“Wo! – I can tell you what it isn’t…”
I sat there dazed and confused. Some random dude in the bleachers fired water in my ear with his freebie pistol which stirred my inner demon, but I sat still with my eyes fixed on something far more obscure: 10 feet away, a skateboard legend, Tony Alva, was happily signing his name across a 12 inch rubber god-stick! This dedicated dildo was only the tip of the bizarre, brilliant and brutal weekend I was spending atop the Snickers Bowl at the Donnington Download Festival.
It all kicked off on Thursday night. A late check-in and one too many tipples had our minds racing with thoughts about the longest grinds and best tricks we were about to witness. DJ’s Zac Slack and The James Sherry Fanclub had compiled an extensive list of tracks to blast out of the PA, when the live bands were busy at the bar. Both mine and Alan’s batteries were charged to catch all the great footage and photos of skateboarding’s elite as they battled it out inside the belly of the beast. The Snickers Bowl is truly a feat of engineering and construction that could blast all those philistine make-over shows into outer space. 15 foot walls of pure pleasure or pain depending on how you play it. My first few tours on the platform had my vertigo playing tricks with my motor-neuron abilities.
As we checked in, the first result was founded: Alan and I were a mere stroll from the bar and swimming pool complex, whilst The James Sherry Fanclub and Zac had to align their inner GPS’ every night. With the bags in the room we hit the bar. Schwingy! Four hour drives out of London are mini marathons in comparison to this four day weekend, but the crew was hot and thirsty. Despite the exorbitant prices, the late bar satisfied our thirst and had us laughing away at the 9 o’clock wake up call for Friday’s UK skate bonanza.
Day two started off in a puddle of sweat. So much so, that my ear was blocked. We may have won the best room, but the Air Conditioning unit was not complying with the general safety rules of a blistering hot 4 day sleepover. Alan got scared when our room mate for the night, Alex Gosman stood tall with nothing but a toga tied loosely around his waist. I had no trouble with this attire, but Alan wasn’t feeling it and made sure our friend Alex spent the rest of the weekend alone in a tent. Downstairs was a breakfast of champions, and I nearly dropped my croissant when I spotted skate legend Christian Hosoi sitting three feet from us. I rarely fan-out among professional skaters, but Hosoi is the Man. Nobody can walk confidently up to a ramp in spandex and day-glo tiger print, rip it up for a few hours and get all the girls. Hosoi can. Luckily the spandex wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Gradually, the Crossfire crew assembled and we brushed our teeth of bacon and eggs and made our way off to the site.
Alan insisted on a quick dip in the pool which was a mighty good idea, I must say, especially when the only female company you have is a 60 year old woman waiting for your nimble young limbs to step into her Jacuzzi. The old girl seemed fine with my presence as we made polite chit-chat about the festival, but Alan’s burly South African build had her running for the steam room.
It was a true mission to get to the actual bowl, especially when one of the many essential wristbands you need to visit the site is missing. A couple of quick calls and some stern talk had all of us in the VIP suite where athletes sang inner mantras and lined up for massages before the skating kicked off.
Today was UK Friday with the best of British skate talent taking to their stage- the Snickers Bowl. Schwingy! Naturally Slayer was the call of the day on the decks and Death’s Mark Munson swung his body around for back to back miller flips and other various reverted inverts. Any trick that involves dangling upside down over the edge of a ramp on one hand deserves respect in my book, and Munson got a good cheer for his effort. Fresh with freckles was Ben Raemers who cruised the bowl nonchalantly and came oh-so-close to a backside crailslide varial out. Next time buddy! A lad I’d never heard of called Luke Haslett (local Epic ripper – Z-Ed) let it rip with lots of air time and a good bag of tricks to throw at the judges, but it was the Scottish Devil Spawn himself, Div that grabbed everyone’s attention. For starters, this red-headed fire starter wore no pads- Not even a helmet. His cruising and boozing antics had jaws dropping and ambulance attendants mentally prepared for first aid. But Div knows what he’s doing (I think…) and his frontside ollie up and off the entension into the bowl was definitely the trick of the day for me.
It was later learnt that Tony Alva patted Div on the back and expressed his pleasure at watching the young lad skate. Div celebrated by getting blind drunk. A quick run down of the top three finalists had Jim ‘The Skin’ Atkins in third behind UK skate legend, Sean Goff. Sean was ripping, but his best trick would come much later on… The well deserved first place and golden ticket to the pro comp on Saturday and Sunday went to little Sam Beckitt. Sam has only just reached his teens, but you’d think he’d been skating since day dot. Nice frontside airs, frontside rodeos, and a backside 540 were all it took to walk away the winner. As UK Friday wrapped up, the big guns strolled into town and had a little whiz around the ramp. Bucky Lasek’s massive frontside air through the corner pocket was only a taste of what the weekend would hold. As we all celebrated with cold Carlings and admired Strapping Young lad blow a fuse on the main stage, Mr. Vans a.k.a. Steve Van Doren and his mate Alan threw a proper barbeque US style with burgers and bangers a go-go. Cheers!
