It was a nice, cool morning, so the drive past the large willow trees to the empty parking lot at FreeRide was a brief time for appreciation. When we arrived, it was straight to the details. Backing the portable ramp up to the building. Setting up the ramp, tables, tents, audio, banners, registration, etc. Lots to do, limited time, we know the drill. The parking lot started to fill up around 12:30 pm. Five-year-old kids and retirees alike brought out their lawn chairs to watch the “show.” Usually, our events cater to the more core skate and surrounding college communities. Since University of Florida had just begun its spring break, most of the publicity had hit the locals of Gainesville. The crowd was varied and pretty large.
At one point George, the owner of Insta Ramp, climbed up to the top of the roof of FreeRide, ready to pressure drop into the ramp. I saw his first attempt and then heard a large reaction from the crowd when answering some questions for the local news reporter. I knew something was wrong but had to keep on going with the interview. Only thirty minutes later, a friend of ours, Matt, fell on his FIRST RUN of the day and had to take a trip to the hospital. It was a pretty heavy way start to the day. The contest hadn’t actually started yet. George is still in a knee brace, unable to skate for a while… Matt dislocated his ankle and broke his fibula.
Wrapping up the event was great. We were all tired, lurching from task to task, but with that sense of accomplishment. Another event well done, and the night ahead to celebrate, after a double shot of espresso maybe. That night, Clay and I (and a friend who shall not be named) went to a bar. He-who-shall-not-be-named was not yet 21-years-old, so we went to a bar where he-who-shall-not-be-named’s girlfriend worked. There was no one in the bar, so we pretty much had a few drinks, shot the shit with all the bartenders, played whatever music we wanted on the speakers, and also played whatever we wanted on the TV(s).
It wasn’t a rager, but I appreciated that. Oftentimes, on the road, people want to celebrate with you on your visit by getting absolutely shit-house wasted. But what’s the good in that if it’s happening all the time? Although the majority of the college crowd was absent from Gainesville during my visit there and we didn’t "go HARD,” I was stoked on the entire night life experience of Gainesville, FL. It’s a cool town to chill in. A cool town to skate in too. Sunday morning, waking up after beers at the bar, we were planning to go skate this pre-fab skatepark on the other side of town, just to skate something new and have at the three-foot miniramp they have there.
Following the usual couple cups of coffee, I pack the car, ready to be solo again. Then Clay and I convoy over to the park. He-who-shall-not-be-named joined us later, and the session was actually really fun on multiple levels. It was a warm, sunny day in Florida, the contest had been settled, and it was just the three of us skating for fun in a shitty skatepark that was so much fun. It doesn’t get better than that. Good times.. And then we get hungry and head to the Lunch Special at a local Chinese Restaurant. It was obnoxiously filling yet delicious, so we sat there for a while just hanging out before heading our three separate ways. Clay and he-who-shall-not-be-named were on their routes to Spring Break destinations. Meanwhile, I had another appointment in Gainesville before heading up the 301 to Jacksonville. I'm sorry I'm robbing you of your internet fame, he-who-shall-not-be-named. Just looking out.
I’d been in touch with Donny Barley somewhat recently, and we happened to both be in Gainesville that weekend. He was doing an Element Skateboards cruiser board deal day at The Boardr - Gainesville. That’s when you buy an Element Skateboard deck from the shop that day, and Donny will personally take your old deck, shape it, cut it into a smaller cruiser deck (like new), and add grip, trucks, wheels, and bearings to it. It’s a really rad initiative that Element Skateboards does that echoes their brand by recycling and respecting the Earth. After lunch with the boys, I headed toward downtown Gainesville. I stopped by FreeRide one last time to say “Hi,” picked up a local paper (that Collegiate Skate Tour was in!), and went to get a coffee and kill some time.
On the road again… To Jacksonville, FL. One of the most annoying drives in America, up the 301-N from Orlando to Jacksonville. This road changes speed limits faster than I thought legally possible. 35… 45… 65…55…35…70…45… Damn…
But eventually I made it to Jacksonville, FL, where my cousin welcomed me with a beer and a smile. The next four days were a mix of time with family and time with the skateboarding family. Every other day, I worked from the laptop and spent time with my cousin’s kids. And the other days, I worked a bit, hung with the kids a bit, and went skating to new places, DIY spots, and skateparks in Jacksonville. I had the opportunity to meet up with Geoff, who won the first contest Collegiate Skate Tour did with Insta Ramp, back in 2014. George was out of commission from his knee injury in Gainesville, but I went skating with Geoff and others to Monument Skatepark, the Insta Ramp HQ (small indoor park), The Block Skate Supply (miniramp), and Kooktown (the new DIY build in JAX). I can’t explain how stoked and grateful I am for meeting all the rad people I did and skating all the rad places I did in Jacksonville. I even got to meet up with Donny again, as he was making Element cruiser boards at The Block when I was there. All of Florida has a pretty strong skate scene, and I can say Jacksonville doesn’t lack much. It’s a great city for skating, surfing, and good vibes.
Getting ready to hit the road to Tampa was exciting yet sad, because I knew my trip was already more than halfway over. I guess it has to end somewhere. But Tampa Pro weekend was the next stop.
About to get crazy,
- 7Ply Epic