Saturday, November 19
Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh was our first port-of-call on this six-stop tour, which was to take place over the next 10 days. Shortly after all of the Flip and Firm riders had arrived at the hotel, it was decided that an impromptu visit to Project 58 skatepark would take place, and at round midnight, we loaded everyone up and headed over. Kindly enough, the park had agreed to stay open late for the lads, and for the next few hours, they carved out a few lines to get ready for tomorrow’s demo.
Saturday, November 19 was day one of the F'east Tour, and the first demo was at the aforementioned Project 58 in Raleigh. This park is very well hidden in a strip mall, and although from the front it just looks like a regular skate shop, it is in fact quite a bit more. It's actually two stores connected, one side being a skate shop and the other a coffee shop. Behind both of these is the park itself.
We arrived just a little after the scheduled time, and there was an orderly line outside the shop consisting of those who were unable to gain access due to the exceptionally huge crowd. After some signing, the skaters managed to make it into the park, which was packed with wall-to-wall spectators and barely any room for the guys to skate.
The official viewing platform was fairly small, so the park had spackled the crowd wherever they could around the main street course area. The riders used whichever areas they could, despite the sardine-like crowd situation. Nevertheless, this horde witnessed some of the best skating ever seen here.
By about 6.00 p.m. the skating had simmered down somewhat, and the riders began signing anything and everything thrust in their faces, including but not limited to: boards, shirts, posters and more. We left the park at around 7.30 p.m. and headed back to the hotel, where most everyone ate dinner at Waffle House.
Sunday, November 20
Virginia Beach, Virginia
The following day, we left Raleigh at about 9.00 a.m. for the 200-mile journey up the coast to 17th Street Surf Shop in Virginia Beach. These guys have a number of stores in and around the area. Fortunately, we arrived about 45 minutes ahead of time, and already the crowd was surging at over 500 people.
Just a signing was scheduled today, and the parking lot in front of the store had been set up with tables, a tent and crowd control barriers to funnel the fans past the first table and down to the next, ensuring that everyone was able to meet each of the skaters, get some signatures, have a chat and in some cases, get a picture with their favorite skate celebrity.
We parked the van and the RV next to line of eager spectators, and as the pros unloaded, you could see the excitement in the faces of the crowd. The pros took their seats and instantly began signing away. There was some product tossed from the RV, and for a while there, it got pretty rough. A few spectators even managed to climb through the window into the bus.
The crowd didn’t seem to dissipate much over the next few hours, but finally by about 6.00 p.m., we were ready to hit the road. After a little confusion, we headed toward the hotel. Well, at least most of us made it that far. Some decided to stop on the way and feed themselves, while the rest of us headed down to the Ramada and ate some dinner. Day two had come to an end, and I’m sure many happy kids--and in some cases even parents--went away with some great memorabilia.
Monday, November 21
Day three saw us traveling about 250 miles north to Frederick, Maryland to an outdoor park, the only outdoor one scheduled. This signing was hosted by Pitcrew, and from what I gathered, all of the pros were looking forward to skating after taking a day off on the previous day. They were especially keen on skating an â€œoutdoorâ€ park.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast didn't look good, and as we traveled Northward, the drops started falling. I don’t think it stopped raining all day. To make things worse, traffic around Washington DC was some of the worst I’ve ever witnessed, and that means a lot coming from a Southern California local like myself.
As we neared Pitcrew, reports from those who had arrived there some hours earlier were not promising. As our proposed arrival time approached, there were a few schedule changes that put a damper on the day. First off, it was decided that there could not be a demo due to the non-stop rain, and secondly, there was no way we were going to make it into the area before 6.00 p.m. We were two hours late!
The demo had by now turned into a signing at the Pitcrew store. By the time we’d arrived, we were indeed about two hours late. The rain had not stopped, but there was still a sizeable crowd waiting inside the store. Tables had been set up, and the boys got ready to sign their little hearts away. Could they last two days without skating? Due to the inclement weather, this visit had wrapped up by 9.00 p.m. and the store was reverted back to its normal floor plan.
Fortunately, the boys got hooked up by a few of the locals and we headed 50 or so miles back down the freeway into downtown Washington DC, where an underground park of sorts had been made available to skate. It’s been some time since I’ve seen a park like this, which was pretty much put together with whatever materials the builders could scrounge up. It featured a low ceiling, little if any air conditioning and no entrance fee. This, to me, is the true spirit of skateboarding.
Not to take anything away from established parks, it’s just that ramshackle, homegrown parks like this exemplify why many of us got into skateboarding in the first place. The session here lasted a few hours, and due to the location, I unfortunately couldn't leave the bus alone for too long, so I was only able to witness this special shred fest for a short time.
By the time we made it back to the hotel, it was already 3.00 a.m., and most of us were ready to hit the sack to prepare themselves for the next day's 500 mile slog to Florence, Kentucky. Tuesday was going to be a long day.
Wednesday, November 23
Ollie's was the name of the next skatepark. Fortunately for us, we weren’t scheduled to demo there until the day after the travel day. However, it had been arranged for us to skate the park after-hours upon our arrival. Snow had been threatening to make an appearance, but as of yet we hadn’t seen any.
Another late-night session ensued at this huge park, which has to be one of the biggest ones I’ve seen. It even has a halfpipe and bowl behind the street course. If you ever happen to be in the Kentucky area, you need to pay this place a visit.
After the session, the first busload went back to the hotel around 2.00 a.m. with the others showing up shortly afterward, pleased that they had the opportunity to skate after having been on the road for so long.
