What a trip
Three states into our trip, and this was just one of the thoughts popping into our heads. My traveling partners, Chris Sayer and Aaron Hirschi, and I dreamed up this trip with thoughts of saving some money, but halfway through the trip and with over nine hours left behind the wheel, we began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into and why. Gator, Shaun Murray, Dean Lavelle, Chase Heavener, Andrea Gaytan, Greg Nelson and all the others were flying, but oh no, not us. We had to try and make a wakeboard journey into some sort of surfing safari. Were we crazy for plotting this trip? No, worse. We were two amateur riders and a team manager dealing with the reality of not being pros. We actually had to stick to a budget.
Even with this harsh reality in our minds, and Aaron’s out-of-alignment Bronco shaking us to pieces, we pushed forward through five states (California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado) with hopes of reaching the greatest and only combined snow/wakeboard contest in the world – Boardfest!
After 18 hours, and one near drowning (Chris and his bright idea of tying a rope to the back of the car and boarding the flood-level Colorado River), we finally made it to the promised land, Denver.
DENVER: DAY 1
“What do you mean Gator’s not here? How can it be a Gator clinic without Gator? I want to see Gator!”
How do you explain to a kid that his hero is also a kid and very capable of missing plane flights that are supposed to bring him to a clinic on time? You smile and give him lots of stickers and, oh yeah, hope and pray that a rider like Shaun Murray just so happens to be in town and awake at such an early hour. Lucky for Tommy’s Slalom Shop, one such rider happened to be around. I’m sure the kids (and their paying parents) weren’t too disappointed after Shaun stuck a couple of whirly 540s.
Shaun and John Charleton, working along with Chris and Aaron, handled the morning clinic as Gator waited stand-by in Orlando. Fortunately, all four exploded in their demonstration runs. If Shaun’s near-720 was any indication, Saturday’s event was going to go off! Anyhow, after hours of stand-by Gator finally made it to the clinic and got to help the afternoon crew.
While many kids and adults were learning new tricks or even riding for the first time, the hints of a contest began to appear. Pro snowboarders began showing up, desperate to get in a few pulls before the event. Their stoke on the sport of wakeboarding showed how cool this event was since they were as stoked on getting to the lake as we were about heading to the mountains. The crossover aspect of our sports was proving strong.
Next, it was off to Wahoo’s for registration and some serious grubbing of those famous fish tacos and happy-hour specials. Andrea, Neil Drake, Gator, Jeff Brushie, Cara Beth Burnside, Dean and Morgan Lafonte were all there. Not often that these board-sport heroes can be seen gathered in one place having a great time, but thanks to Boardfest creator Angie Larson, the wake/skate/snow industries were all together.
From Wahoo’s the party moved to the Skyline night club. This party raged on all night and had some very memorable moments: Chase Heavener and his new “Krusty the Klown” hairdo not being let in the door (the “I’m with the band” line almost worked), Shaun Murray and Bill McCaffray showing off their dancing and rapping skills (“Can I get a Woo! Woo!”) and Andrea kissing Gator (swears it was a dare), to name just a few.
The wakeboarding would come very early for many of us the following morning.
DENVER: DAY 2 –
Sloan Park was a killer site for the event to be held at as it looked as smooth and glassy even through the haze of a hangover. The action would prove to be even more killer as the rider took to the water. With the Board BUD bus cranking the tunes and Tommy and Finn announcing, the amateurs gave it their all. John Charleton’s huge front flips and Aaron Hirschi’s spin-to-win style were probably the most memorable. The snowboarders (those lucky enough to bum a board) were charging as well. Grabs and pokes were the moves of choice for the snow-style riders; however, I’d have to say the most memorable was the kid who paid $100 to enter and couldn’t even get up out of the water. Reminds me of my friend Laurent Benjamin, another wise spender of $$$.
“Damn! That girl can ride.” You could tell that many in the crowd had never seen such riding from a woman as the people lined along the shore were louder than I had heard at previous contests. Sonja Scheffler and Andrea were the only wakeboard-specific pros, and they both rose to the occasion. Andrea electrified the Denver crowd with her perfect stand-up passes and made it obvious why she is the current world champion.
