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Migrate To Skate Hawaii with John Slugg

John Slugg and friends are using their education (literally) and a little ingenuity to Migrate To Skate and recently went to Hawaii for a little education in downhill. As part of the Western Washington University Longboarding Club has been migrating each winter to warmer weather for the last 3 years. Traditionally, they head to California, but this year they decided in favor of a tropical destination: Maui. Our hope is that our video inspires other university clubs to utilize their club resources in order to expand their clubs and the longboarding community simultaneously. Featuring Steven Suhama, Rain Daley, Ben Bartlett, Connor Harkey, John Slugg, Kai Griffin, Zach Newman, and Dakota Camp, check out what John had to say about the trip and watch the video!

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I am fortunate. Both fortunate enough to be afforded tertiary education, but also fortunate enough to attend a university which values and supports individualism and pursuit of passion enough to help fund a longboard club skate trip. For the past three years Western Washington University has funded a skate trip which we call “Migrate to Skate”. For the past two years the club has explored California and all its classics but due to the new threat of intensified law enforcement and the: been there, done that mentality, we pursued another option; Maui, Hawaii.

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Local flora and classic architecture litter the mountain sides of Maui.

It was a little more difficult to convince the school to allocate funding for such a trip because the school was having a somewhat hard time finding a reason to give a group of mountain scum skate rats a chunk of change to take a trip to the tropics. To obtain the funding we had to go through or schools club organization AS (Associated Students) and request the funding. After the request was made the club chairmen (Michael Rivera, Kai Griffin, and myself) had to attend a series of review meetings with the AS in order to explain why we were requesting the money.

A comprehensive budget was drawn up and presented to the AS explaining what every dollar they would be putting into the trip would be going towards. A certain sum for rental car fees, another for: gas, food, baggage, airfare, interisland travel, etc. We presented the arguments that the trip would gain exposure for the school and with the schools help we would be able to attend the “Maui Challenge” race. We went back and forth, the club board presenting positives of the trip and the AS board presenting negatives. When the day was done Western agreed that they would pay for our rental cars and $100 of our gas. Needless to say that although that wouldn’t be enough to pay for the whole trip, we were beyond stoked.

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Dense jungle and sharp coastlines shape the face of Maui’s North shore.

Aside from Western we also enlisted support of Randal Trucks and Landyachtz Longboards. Randal agreed to pay for the remainder of our gas, trucks for whoever wanted them, and ended up paying for three of our checked bags. Landyachtz hooked it up with slide gloves, socks, dice, and a complete dinghy to raffle off in the name of the WWU Longboard Club. I cannot put into words how grateful the crew is to our sponsors for making this great adventure of ours possible. Airfare, food, camping supplies, and equipment would come out of our pockets. After the funding was all figured out we put our minds towards studying for our final exams while winter break and Migrate to Skate crept nearer and nearer.

On the morning of the 13th we left Bellingham headed towards Vancouver BC right on skater time. The drive was about an hour and a half, and with a smooth border crossing the trip was off to a promising start. We got into Vancouver at around 1:35 pm and decided that we would stop by and see our friends at Flatspot Longboard Shop and grab some Chinese steamed buns from New Town Bakery located just a few doors down.

We rolled into Flatspot and started skating The Wok, Flatspot’s mini bowl with pool coping. As it turned out BC local shredder Sho Ouellette had similar plans so we all skated the Wok and had one hell of a time! After a quick session in Flatspot we ran next door to get buns and then headed back to the car to feed the meter before going to SBC, a mini-ramp bar that is nothing short of a staple for skaters passing through Vancouver. However our luck changed and as destiny had it we would never make it to SBC.

As we approached my truck we saw a parking authority officer who was walking towards the front of my vehicle. I ran up to tell her that we were back to refill the meter but as I drew closer it dawned on me that something had gone wrong. There was a sea of black tinted glass spread about the ground just outside the rear door of my car. In the half hour we were gone someone had shattered my rear door window and pulled a smash and grab. As we assessed our losses the only thing that appeared to be missing other than my window was a red bag that had been sitting in the rear bench seat.

“My passport!” Conner Harkey exclaimed. All of our hearts sank to the floor as we realized just hours into our adventure we may lose a member of our crew. Caddy-corner to the parking lot was a police officer who we promptly filed a police report with. After cleaning the back seat of broken glass and repairing the window with cardboard, plastic bags, and tape (thanks for the materials Mischa!) we headed to the airport fingers crossed that Conner would be able to board the flight without his passport.