The next morning, I awoke on the bus only to find that it had indeed started snowing. The fluffy stuff came down for quite a few hours, but fortunately didn’t really affect the roads--although a few inches did settle elsewhere. The park was only three miles from the hotel, so we were pretty sure it wasn’t going to cause any problems.
We turned up only slightly late for this event, arriving at about 5.30 p.m. By this time, most of the snow had melted off and the weather forecast predicted that there would more than likely not be any more for a while.
Like most of the stops on this tour, Ollie's was indoors, so weather really wasn’t a factor. Even with the size of this location, the place seemed packed, although it did afford a little more room for the riders. There was so much going on between all of the riders, however, that sometimes the only way you knew a rad trick had occurred was by the roar of the crowd. Each rider had his own line and the crowd knew where and when to look.
Rune Glifberg spent a lot of his time in the halfpipe during the autograph signing session, making many attempts at some insane trick of which the name now escapes me. I’m not sure if he pulled it off in the end, but he sure came close. The night came to an end at around 11.00 p.m. and we headed off back to the hotel, where we ordered pizza. Damn! Pizza can be so good sometimes. Tonight was one of those occasions.
Friday, November 25
Now it was time to head to Chicago, Illinois, which was about 300 miles Northwest of out present location. In November, going North means it’s going to get much colder. As we loaded ourselves off of the bus in downtown Chicago at 6.00 p.m., we could feel the wind biting through our jeans. It was that cold. The journey that day had been somewhat uneventful and everything ran on schedule.
Krush Skatepark is about 30 miles from downtown, and the demo wasn’t scheduled to start until 7.00 p.m. the following day, so that meant some of us took off for a quick trip around downtown Chicago the next morning. Being that this was the day after Thanksgiving, it was fairly quiet downtown. The Sears Tower was our goal, and up we went. You could see for dozens of miles from the top of the building, which was very impressive.
Right around 4.00 p.m., it started snowing and it kept up until our departure time of 6.15 p.m. This worried us a little, but it was nothing we couldn’t overcome. It was decided that an all-rider photograph would be taken before we left, so the lads had to stand out in the snow for about 15 minutes while the photo was taken. After that was all taken care of, we loaded up and took off.
Fortunately, the snow had all but disappeared about 15 miles outside of our departure location, so it was smooth sailing from there. We arrived right on time to this demo, and as usual, a good-sized crowd had already formed and the park itself was absolutely packed. We parked the bus around the rear of the building and the boys walked up the hill and into the park. Every spare platform was covered with kids, and you could tell they were eager to see their favorite pros ruin this park. They were not disappointed.
Everyone ripped this place, as the constant shouts of approval proved. It seemed every time you turned your back, one of the pros would pull off some nearly impossible trick, causing the throngs to roar. This was a hard crowd to control, as everyone kept creeping forward and reducing the skateable area, In the end, the crowd pretty much took over whichever area they chose.
This signing was not quite as organized as the others, and after a product toss, the riders just randomly signed whatever was thrown at them. Chaos was the order of the night. We left shortly after the mayhem and made our way to a restaurant around the corner, where we pigged out on Italian food before heading back to the hotel. Day five had come to an end.
Sunday, November 27
Golden Valley, Minnesota
The following day found us back on the road, again heading even further North to Minnesota. In fact, it was another 400 miles further North, and yes, it got even colder. If we would have gone much further North, we would have been in Canada, home of Peter, who is more North than anyone you can name.
We made great time after leaving only slightly later than scheduled, and pulled into town right around 8.00 p.m. There were a few inches of slush, snow and ice lying about, and now it was no longer just cold, it was bloody freezing.
The next day saw a great improvement in the temperature, and by the time we had to leave, much of the snow and ice had melted off. Another group photo was the order of the day. This one took a bit more time to complete, however, which made us about 30 minutes late for our sixth and last demo.
The 20-minute journey completed, we pulled into the parking lot of the 3rd Lair skatepark, and before the lads made their grand entrance, I ran in and took a few photos. This park was a little short on spectator area, but they managed extremely well, and crowd control was not a problem.
The building, however, was not designed to expel the amount of condensation being created by the lungs of the huge throng, therefore the floor and obstacles were continually damp, which created a sketchy environment for all the skaters. I myself witnessed a few nasty spills, but luckily nothing too serious.
Everyone was ripping this place, especially Geoff, Mark, Tom, Javi, David G, Rodrigo and Bastien. Not to say that the others weren’t having a good day, it’s just that these guys really stood out on this night. The crowd, as usual, were stoked on seeing some of the best skateboarding anywhere. They were lucky to witness almost three hours of hardcore skating, as these guys pulled off some insane tricks and took it beyond anything I’d seen on the previous demos.
The usual product toss came next, featuring a gnarly 15-minute wrestle between two guys for a deck that you’ll probably see on an upcoming video. It’s crazy what extreme lengths some of these kids will go to for a board. The tables were set up, a somewhat orderly line took shape and the boys did their last signing.
The mayhem that was the F'east Tour had now officially come to an end. The pros hung out with some fans at the bus for a while afterward, then we headed back to the hotel for dinner. They even had to sign a shitload of posters and boards in the hotel lobby. By this time, I was really tired, so I dragged myself off to bed at midnight and the signings reportedly went on into the wee hours. The next day, everyone went their separate ways.
Thanks to: Everyone at Flip and the Firm who worked so hard making this tour happen, all of the skate shops for having us, everyone who took the photos in this article, and especially all you fans for showing up. See you next time.--Nick Umbenhower