So lets take it back to the beginning...
It had been 6 years since I had last been in the U.S. I was feeling a bit home sick so I thought it was time to jump in a plane and head back to the land of red, white and blue. I had three main goals to accomplish in the States;
1) Check out camps, 2) Mountainboard 3) Film a video with Braille Skateboarding.
Flying to the U.S from Melbourne is always a huge journey. 15 hours on a plane is always tough (luckily there was no screaming baby's on this flight). My plan was to stay awake as long as possible and sleep the last few hours of the flight to wake up in the U.S Sunday morning to allow my body to adjust to the time difference. Of course that didn't happen and spent my time watching movies I couldn't even tell you the names of.. But I digress.
Landing in LAX I had troubles with my credit cards. I couldn't use them. This made it very difficult to hire a car. So I admitted defeat and retreated to Santa Monica. I spent the afternoon skating around Venice and checking out the sites. I then met up with the legends at Stryke boards (An electric Mountainboard company). After taste testing many of the local beers we called it a night. The following morning I still couldn't hire a car. After trying 6 different providers I had incoming call from Stryke boards himself. Saving the day once again I throw my gear in the back of his super modified jeep and we were on the way to Woodward West.
Woodward West is literally built smack bang in the middle of the Californian desert. We arrived with an hour to spare before closing just in time to do a tour. I did the tour with the head of skateboarding, as I walked around the facility I had to stop my jaw from hitting the ground. Skateparks inside, Skateparks outside, full dirt jump park, ninja warrior course, gymnasium, digital media space the list goes on. Woodward has everything! The tour was over before I new it. I'd made some great new contacts and learnt a ton. It was time to head back to the airport.
I had only one problem. I was in the middle of the desert and the boys were driving through to San Fransisco. With the flight departure time approaching I had to come up with a plan.. I caught a lift with the boys to neighboring town Bakersfield (30 minutes in the wrong direction) and then booked the most expensive Uber ride to date. After hearing the Uber drivers life story over the 2 hour and 12 minute drive I finally arrived into LAX. Unlike Melbourne airport where we have only a handful of terminals, LAX had 15+ and we were at the back of the line in peak hour traffic. With 30 minutes before my flights departure I say goodbye to my Uber driver and new besty and run into the airport. I start checking in and ask one of the attendants what my chances are of making the flight. He said "don't even bother" and directed me to the back of the re-check in line. I was forced to sleep in the airport on top of all 3 of my bags to catch the next available flight at 5am. This moment was to set the tone of my entire first week, absolutely crazy!
I wake up in Pennsylvania. Finally my card works and hire a car and drive 3 hours on the opposite side of the road to a town called State College. I stay the night and drive out to meet Az and Jodi the owners of the camp here in Melbourne at Woodward East, the original Woodward! Woodward Easy was truly something else. A 100 acre property in the middle of Amish country (In the town of Woodward they have an extra lane on the roads for horse and carriage). Awaiting our tour, our guides found it hard to secure us a golf buggy to do the tour. I said "don't worry guys, we can walk" and our guide responded with "no we will need them to see the whole place". Once we begun the tour I began to understand why we needed the buggies, the place was huge!! Woodward East has something like 8 outdoor skateparks, 5 indoor skateparks, a mega ramp, a mountainbike park, a go-kart track, a high ropes course, a hotel, a wakeboard park, a ninja warrior course and so much more. It was like I had died and gone to heaven. A truly inspiring experience. As soon as the tour ended it started smashing down with rain so we decided to leave.
That night I left at 12 and drove back to the airport for 3 am. 3 flights later I was finally in Denver, my favorite place in all of the U.S. We were greeted by the legendary Jason Lee and spent the day at the Outdoor Retailers event. I crashed at everyone favorite police officer and Mountainboarders house, Jon Diurba. The next day we took the trip from copper down to Aspen, to spend the day with the 'Dirt Dawgs'.