We followed the signs towards the international departures and once we found our airline we promptly got to work discussing options for Conner. Unfortunately they were unable to give him his boarding pass without his passport and it was determined that he would have to spend the night in Vancouver and in the morning venture over to the American Consulate in order to get an emergency passport. As Conner headed out back into the urban jungle of Vancouver and the rest of the group headed towards the tropical jungles of Maui, we couldn’t help but feel slightly downtrodden that after months of planning last second dumb luck may be the thing to keep Harkey from making it on the trip.

Despite long security lines, a period of time debating about whether or not we just saw Seth Rogan (turns out we did), a maze of an airport and a timely number of shenanigans we somehow made it to our gate with enough time to grab dinner before departure. Just like that our adventure was underway and after a seemingly endless flight we would be in paradise.

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The Hawaiian mountain sides jut up from the earth staring over those looking on like a colossus.

When we touched down in Kahului airport we grabbed our bags while Michael and Rain Daley went to pick up our rental cars. While waiting for Michael and Rain to pull up with the cars we did what we knew how to do best, skate. Although the airport security wasn’t too stoked on it we were and once the cars arrived we took off towards Zach Newman’s where he was gracious enough to let us spend the night. In fact he let us stay two nights as well as giving us a locals tour of the best runs Maui has to offer and guidance to some good eats. Without Zach’s help the trip would have been a disaster so for that and more we thank you!

On the way up to lavender farms the morning after our arrival we got an international call.

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We received a call from Conner while we drove up the mountain for the first session of the trip.

When we picked up we heard Conner on the other end who had gotten his passport and was on his way to Maui! Our luck had turned around and in less than 24 hours after getting his passport stolen he had gotten a replacement and was on his way to us. All was right with the world.

We spent the day at lavender farms, sessioning corners and getting a feel for what the road had to offer.

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Zach Newman and Rain Daley hit the inside of the top corner at lavender farms.

We hit a highway bomb named the vineyard on the way out, then went to the beach for a dip in the water and some grub. When we were at the beach we ran into Big Dave and an Arbor crew from NorCal. We made plans to hit Lahaina Skate Park after the sun went down. Unfortunately the first run in the bowl I re-aggravated a hip injury that had been troubling me and I was unable to skate while simultaneously unable to keep myself from skating all that much for the next couple of days. The rest of the guys had a rad time skating! After the park we picked up Conner from the airport with a case in hand who had somehow been upgraded to first class and was already a little lost in the sauce when he arrived. That happened and the next morning we were back at lavender farms.

When we got to lavender farms the Arbor dudes were already there and we spent the majority of the day tearing up the bottom section.

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Corner sessions on the bottom section of lavender farms with the Arbor NorCal crew.

Corner lurking and filming commenced and as the sun went down we were on our way back to Newman’s place.

When we woke up the next morning we headed to Foodland for our morning Poke bowls. After some guy who was stoked on our trip had given us a bunch of bananas and a lady gave us a handful of hats we decided we needed to take a day to see the and experience the local culture.

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A kind man who owned a banana plantation gave us as many bananas as we could take.

We set off along the north shore to Hana at the far tip of the island. After a few hours driving down the twisty, densely forested highway we once again ran into Big Dave who told us about a cliff jumping spot and a place to grab chili bowls. We finished our journey partaking in both activities along the way. We found a camp spot under the canopy of some trees just feet from where the light blue ocean was crashing onto a rock cliff shore.

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First night of camping under the canopy of some trees we found right along the coast near Hana.

When we woke up the next morning we set off towards Kihei along the south shore stopping several times to admire the amazingly scenic views and deteriorating architecture left behind from World War 2.

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Decaying bunkers and historical artifacts litter the island and give a glimpse of times past.

Once we arrived in Kihei we skated a ditch and stopped in by the all wood skate park for a rip as well as our first showers of the trip! While we were there we met a man whose daughter goes to Western Washington University. Whoever you are blonde WWU girl, you’re day told us to say “hello” for him and I am not a man to back down on a promise! We headed up to lavender to camp and ended up setting up the cars to skate the corners at night!

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Night Session at lavender farms.

The next morning after our trip to Foodland, and washing our clothes at the nearby laundromat, we headed back to lavender farms. We met Newman up at the top corner and he told us others were on the way. About 20 of us showed up and after a few hours of skating we were exhausted. As most of the squad lurked the corner Byron Essert and Dusty, a big island local came through and popped ollies gapping over the dirt and into the bank of the turn on the other side.

