Lots of country music and trap hip hop music later, we arrive in Tampa and go straight to The Bricks in Ybor City. The idea is to do what everyone in Tampa seems to do, have a good time! So we get a shot and a beer, go outside for a cigarette, chill for a bit and enjoy time off the road. Not too long afterward, I gotta get my ass to the airport! So I get in the car, drop Geoff off at his hotel, pick up Brokaw from TPA, and get going further south to meet up with our other NC homie, Binkley. His parents have retired in Parrish, FL, which is about 30 minutes south of Tampa, past the bay. And we were staying with them for the weekend. Thanks Binkley’s family!!
We wake up in the morning ready to shred, and I convince everyone that we have to make the drive to Lakeland, where there’s not much except one of the best public skateparks in existence! I’d been a handful of times before, but Matt had never been, and Binkley’s brother-in-law had never been either. The four of us head up there after some coffee and really nice breakfast from Binkley’s mom. Thanks again! The drive there is nice. About an hour’s drive through grassy green fields and sunny blue skies lead us to the Lakeland Skatepark. The ultimate playground for adults who still ride skateboards (and for those unfortunate children who’s parents let them pursue scootering).
That park has almost anything you could think of that you’d want to skate, in one form or another. So it’s a perfect option for any group of skaters, granted you’re willing to make the drive. A long day in Lakeland made for some pretty epic farmer’s tans, and the long drive back called for some road beers and coffees. We get back to shower and drink a couple before driving north to Ybor City for a night of (*responsible*) debauchery. We get pushed back on time, but it doesn’t matter. We’re basically all on vacation. Binkley’s sister lives nearby the ‘rents in Parrish, so we go check out her place and chill for another little while before heading to Ybor.
That area of Tampa is a unique microcosm of strange creatures, curious visitors, and a diversity of vices impossible to count. I’ve seen things there that you could only expect to see on the most eclectic corners in Manhattan. Yet it rests in the hot gulf sound of the city of Tampa. It’s an incredibly sweaty combo of New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, crammed into about one square mile just northeast of downtown Tampa. All these glorious and questionable characteristics, coupled with its close vicinity to Skatepark of Tampa, make Ybor City the ultimate place for members of the skate industry to migrate twice per year to make its mistakes and claim its victories. Tampa Am and Tampa Pro will (hopefully) never die.
Needless to say, things got crazy in Ybor on the night of Friday, March 4th. Many things were unforgettable, and some were impossible to remember. I woke up on a hardwood floor, somewhere near Bradenton, to the smell of coffee brewing and breakfast cooking. Colin, Binkley’s brother-in-law (best dude ever), brings me a cup of coffee and asks me how I slept, with a friendly smirk on face. And in all honesty, I should have felt more hungover. Shortly afterward, Binkley, Hannah (his girlfriend), and Brokaw come over to get the day started. We’d had big plans to go to SPoT and watch the Qualifiers of Tampa Pro. We took two cars that day, so if anyone wanted to leave early we wouldn’t have to all leave at once. The day was pretty sick. Slight hungover but epic nonetheless. Watching everyone take their runs (all day long) was a bit exhausting but super fun (as a full-on skate nerd). The Independent Best Trick was crazy to watch, especially Chris Joslin’s massive backside flip. And the outdoor concrete jam (and Transworld Over the Door Best Trick) was quite LIT if I must say. I didn’t stick around for the Yelawolf show, since I’m not much of a fan, but also because Brokaw was off at the tattoo parlor and we are gonna meet up and drive back down south. Brokaw got a sick new tat on his calf: Bart Simpson emulating the album cover of Black Sabbath Volume 4, throwin’ them horns like a freshly fed demon. Rad.
All day was sick to watch - this time around we weren’t hungover, and everyone was ripping. It’s only possible to really experience Tampa Pro if you’re there in the building. The guys in the top 12 don’t fully represent the skaters that ripped SO hard. Maybe someone never got a run without a bail, but they absolutely killed it in their own way. Jordan Hoffart was a great example. Doing things so unique and incredible that the crowd went wild but not making the finals. That’s what makes the contest so great. Everyone has their moment. Everyone lands that one trick they’ve been working on the whole time (at the very least) that makes the crowd go bonkers. And the rumble in the stands is unmatched by anything I’ve ever seen in skateboarding. I can’t imagine how crazy Tampa Am gets, but I’ve heard stories…
Everything else about Tampa Pro has already been released in tidily packaged videos, so just do some time with the YouTube searching “Tampa Pro 2016” to see the highlights Street League wants you to see.
Oliver, who I stayed with in Orlando, was in the stands with us that day, and we went to leave SPoT and grab a drink at The Bricks, when I got a flat tire.. Ugh… So we go to the airport to exchange the rental car. I’d been texting with Brokaw to see that he caught his flight successfully. By awesome coincidence, I’m at the airport, getting a fresh rental, and he’s at the airport because his flight got canceled. He has a hotel voucher (free night’s stay in Tampa); I have the vehicle (one of them). So the three of us (Matt, Oliver, and myself) get one last night of exploration in Tampa!
We went to have a nice dinner in Ybor, where we successfully picked up the waitress’ number. (Texted jokingly, and got responses, yet nothing happened). I had a nice greek coffee, and we went to The Bricks to meet up with everyone else after-partying at Tampa Pro. It was good to see all the peoples, but we wanted a bit more adventure. We’d heard that the Bro Bowl remodel/skatepark was finished but not “open”. It was dark, and there was no fence (from what we heard), so we went on a search for this thing to skate perfect concrete with a buzz. We didn’t see it so much trespassing as we did taking our opportunity. The new park is incredible! I recommend to any skater anywhere, more specifically those living in Florida.
The whole trip was better than I’d hoped. The visit to Orlando, skating new skateparks and meeting friends, the long weekend and successful event in Gainesville, family time and adventure time in Jacksonville, and an incredibly exhausting yet fulfilling Tampa Pro weekend. It all culminated to what now seems like a dream.
Thanks to everyone who made it as epic as it was. Oliver & roommates, Clay, Derek, Matt (Althar), Jeremy & everyone with the Gator Skateboarding Club, George, Geoff, and everyone with the Insta Ramp crew, Donny & Element, Justin, Jared & The Boardr, Pete, Mike & The Block, Binkley & family, Brokaw, Hannah, every skater I met, especially Stephen from Wisconsin and Joe!!! Thank you all, even those I inevitably forgot.’I’m lucky to have this as an annual trip now.
Grateful. Stoked. See you next year, Tampa! Or in November...
- 7Ply Epic