hundred ugly mugs for days at a time, but over here on the east coast the tent and hammock skate-festival style gatherings are still fairly fledgling. With the exception of the one IDF/IGSA race, most of our events are one day affairs where each posse fends for themselves before and after. Mike Girard (host of Central Mass) and Marc Dean and the Dynamic Davenport Doppelganger Duo (hosts of the Push Culture Family Picnic) are getting their feet wet with more complete festivities in 2013, but Michael Harrington has been doing it since 2011, and with such zealous commitment that all the first year’s attendees were instructed to camp in Mr. Harrington’s front and back lawns. The more, the merrier, right? This was my first year in attendance, but even from my limited experience this far south, it’s apparent that Michael had all his ducks in a row. With as much of the possible registration done ahead of time, all we had to do was show up, pitch a tent, and drink the free beer. Yeah. That’s right. Free beer.
That brings me to the first dilemma I encounter at every race. Do I go to bed so I can skate well in the morning and not feel like shit all day? Or do I do a kegstand and catch up with all my friends I haven’t seen since the last event….
Well long story short, 8am the next morning finds me throwing up in the bushes, weak kneed with a trampling headache, but with plenty of new stories and new friends. I steal another couple hours sleep in the Skanunu Bus, and rally to face the music for the sidewalk race. Drop in fifty feet down a 45* incline and try to finagle your way through a maze of sharp turns broken up by tree roots and large chunks of missing pavement that just so happen to accommodate the tightest lines. According to course veterans, whoever wins is the guy who can smack into all the potholes the hardest without losing any speed.
Dark horses from Texas sweep the podium and no one is surprised when one particular competitor is disqualified when footage surfaces of him shoving someone off the course, just like he does at pretty much every other race. And just like every other race it blows over after a few minutes of raised voices and everybody forgets about it. Everybody’s poaching runs between heats and things flow smoothly right up until the end. Staying hydrated is an all-day battle.
Only about a dozen people stick around for biggest air, and the ramp is only about three feet tall, so the jumps didn’t get too large, but the falls certainly do. Amidst a mess of mangled faces, hips, and hands, Taylor Martin squeaks out a hop no one can beat and swoops 75 dollars.
And somehow it’s 6 oclock and everybody limps back to the campsite to drink more free beer. A recurring issue from the previous night was a prevailing lack of firewood, and a lack of large tools to process down the bigger trees lying around. Tonight Gary “HAMBONE” McCarty chainsaws a whole cedar and the day is saved. Richie Kisseli struggles to cook hotdogs on a stick while enviously drooling over Hambone’s firebaked smorgasbord of stuffed clams, scallops, other unrecognizable delicacies atop a mountain of kielbasa. Somebody has a car battery hooked up to a tangle of stereos in their tent. They’re also apparently the only person in camp that likes dubstep.
Prescott Majette uses a bowie knife to cleave up everybody a piece of the best watermelon any of us have ever had. Somebody points a flashlight into the river we’ve shouldered with our tents and points out one… two… three alligators by the shine in their eyes. Some voice their scepticism but shut right the hell up when one swims almost up onto the bank where we stand. General shenanigans abound.
And then it’s race day. Believe it or not, the course is about 40mph+ at full charge, but the hard parts are the slow sections at very beginning and the very end. The hundred yard, slightly downhill, push sections ends in a tight and sharp left-to-right chicane where an entire heat gets squeezed down into one line. Plenty of experienced racers got pinched off into curbs or taken out by a scrub from behind. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that nearly 90% of the day’s crashes happened less than ten seconds after the starting gun. The long straight to right is grippable, and only a couple people go into the bales, but when they do they go in hard. Then there’s another messy chicane in the parking lot runout, but by then the race is mostly decided. Texas pretty much sweeps the podium again.
By the time the slide jam rolls around, most everybody has already left to dig into the barbecue grilled up by Harrington’s mom. I take first place, and some guy shreds a milk crate. We’re all rallied up in the parking lot trying to squeeze in some last minute quality time before everybody heads back to real life. We’re all sponged over by swampy rashes, obscure insects bites, road rash and poison oak, but we’re all still happy to be there. My trip-mates get tired of waiting for me and I shout my goodbyes Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Texas and Connecticut and leap into the already moving Skanunu bus to head home to Georgia.
Definitely coming back next year.