Or: Emerica Flattens Florida
Photography by Patrick O’dell
Well, it was time to make the annual pilgrimage to the Tampa Am contest. Instead of heading straight to Tampa, though, we decided to start out in Miami for a few days to skate and film at some of the many awesome spots that city has to offer. Emerica pros Leo Romero, Kevin "Spanky" Long and ams Braydon Szafranski and Matt Allen; along with Emerica Team Manager Justin Regan and myself, Emerica Team Assistant Jeff Henderson; flew out to Miami to join up-and-coming Emerica Am Brandon Westgate and Thrasher photographer Patrick OÃ‚’Dell. Enjoi pal Jerry Hsu also tagged along with us.
Once we all met up at the airport, we did the handshakes, rented a couple of mini-vans and were off to our hotel in South Beach. We got to the hotel pretty late, but because of the time difference, some of us were restless, so we went to an all-night diner near the hotel. We bumped into Jason Dill, who was eating at the diner, which was kind of random. We ate, went back to the hotel and crashed.
The next day, Saturday, we got up at about 3:00 p.m., which was pretty much the standard for the rest of the trip. It was pretty hot and humid and a bit cloudy, looking like it might rain. We watched Napoleon Dynamite, which was quoted left and right for the remainder of the trip. After hitting up MIA Skate Shop, which was a convenient two blocks from the hotel, we headed to Control Skatepark near downtown. The park was packed with kids, but everyone skated for a while and had a good time.
Kevin did his first-ever layback grind on the bank-to-wall. It was sick! Brandon Westgate killed the park. He did a backside 360 kickflip up the Euro gap. After skating and signing some autographs, it was back to the hotel to regroup and figure out what to do with the night. We hit up Matt, the owner of Control Skatepark, to see where we might find a generator and lights. Turns out Matt had some, and was nice enough to let us borrow them while we were in town. Thanks again, Matt!
We then made our way over to ADP to skate a white seven-stair hubba. The weather wasnÃ‚’t looking good on the way there, as we drove through patches of rain, but we lucked out and it was dry at the spot. We ended up getting some sick footage, and by the end, it was just Braydon going for a pretty tech trick on the hubba when the rain hit. He was still trying his trick, but the landing was made out of bricks and was getting super slippery. After slipping out a few times, Braydon was over it. That was the end of our night.
We hung out around the hotel for a bit on Sunday, watching Napoleon Dynamite again, and got our skate mission going later that night. We headed out to the blue hubba spot and Leo, Brandon, and Jerry Hsu skated it for a bit, each getting a trick. After that spot, we hit up Krispy Kreme for some late-night energy food. We made our way back toward the hotel to hit up an eight-stair rail at a school nearby. The footage was starting to stack up.
MondayÃ‚’s weather was drastically different than the days prior, as it was windy and cold. It was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so the schools were closed. We decided to skate a school right off Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in honor of the day. We jumped a pretty tall fence to get into the school, and while we were skating, some kids came around the corner on bikes and went over to the gate we jumped over and opened it up. The lock was cut. I wish we would have known that before I scraped my arm on the fence.
Spanky was the only one skating the hubba while everyone one else was staying warm in the van. After Kevin got his trick, it was back to the ADP white hubba for another night of abuse. Brandon threw down a backside nosegrind 180 out that was sick! He also needed to get the trick we got rained out on the time before. After a little while, he came through with such a hammer on the hubba. YouÃ‚’ll have to wait for the Baker video to come out to see what went down, but believe me, itÃ‚’ll be well worth the wait! We ended up back at Control Skatepark that night for a late-night session.
One thing cool about Miami is that the bars are open ’til 5:00 a.m. Braydon, Patrick, Spanky, Jerry and I took advantage of this and hit up an underground karaoke spot that Patrick knew of. It was awesome. None of us manned-up on the mic, but one of PatrickÃ‚’s friends from New York was in town and was killing it on stage.
Tuesday was our last full day in Miami. Matt from Control Skatepark gave us directions to a nine-stair rail with a sidewalk at the end that you have to gap over off the rail. Everybody liked this spot. Leo got some goods on this rail for his upcoming TransWorld part. Brandon locked in a sweet backside Smith grind and cleared the sidewalk. It was insane. Right after Brandon landed his trick, Matt Allen did a lipslide down the rail to hang-up on the sidewalk and rode it out. Braydon was trying to backside over-crooks it when security rolled up on us. Then a police car pulled up right behind him.
Before the cop got out of his car, we started to shut off the lights. The cop got out and asked us what was going on. He told us not to turn off the lights. We thought he was going to be a dick, but then he wanted to see what we were doing. He wanted to see somebody skate the rail. He was stoked on us! It was so weird. He was the coolest cop IÃ‚’ve ever seen. Braydon tried his trick again and the cop was stoked, but the security guard wanted us out. We packed it up and ventured on to find another spot. Unfortunately, our night of skating was foiled due to rain.
We spent the day driving up to Tampa on Wednesday. Everyone just slept in the van on the way up. Once we arrived at our hotel in Ybor City, everyone was a little amped-up. We walked into the lobby, which was full of skaters in town for the contest. We got our rooms and just chilled. We ran into Max Genin, one of our European Emerica team riders from France. He was kinda lost without a room, so he stayed with us. Max didnÃ‚’t speak much English, so he was a bit quiet, but a cool guy regardless.
On Thursday, we woke up and headed to the Skatepark of Tampa. Matt Allen, Brandon Westgate, Braydon Szafranski and Max Genin were skating in the Tampa Am, so they got some practice in. We just hung out there most of the day. Friday was the first day of qualifying and Brandon, Braydon and Max skated. Brandon suffered a few falls, but got the crowd going with his sick style. Braydon was ripping during practice, but bailed some tricks in his runs. Max was killing it, too, but unfortunately, no one made the cut. We spent that evening bowling at a pretty weird alley in downtown Tampa. Spanky and Braydon killed it.
We got up a little earlier than normal on Saturday, because Matt Allen had to skate in the second heat. Matt had a sick first run, but missed a few tricks in his second run. He was just a few spots away from qualifying. Oh well, who cares about contests when itÃ‚’s your 18th birthday and you’re in Tampa? The only thing on MattÃ‚’s mind was Mons Venus, the infamous strip club. We took Matt there for his birthday, and he was dragged off to a lap dance as soon as he walked through the door. It was pretty funny. He didnÃ‚’t know what hit him! We were at the club all night and everyone left broke, but happy.
We went to watch the finals on Sunday and skated the bowl in the back warehouse at the park. After the contest, there was a party at a bar in Ybor City that was pretty mellow because a lot of people were already heading home from the contest. We hung out for a bit and then went back to the hotel. We hung out in the lobby, which ended up turning into a mini-party until the wee hours of the morning. The next day, we headed to the airport. Everyone was pretty tired from the trip and looked forward to going home. The trip was super fun and productive. What more could you ask for?