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King Of Kona 2013

Well, my trip hadn’t exactly gotten off to a proper start. My 7am non-stop to Florida had been canceled due to “technical issues” with the planes engines, a comforting thought. So in lieu of this, I made the call to take a re-routed flight to Washington DC, and then a connecting flight to Florida. Now, one must understand, that if you go with this option, the airline basically just sticks you in the worst possible seat they have available, and call it a day. So in true airline fashion, I got stuck in the middle seat between the panicking elderly woman who wreaks of fabric softener, and the overweight middle aged Russian man with a case of bad gas. I just made it a point to continuously remind myself that I’m doing this for the love of the shred. Just a few more hours, and I’ll get to Florida.

The first two days in Florida tumbled by in a blur of trade show booths, introductions, and thirty second conversations. Arriving in Orlando two days prior to the event, former Florida local Sara Paulshock had swooped me from the airport and transitioned us right into the Surf Expo trade show. With all the various skate teams in town to showcase their wares of the new year, the stage had been set for the King of Kona park jam to go off without a hitch. After the 48 hour public relations marathon that was Surf Expo, the time had finally come to make the trek from Orlando to Jacksonville, some two and a half hours north. G-Form sales rep and fellow Loaded compatriot Mike Girard had offered to give me a lift to the event. Outfitted with a rental car, a hotel room, and a suitcase with more impact resistant laptop cases than an Apple store, Mike G. and I made our way up the coast, bound for the legendary Kona skatepark.

Mike Girard throws it up as we hit the road, bound for Kona.

Mike Girard throws it up as we hit the road, bound for Kona.

Rollin hard, this biker doesn't need a helmet, only his hog and the open road.

Rollin’ hard, this biker doesn’t need a helmet, only his hog and the open road.

Covering ground.

Covering ground.

With Orlando and Surf Expo behind us, we booked it North to Jacksonville, where Kona awaited our arrival.

With Orlando and Surf Expo behind us, we booked it north to Jacksonville.

North bound for Jacksonville.

Over the river and through the woods.

Pray for surf.

Pray for surf.

Believe it or not, I used to be into BMX. Like, really into BMX. Street and skateparks had always been my environment of choice. Making good on all the features, always going the extra mile to attempt every line I could concoct in my overly analytic head. So this hadn’t been my first time around ramps and transitions. But what I couldn’t have prepared myself for was the sheer massiveness that was Kona skatepark. I had heard stories, elaborate tales of epic proportions. Feverish anecdotes recalling the renowned snake run, the seemingly infinite lines of shred. The potential to achieve a new form of skating enlightenment through creative sight. Countless trails of shredding ecstasy blazed over weathered hips and spines, banks and quarters. Yes, I had heard stories, but nothing could have prepared me for just how thrilling the oldest, still operating skatepark in the United States actually was to be.

The entrance to Kona Skatepark looks like something out of cold war era Russia.

The entrance to Kona Skatepark looks like something out of cold war era Russia.

The legendary Kona skatepark is the longest running privately owned skatepark still around.

The legendary Kona skatepark is the longest running privately owned skatepark.

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Reppin hard.

Reppin’ hard.

Tent city.

Tent city.

Mercado's ride featured a custom constructed roof canopy seating area. Perfect for kickin' back after 30 runs of the snake.

Mercado’s ride featured a custom constructed roof canopy seating area.

Marcus Bandy of Wheelbase Mag gets his taco on.

Marcus Bandy of Wheelbase Mag gets his taco on.

The Snake Run was the center piece of Kona's features. It was for lack of a better word, epic.

The Snake Run was the center piece of Kona. It was, for lack of a better word, epic.

The moment I realized Kona skatepark is a mystical place.

The moment I realized Kona skatepark was a mystical place.

The two days that followed thereafter were to be something more along the lines of a spiritual experience versus just an actual skate jam. Try to imagine what two non-stop days of beers, barbecue, and boards would be like. Try to imagine skating until you physically cannot function, your mind begging your soul for one more run. Your legs and thighs aching in joyous contempt. Imagine a snake run that wills you back to the top. The whole skatepark itself takes on a sort of personification, beckoning you to forego your earthly concerns, your physical tethers. Kona skatepark exists more as a grand church of skate rather than just a five or ten acre collection of weathered looking ramps and slopping constructed concrete depressions. It’s a majestic cathedral of shred, as Maryhill is to downhill, so is Kona to park. You didn’t just skate Kona, you lived it.

The freestyle bowl was a perfect place to get a feel of the transitions before jumping into the park.

The freestyle bowl was a perfect place to get a feel of the transitions.

Chillen hard under a Florida sun.

Chillin’ hard under a Florida sun.

Cam announces the brackets as the Kona Snake Run Race gets under way.

Cam announces the brackets as the Kona Snake Run Race gets under way.

The Snake Run race was filled with carnage.

The line-up.

The snake made for the perfect setting for death match races.

The snake made for the perfect setting for death match races.

This skater incurred facial damage during his Kona experience. It didn't stop him.

This skater incurred facial damage during his Kona experience. It didn’t stop him.