“WO, WO, WO…!” – sorry i had to jump in here Ralph…
This Friday night was a fucking riot after the burgers went down. The drunken walk over to the tents was a legendary one. Imagine 30 skaters at a security gate, all fired up. One security said “WO..WO! and the rest is history…we used that to get everywhere! A party brewed in Aiden’s van, we rinsed his cold beers and fuck me they were cold! Props mate! We danced around to Tiffany and Flock of Seagulls on bennies and Shwingy! and then rampaged a party in the exhibition centre that saw everyone hit the floor. Aftershock and anything else they carried behind the bar was rinsed, the rest, they say…is history apart from the 2 skin deep carpet burn on my elbow! Z-Ed
I woke up on Saturday. The James Sherry Fanclub and Alan looked awake, but a lie-detector test might have been necessary to verify that. Zac was out for the count in someone elses room! Unofficially, the Blue Jean Cowboy Denim entourage at the exhibition centre had taken him on a wild ride. Officially, he was compiling a top-secret tracklisting that required complete concentration and calm. Even the cleaning lady was turned away. As Alan and I waited for the bus down to the Bowl, a debate arose over the true colour of a zebra tail, and whether or not they had tails at all?? Alan couldn’t figure it out, so I squashed his distress by letting him know zebras do have tails and they resemble elongated paintbrushes with white stems and black tips. Case closed.
Now, unless you were tripping off your tits somewhere deep in an Amazonian jungle about to be cast into the brain drain that is that awful series Lost, you would know England had their first World Cup football match on Saturday. I will not commentate on the match itself as 50,000 metal fans can probably tell you more about it than the poor bands and BMXers that had to play during those engrossing 90 minutes.
In any case, the main event at the Snickers Bowl was the Longest Grind challenge; A simple test of speed, balance and balls. Ride the dragon, enjoy the ride. Juergen Horrwarth and Lincoln Ueda must have been on the same train because they both clocked in 22 and 21 foot grinds respectively. Omar Hassan stepped it up a few gears and smashed his previous record of 27 feet with a whopping 30 foot 5-0 to fakie. Go Omar! But the boy to beat was Brian Patch who won the comp with a stupid 33 foot long double axle grind motion. His grind was longer than Mr. Trujillo from Metallica’s guitar solo, but we’ll talk more about that later…
With the longest grind in the bag and Zac Slack emerging from the dust cloud of Donington Castle, skate practice could get under way and stops were getting pulled. Of all the stars and skate talent that lined the platform and sweated it out that afternoon, only one was missing: Div. Our man from Scotland had got lost in the arms of security and socialising, and was last spotted face down somewhere on the circuit with a bag full of bottles and a bemused smile on his ugly mug.
Anyway! Schwingy! Back to the thunder dome where urban athletes with taught muscles were flying through the air and whooshing past at high velocity. Now, there were only a few UK heads skating on the Saturday- Andy Scott, Pete King and Sam Beckitt. The rest of the fort was being held down by the Yankees- Neal Hendrix, Benji Galloway, Bucky Lasek, Omar, Brian…- and their foreign cohorts- Lincoln, Juergen, Terence Bougdour, Renton Millar, Sandro Dias. Despite the small British contingent and Pete proclaiming how he felt like a ‘wanker’ opposite the others, I must say they put on a damn good show.
Sam had his airs and 540’s spinning, whilst Pete took care of the lip tricks and Andy… Well, let’s say Andy skates like he’s asleep at the wheel. The dude just drops in out of nowhere and grabs everyone’s attention with a single trick; As Double D Dave Duncan on the mic put it: “The skaters are suddenly red hot!” Neal Hendrix was skating very consistently, pulling back to back nollie heelflips and full cab heelflips all afternoon. However, the session suddenly turned cold when Stratospheric tourist, Lincoln flew a massive frontside stalefish to back truck hang-up and consequently a fast forward dive to the bottom of the bowl. Clutching his ribs, Lincoln was out for the count, but the crowd applauded as he made his own way out of the specially designed plexi-glass trapdoor.
Another trapdoor that got opened on Saturday was the gateway to tequila fuelled debauchery. You see, as the day came to an end and everybody made their way over to the main stage to watch Metallica play Master of Puppets from start to finish (plus a couple of Misfits covers!), two merry young women joined the testosterone toned group of Crossfire men. Say hello to Niki and Dee!
