Holy Cow! What a trip! I’m happy to report that the Dirty South Kids in Emerica Tour went off with fantastic results and that the Emerica team is finally back in their respective homes recovering from this latest adventure. The turnouts were incredible! So many Kids in Emericas showed up to hang out with the team at every stop. Some shops were definitely overwhelmed by the crowds, and signings lasted into the wee hours at many of our visits. Fueled by the apparent enthusiasm for skateboarding witnessed at every stop along the way, the Emerica cast on this trip—consisting of Andrew Reynolds, Heath Kirchart, Tosh Townend, Erik Ellington, Bryan Herman, Leo Romero and Matt Allen—were all too eager to meet as many of their fellow skateboarders as would come their way.
The first demo was at Emerica pro Andrew Reynolds’ home park, the world famous Skatepark of Tampa, in Tampa, Florida. Actually, this turned out to be less of a demo and more of an all-day skate marathon. Fresh off our plane ride out from Los Angeles, we arrived at the park around three o’clock to set up boards and try to get some street skating in before our scheduled seven o’clock appearance back at the park. Just then, the rains set in. Having no outdoor alternative and being the complete skate rats that they are, the Emerica team naturally began annihilating the park straight away. For the next five hours, as more and more Kids began arriving for the scheduled demo, the Emerica team continued to destroy every inch of the street course.
By the time any of the guys stopped to catch their breath, the park was mobbed to standing room only capacity with nearly one thousand screaming Kids in Emericas. There were Kids everywhere. In the bleachers, on the stairs, in the hallways and even on the street course itself. Very cool. Later, the team signed autographs and took some time to meet the Kids. Of course, this lasted another couple of hours, but no one was complaining. By the time we got out of there, the team was buzzing from the great turnout and the masses of footage everyone accumulated for the Kids in Emerica Tour Video, and all were eager to spend the next couple of rain-free days hitting up Andrew’s hometown spots with our photographer on this trip, Ryan Gee of The Skateboard Mag.
The gambling bug hit us again this trip when Heath decided to get a portable television set for each of the two mini-vans we had rented for our journey. Baseball season was over, but football was in the quarterfinals on its road to the Super Bowl, so football became our sport of choice for all wagers, big and small. But football is only on during the weekends, and with the gambling vice being a 24/7 addiction, bets were once again flying any time someone stepped on a board. Make / not make, number of tries, odd tries vs. even tries, almost anything could get you some action. Leaving Tampa, Leo kickflipped the longest gap I’ve ever witnessed anyone kickflip. It was so impressive that I felt obliged to give Leo the five bucks I’d just taken off of Heath for the make. No biggie, though, since Leo owed Tosh five from a bet earlier, and Tosh owed me five for a Taco Bell run the night before, the bill quickly found its way back home into my wallet.
On our way to the Emerica signing at Outer Limits Skate Shop in Jacksonville, the team decided to stop off at the St. Augustine skatepark for a quick session. The Emerica team got another chance to collect even more footage there for the tour video with Emerica filmer, Jon Miner. By the time we got to Outer Limits, the house was packed and once the team eventually finished signing for and meeting all the Kids, the six-hour drive to Atlanta, Georgia commenced.
During the course of filming for the Emerica DVD, This is Skateboarding, the Emerica team got a chance to spend a bit of quality time in Atlanta and skate the plethora of spots that the historic Southern city has to offer, always under the lights and lens of our friend and ATL tour guide, Georgia Joel. Because of the good times we’ve had there on past trips, everyone was really looking forward to getting back to Buckhead, checking into the hotel, and calling up Joel. This time, however, Andrew and Erik had their own reason to be excited about the next few days we were going to spend in the hometown of Outkast, the Goodie Mob and the Dungeon Family, amongst others.
East Point’s Greatest Hits is an album by a local Atlanta rapper named Cool Breeze that Andrew and Erik had a particular obsession with on this trip. East Point is the suburb of Atlanta that gave birth to Cool Breeze, as well as some of the above-mentioned renowned hip-hop artists. For some reason, rappers from East Point have to rap about it constantly in almost all of their rhymes and it was Andrew and Erik’s mission on this trip to make a pilgrimage out to East Point to see firsthand the streets and places they’d been hearing about in this music for so long. Turns out East Point is mainly woods and, on the day they visited, they didn’t see a single East Point hustla roaming the streets, nor could they find the legendary studio on Headland and Delowe (although they did find a 99-cent store there). The employees in the only record shop in the notorious Green Briar Mall had barely even heard of East Point’s most illustrious contribution to the hip-hop world and, inconceivably, the racks were full of typical pop crap from Beyonce, 50 Cent and the like.