Zak and a fellow skater, gleaming the cube.

Gleaming the cube.

Zak Mayall in his natural habitat.

Zak Mayall in his natural habitat.

Adam Colton (Brian Bishop) and competition line up at the top of the snake for the finals of the race.

Adam Colton (Brian Bishop) and competition line up at the top of the snake.

Brian Bishop, coming back to earth and robbing the banks of the snake run.

Bish hitting the corners in his final heat.

Style for miles.

Style for miles.

Zak and Jackie prepare for a couples run.

Zak and Jackie prepare for a couples run.

Mr. Mayall again, surfing the corners all day.

Mr. Mayall again, surfing the corners all day.

Jackie Lum handled the snake run like a champ.

Jackie Lum rippin’.

Mike Girard taking the high line out of the corner.

Mike Girard taking the high line out of the corner.

Sara "The Shocker" Paulshock, all smiles as she charges into the J run.

Sara “The Shocker” Paulshock, all smiles as she charges into the J run.

The Shocker, gettin' low and riding high into the corner.

Gettin’ low and riding high into the corner.

Sara Paulshock, getting interview.

Getting interviewed after her run.

Kona therefore, is something you can’t compare to any other event. It’s a sort of three way co-mingling between people, skateboarding, and the environment. An expression of one’s character through the various elements and features of the park itself. After two days, the people you skated with became more of an extended family. You inherently bonded with all those around you, everyone completely enveloped together in an odd mixture of stoke and fatigue, hangover and sheer elation.

The Kona pool had some serious talent in it throughout the course of both days.

The Kona pool had some serious talent in it throughout the course of both days.

This shredder is apparently 9 years of age, and did nothing but melt faces all weekend.

This shredder is apparently 9 years of age, and did nothing but melt faces all weekend.

Mercado, ripping the deep end of the Kona Pool.

Mercado, ripping the deep end of the Kona Pool.

The ever elusive Benihana and some serious hang time to boot.

The ever elusive Benihana and some serious hang time to boot.

Brian Bishop sticking the Christ Air out of the bowl. Longboarding just got really real.

Brian Bishop sticking the Christ Air out of the bowl. Longboarding just got really real.

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Bish, racking up a few more frequent flyer miles.

Bish again, from another angle, racking up a few more frequent flyer miles.

Brian Bishop with the 360 Judo air out of the bowl. Serious.

Bish, one more time with the 360 Judo air out of the bowl. No big deal.

Cam spent the day giving away free product and being an all around badass.

Cam spent the day giving away free product and being an all around badass.

Everything but the kitchen sink... oh wait.

Everything but the kitchen sink… oh wait.

The crowd begins to thin as darkness falls.

The crowd begins to thin as darkness falls.

In the evening, Kona turns into a shadowy slippery animal as the ramps collect condensation

In the evening, Kona turns into a slippery animal, as the ramps collect condensation

The view from the rim of the big bowl at night.

The view from the rim of the big bowl at night.

Night mission.

Night mission.

The snake run stays lit late into the evening, allowing for countless night missions.

The snake run stays lit late into the evening, allowing for countless night missions.

G-Form Mike Girard gettin' serious on his Kinthaka in the corners.

G-Form Mike Girard gettin’ serious on his Kanthaka in the corners.

Solo runs through the dark.

Solo runs through the dark.

Skaters push off into the shadowy abyss of the snake run.

Skaters push off into the shadowy abyss.

Attendee's who stayed late got to skate the park until dawn.

Attendees who stayed late got to skate the park until dawn.

Aaron Ketner again, gettin' low and draggin his tongue in the process.

Aaron Ketner, gettin’ low and draggin his tongue in the process.

Pensacola locals representin',

Pensacola locals representin’.

Ridin' the nose and steezin extra hard.

Ridin’ the nose and steezin extra hard.

Romping through the dark on the snake run.

Romping through the dark on the snake run.

Aaron Ketner of Landyachtz gettin' sideways in the dark.

Aaron Ketner again, gettin’ sideways in the dark.

Mean man Cameron Frazier.

Mean man Cameron Frazier.

It had been two solid days, and I found myself sitting in an empty skatepark. Three or four tents were still in the process of being taken down. A lonely beer bottle lay on its side off in the grass, forgotten gloves, a tough looking helmet, calm. The event organizer, Cameron Frazier, strolled the compound with a garbage bag, collecting cans and forgotten articles of clothing. Hardly the role you could have contributed to a man who had pulled off what most had deemed as impossible. The original King of Clermont event had been scrapped only weeks before it’s happening, a daunting debacle that would have brought even the most stalwart of event promoters to their knees, but Cameron had prevailed. He had pulled a proverbial rabbit out of his hat. The King of Kona jam had been something of a dream to us. A non-stop party of epic proportions filled with every element you could have ever hoped for. So while the original plan may have fallen through, it gave way to a happy accident of which the likes I’ll never forget. Thank you Cam, and thank you Kona, I’ll undoubtably be back next year.

Thanks for reading!

Now go be like Cam and throw your own successful skate event!

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