During the women’s event, Gator and Chase took the mike from Finn and did a little of the emceeing. We even got to hear a little of Gator’s rapping and rhyming. For those of you that haven’t listened to his answering machine before, this hidden talent might come as a surprise. Then again, maybe it should stay hidden. All I can say is it’s a good thing those two are paid to wakeboard.
Speaking of wakeboarding, the guys stepped up the plate (dock) next. All of the pros were going very large, but in the end it came down to a ride-off among four riders. Shaun and Gator seemed to be battling it out for the top spot, but Chase and local boy Brannan Johnson were close behind and ready to steal the title. Brannan rode fairly well in the finals but had definitely ridden better in the earlier heats. He still went big, but just didn’t stick everything. Chase rode insanely, sticking some mobes and a huge tantrum to blind, but might have spent too much time waving at the crowd to score big with the judges. It came down to the wire between Gator and Shaun, as most thought it would.
Gator did, as usual, the biggest hoochie krypt I’d ever seen and stuck a Pete Rose, but Shaun killed with a cleaner run and a whirlybird 5 (when do we get to see the whirly 7?) to take the title and the $1,000 check. After Day 1, Shaun went home the confident champion and the others went home hungry for the next day’s event – snowboarding.
DENVER: DAY 3 –
Everybody was charging the technical slope-style course early, getting as many practice runs as possible before the real deal. The conditions were really slushy, and the landings were really flat, but that didn’t seem to stop the snowboarders. Not even the 12,000-foot elevation of Arapahoe Basin was slowing down this crew. While the wakeboarders were getting used to the elements, Morgan Lafonte, Neil Drake and the rest of their snowboarding pals were busting out the biggest inverts off tabletops that you’d ever seen. Morgan’s indy back flip was the most talked about move of the day and it was just in the warm-ups.
The day was very festive. As the riders did their thing, the bands jammed out the fast-paced tunes, and the skaters, including female ripper Cara Beth Burnside, were charging the ramp. C.C. Roberts was even seen dropping in a few times.
Highlights of snowboarding included Josh Smith’s smooth ripping, Greg Nelson’s big grabs, Dean Lavelle’s tantrum, Gator’s blind 360 off the gap and Shaun’s front and back flips. As the riding came to a conclusion and the day’s winners were announced, suspense grew for the announcement of the overall and the $3,000 purse. Would a snowboarder take it, or would wakeboarding show its muscle? After the scores were tallied, it was Shaun who graciously accepted the title of Boardfest champion and was followed by Hoyt Hottel (where’d this guy come from?), Josh Smith in third and Gator in fourth. Perhaps the most stoked competitor of the weekend was women’s pro champion Tanya Otero, who wore a big ol’ perma-grin for hours after the contest.
In the end, everybody was super-stoked on the even
t (some of us wish it was a little closer), and many were overheard making plans for next year’s event.
Special thanks go out to Angie Larson and Colleen for running the whole gig, to Pulp magazine, Wahoo’s Tacos and all the other sponsors. An extra special thanks goes out to Shaun Murray for the celebration dinner (Liquid Force may not win everything, but we always find a way to get a free meal) and to the Denver police for keeping the streets safe.Shaun’s front and back flips. As the riding came to a conclusion and the day’s winners were announced, suspense grew for the announcement of the overall and the $3,000 purse. Would a snowboarder take it, or would wakeboarding show its muscle? After the scores were tallied, it was Shaun who graciously accepted the title of Boardfest champion and was followed by Hoyt Hottel (where’d this guy come from?), Josh Smith in third and Gator in fourth. Perhaps the most stoked competitor of the weekend was women’s pro champion Tanya Otero, who wore a big ol’ perma-grin for hours after the contest.
In the end, everybody was super-stoked on the event (some of us wish it was a little closer), and many were overheard making plans for next year’s event.
Special thanks go out to Angie Larson and Colleen for running the whole gig, to Pulp magazine, Wahoo’s Tacos and all the other sponsors. An extra special thanks goes out to Shaun Murray for the celebration dinner (Liquid Force may not win everything, but we always find a way to get a free meal) and to the Denver police for keeping the streets safe.