To lift their spirits after the slight disappointment of their fantasy not living up to East Point’s reality, Andrew and Erik decided to get in a couple of hammers at Atlanta’s four-block. Andrew made short work of a nollie pop shove-it, while Erik put down a buttery smooth switch frontside flip down the massive set. Some people collected on the bets they had made and we were off. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, however, Leo decided he needed to destroy a couple of rails with his trademark consistency later that night.
There were easily over four hundred Kids waiting to meet the team at Ambush Skate Shop just outside of Atlanta, and despite being a huge, well-run establishment, some minor chaos did ensue. Nothing out of hand, though, and most everybody walked away with a smile after meeting the Emerica team in person. This, despite the fact that we ran out of tour posters to sign toward the end. My sincerest apologies to anybody who waited in that lengthy line only to have the posters run out.
If the signing at Ambush was crazy, then the demo later at the X Games Skatepark was completely and utterly mental. 1,500 – 2,000 Kids stormed the course before the demo and just getting to each obstacle was a task for the team. With the help of some police tape, paths were eventually cleared and the crowd was treated to an equally insane demo from the Emerica team. The highlights from this one were too many to list, so you’ll just have to wait for the Kids in Emerica Tour Video to see what you missed.
Heath has been making trips out to Birmingham, Alabama to visit his girlfriend for some time now. His friend Ben Gilley also lives there, so we knew we needed to make a visit to one of the most down shops in the South, Faith Skate Supply in Birmingham, on this trip. B’ham is a small town, so the turnout was a lot mellower than the previous stops, but Faith’s owner, Peter, assured us that just about every skateboarder in a two-hour radius had made it out to this signing. Even the local newspaper came out to cover the Emerica signing in Birmingham. After a short flat-bar session with the Kids, we ended up at the giant bump-to-gap where Heath did the over-head-high frontside 180 and kickflip in his TIS part. Leo landed a nice backside 180 over the beastly gap and Andrew closed the session out with the frontside flip to end all frontside flips. Even those who had just lost on their bets were in high spirits after witnessing this one from the Master.
The following day, we rolled into Hattiesburg, Mississippi, home of Westside Skate Shop. Westside is another one of the corest skate shops in the South and the owner, Jody, even plays drums in rapper Afroman’s band (think of the “I was gonna clean my room, then I got high” song) so even Afroman turned up for the Emerica signing at Westside with autographed copies of his new 7” for the team. Once again, the local news was on hand and Leo got drafted to give the on-camera interview for the nightly news segment they were doing on Emerica’s visit to Hattiesburg. Leo is usually a very funny and witty kid, but as soon as the camera was turned on, his brain must’ve turned off. Watching him squirm was even better than witnessing his usual charm and Jody promised us he’d send us the tape of that evening’s news broadcast. Jody, I need that tape, buddy!
After the signing at Westside, Jody drove us to the local skatepark in Hattiesburg called Rage, where the Emerica team completely and utterly cremated the park with one of the gnarliest demos I’ve ever witnessed, or anybody has ever witnessed, for that matter. This demo was quite possibly one of the best demos to have ever even occurred on this planet or any other! If anybody reading this was there, feel free to testify in the Blabs section below this article. For those of you who weren’t there, you can be sure that much of what went down in Hattiesburg will be making it into the tour video, so be sure to stay on the lookout for that one when it drops this Spring. I mean it, this one was a scorcher and the team broke it off for as long as their legs could carry them.
Our final scheduled appearance on the Dirty South leg of the Kids in Emerica Tour was at Plus Skate Shop in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Due to some confusion, some people were told we would be arriving at two o’clock. So even though it was a weekday, moms were pulling their Kids out of school and waiting in line. Punctual, as usual, we arrived at the time we were told to be there by, four o’clock, only to find out that many in the crowd had been waiting around for over two hours. Unbelievably, nobody was upset or pissed off. In fact, everybody was just genuinely happy to get a chance to hang out with the Emerica team and get a tour poster signed or whatever. Much of this I attributed to the fact that the guy that runs the shop, Lee, has a pretty good relationship with most of the Kids in the local skate scene.
That night, we powered through the seven-hour drive from Ft. Walton back to Tampa so that the pros on the team and Jon Miner could fly home the next day. Bryan, Leo, Matt, Gee and myself settled into the hotel as everybody else headed toward the comforts of home. We prepared ourselves for the next several days back at the Skatepark of Tampa and the impending Am Contest and related festivities that were bound to ensue.
Shouts go out to all the staff at all the shops and parks we visited on Emerica’s Dirty South Kids in Emerica Tour for all their hard work in helping make each event a complete success. Most of all, thanks to all the pure skateboarders and Kids in Emericas who came out to greet the Emerica team at each stop. You guys are the backbone of skateboarding and you’re the reason Emerica is even here. Thanks for the memories and keep skateboarding for life, y’all!—Justin Regan