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Squad session at lavender farms before race day.

Those maneuvers along with some insanely technical hard wheeling by Kai Griffin shut down the spot and we decided that it was time to take full runs out and find a camping spot before the race that was to be held in the morning.

The Maui Challenge Outlaw is one of the most fun, yet most underrated races I have ever had the pleasure of attending. Thrown by Zach Newman and Dakota Camp of Aloha Skateboard Shop this outlaw race is one of the better organized races I have attended. This year it was thrown on a small section of Lavender Farms. Every year the section changes but the entirety of the road is very technical. This year the course had two hairpins connected in between with a series of interesting kinks, chicanes, and repeaters which lead to a bit of a learning curve for those who hadn’t skated that particular section before.

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KJ leads Dakota Camp in a qualifying heat.

The turnout was small, about 30 racers, but for those who came out the vibes were good and the skating was cherry.

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Byron Essert followed by Matt K come into the last hairpin on the Maui Challenge racecourse.

We met up at a park just down the road for registration and bracketing at 10:00 skater time and then headed over to the race course at around 12:00. The competition was run with two man heats with four qualifying rounds that followed two practice heats. After a few hours of skating, lurking, and eating plentiful roadside fruit it was time for finals.

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Rain out in front of Hawaiian local Rad Team rider.

It came down to a three man heat; Dakota Camp, Rain Daley, and Byron Essert. As organizer Zach Newman gave the countdown “ready, set, go” the racers sprang into action. Both Byron and Dakota decided to throw down where Rain decided to push in. Off the line Byron was out front, followed by Dakota with Rain hot on their tail. The crowd of eliminated racers that gathered at the berm looming just above the finish line were giddy with anticipation, wondering who would be first to enter the tight right hairpin that was most troublesome to racers throughout the day, excited to see what lines the three would choose to take as well as how the heat would pan out.

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Dakota Camp leads Conner Harkey through the straight away before the right.

As the racers shot out of the chicane looming before the straight away headed towards the right hairpin the order of racers remained as it did off the launch; Byron in first, Dakota in second, and Rain in third.

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Byron Essert followed closely by Dakota Camp.

As they approached the hairpin tensions were high but all three racers, truly professional in nature, all took perfect lines. Out of the right their fates were sealed, Essert reigned victorious backed closely by Camp claiming second and Daley in third. Though the order had remained the same from the start that wasn’t due to lack of trying by both Dakota and Rain. As the racers twisted their way through the sweeping curves of the course all possibilities to pass were skillfully thwarted by those leading.

As the podium was announced the knowledge that all racers that day had won in some sense or another. Experience was gained, friendships forged, and laughs shared, not to mention that all participants left with something in hand. Whether it be the championship Hawai’i footstops given to the victorious trio, a t-shirt donated by local shop Aloha skateboards, or a new piece of equipment to add to ones quiver from the various sponsors who generously gave to the event, amazingly nobody left with only the smile on their face given by such a rad day, as if that wasn’t enough by itself.

After the race we stacked as many clips as we could possibly muster. Running laps and following runs until our legs were dead.

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Ben Bartlett comes around camp corner on lavender farms.

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Kai Griffin styles through a corner as photographers look onward.

As the sun went down we grabbed dinner and headed towards Kihei where we found a quiet beach to set up our hammocks. When we woke up in the morning for our last full day we went back up the mountain one last time. It had been a full week and we still hadn’t skated crater so we had to check that off our list. After a few warm up laps at the vineyard with some big island locals we headed to crater.

When we got to the top there were 60 mile per hour tailwinds and a drizzling rain that cast a rainbow over the right side of the run. Undismayed we hopped on our boards and ripped it despite the somewhat unsavory conditions. After a few runs our legs were dead. We said our goodbyes to our newly made friends and headed back to Kihei to spend the rest of our final day on the beach. That night we visited a fire circle and had a run-in with the police who after much fretting showed us to a spot where we could legally camp.

When we woke up in the morning our hearts were saddened by the thought that we would have to leave but renewed by the adventure we had been fortunate enough to have taken. We got on the plane and upon arrival drove back to Bellingham.

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From the airport we could see lavender farms, all of us wishing we could skate it just one last time.

The whole crew was exhausted but truth be told we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We had taken the trip of a lifetime and if only for that week the world was ours.

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Steven Suhama Stands at the top of Haleakala as the sun rises over the clouds.

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