You might recognize these lovely lasses from previous Crossfire events or musical features. In any case all you need to know is Niki warned us straight away about the danger of opening the tequila trapdoor, but seeing as we had succeeded in taming the dragon for two nights already, her sweet South African pleas fell upon deaf ears. One Metallica concert, several fireworks, two stalkers, some bennies and a whole lot of alcohol later and Zac was reaching out to Mother Mary like a scared child at 6am! Apparently he has no recollection his early wake up call by the Crossfire gang, but The James Sherry Fanclub definitely does. In his own words: “No guys! We’ve got to sleep! We’ve got a huge set to play tomorrow… Oh alright, jump on him!.”
Sunday, the day of rest and repentance had already begun by the time we lay our heavy heads on the sweaty pillows. No rest for the wicked, eh? With no naked Alex around, Alan dreamt sweetly of braiding Axl Rose’s hair, whilst Niki tried to compose the best and most sincere apology of her life. I just rode the wave of adrenaline and alcohol fumes, annoyed that I had gone to bed at dawn and missed the sunrise.
Despite the mixed emotions, we all felt worse for wear and disappointed for having missed the skate finals. As Alan avoided direct sunlight and filmed anything with a pulse, Niki sealed her trapdoor shut and I went my investigative ways to find out what we had missed. Thank heavens we live in the digital age where everyone has a camera at the ready. I watched all the footage from Sunday’s early morning battle and came to the following conclusions: Lincoln Ueda doesn’t let a heavy spill dampen his weekend and rode the pain away to 8th place.
Fellow South American, Sandro Dias reached for the sky with huge airs of which one spun 540 degrees placing him in 4th. The top three ran as follows: Brian Patch 3rd, Bucky Lasek 2nd and Omar Hassan 1st- Now, there are three names that don’t budge all that often from the top, and rightly so. You see, the trick to win is consistency, variety and air time. Each of these three guys played it right, be it Brian with his ‘bolts’ approach to skating hard and fast, Bucky switching things up to a level very few have witnessed, or Omar mixing flip tricks and lip tricks like an age old recipe. An honourable mention must go to Benji Galloway for his 360 inverts back to back and Andy Scott keeping the dream alive with a magic mix of tricks that mixed the extension, flips and slips.. Well done guys!
The only thing left on the to-do list was the Best Trick Comp, but that wasn’t for another couple of hours, so I took this break to try and find a cool and quiet spot to gather my thoughts. As I wandered aimlessly through the human mass of Donington, I saw Darth Vader and metal fans sun burnt enough to be Imperial Guards. The endless thrum of Fenders and the smell of charred skin sent me quickly back to the Snickers Bowl where the BMX fraternity were busy with their Best trick. I know this piece should concentrate on the skating, but BMX riders are something else, plus they get all the hottest chicks, goddammit! Some burly Texan by the name of Joe Rich went one better on Bucky’s frontside air through the pocket by about 10 feet and 90 miles an hour. On the first two attempts he broke the guard barrier bailing and almost killed a photographer too close to the action. Needless to say, he finally got the honey and the money and left a satisfied man. What would the skate Best Trick comp have to offer?
Not much, at first… Honestly, Best trick comps are tough to call at first because everyone is pushing themselves after a very long and enduring weekend, and when you want to land a trick that you’ve never attempted before, the outcome is unknown. After 30 minutes of playing with the crowds nerves, Juergen Horwarth spun into first place with a fakie 720 tailgrab, only to be followed closely behind by Bucky with a nollie flip frontside tailslide up the extension buttery smooth and Renton Miller’s kickflip frontside 5-0. Other tricks that came so close but no cigar were Andy Scott’s ridiculous kickflip eggplant, Lincoln’s sky-high frontside Madonna, and Sandro Dias’ jokeman attempts of an alley-oop540 Christ air spanning a good 15 feet of the ramp! As I mentioned earlier, Sean Goff also had his little surprise for the crowd which consisted of a stark naked invert to full cavity search. Schwingy!
The deed was done and Guns and Roses featuring Axl Rose puffed up with ginger braids played us out to the tune of Live and Let Die. As I verged on a nervous breakdown, Niki got the last round of drinks in- Strictly Coke and Ice!-, Zac called his Swiss bank manager from Hotel reception, The James Sherry Fanclub asked to join my nervous breakdown and Alan watched the World Cup on the big screen.
Next stop: Paris for the Etnies 20th Anniversary Party! Schwingy! – Go on, click that red link right there, you would not believe it, after this carnage for 4 days in a row, we had to go to Paris the next day for the most rocking party, it continues!