Aspen Snowmass is absolutely beautiful. An amazing slope covered in trees and buildings made from stone and granite. It was the perfect place for America's best Mountainboard Camp. We were just in time for the last day of 'Pro Camp' with Jereme 'Jezza' Leafe. There was 40 kids on the hill that day! Super hyped on Mountainboarding the kids dropped in on the highway themed ramps and shreded literally all day. Jereme and I put on a little demo for the kids. The fans were blessed with witnessing Jereme Leafe do flawless 360's in a shark suite. Camp Snowmass truly is an amazing Mountainboard camp and perhaps one of the best I've seen. Every instructor is super educated on teaching Mountainboarding and amazing at getting the kids pumped up. Shout out to Doug Webb for creating such an amazing program and I can't wait to see where he takes it. Later that night I caught up with the legendary Kody Stewart and Jezza and hit the town, you know we ended up at Aspan's Escobar. The next morning I jumped in the Fox RV with Kody and we headed back to Copper. Half way there we both looked at each other and realized that I had in fact left my Mountainboard at Kody's house back in Aspen. Which really sucked becuase that day we were riding at Woodward Copper with Jon Diurba, Az and Jodi. Luckily Jon Diurba always comes prepared and had a spare board for me to use. We sessioned the park for hours and had a ton of fun in the huge foam pit with the 'mega' kicker!
Week two started with super fun session at Valmont bike park. I had been there a few times over the years and always had a ton of fun there. This session was no different. Jason and I rode the small track for the first half of the day. Super fast, fun and technical. You can ride and jib so many little hits on the way down the hill. After a quick trip to the hospital with Ryan, Joel was back in time to session the big line with me. The first jump is always hard to get speed for but once Joel had figured out the technique we were both flying down the hill. One of my favorite moments was watching Joel and Jason Lee following each other down the winding pump track (check it out in the video). After some lunch we took the trip out to rampart range. A must see if your ever in Colorado. Last time I was there we were riding in a Mountainboard competition. That day we had a feet of snow and I dislocated my shoulder. I tried my best not to do that again. This time round it was super hot and the elevation started to get to Joel and I. Joel was on fire and charging down the rock faces like some sort of mad man. I spent most of week two working at the MBS HQ, although one of the highlights was riding this super fun red dirt hip at the Garden of the God's. Another great moment was watching Jason absolutely destroy every pinball machine in the arcade in Manitou.
Beejo and I loaded up the MBS van and headed out on a 5 day road-trip around Colorado to get content for the new MBS and Atom products. The first stop was Colorado springs and we were blessed with Jason Lee's presence. He ripped up every square inch of the grass park on the new electric MBS Mountainboard (stay tuned for that). The following day we filmed around Denver then took the trip out to Ruby Hill's new Mountain bike park. This place was seriously awesome. Big jumps, fun pump tracks on a hill. Walls and drops it had it all. We met up with the legend Aj Lawson and his new crew of Mountainboarders. It was like Aj hadn't stopped Mountainboarding, still had amazing style, still had all the sickest grabs and was more motivated then ever. After a fun session on the hill Beej and I refueled and drove off into the desert. After a few wrong turns we finally rolled into Grand Junction around 1am. We slept in the van alongside the highway (opposite a caravan park haha) and woke up early to ride the iconic Grand Junction Dunes. Our mission for the day was to find the famous "12-pack" a set of 12 natural jumps in the middle of the desert. The only problem was we didn't have our human Navman Benton Jackson to show us the way this time. I got on the ol' google machine and directed us to what I thought was the jumps. It wasn't, although google did take us to some other jumps that was a bit of fun. Although beyond the jumps in the foot hills was the real fun. Riding down the sandy hills in the blistering sun was something else! A quick lunch stop and we were off in search for the jumps again. This time Beejo took us to a different spot, he took the long wheel base sprinter van where no other man had before. Driving it up and down mountains in search of the 12 pack. Sure enough we couldn't find them and spent the day riding the endless amount of sick downhill terrain!
The following day we headed back to Snowmass to ride with the kids one last time and get some more laps in on the fun little park. We filmed a couple tricks and I picked up my board from Kody's place. We caught up with Mountainboarder Catherine Rios and skated around town. Later that afternoon we jumped back in the van and headed out to Crested Butte, Beejo's home. I dare you to ask Beejo what is better, Crested Butte or Aspen?
Crested Butte is a super cool town. Quirky buildings and plenty of color, Beejo will tell you its one of the last true ski towns in Colorado. We spent the morning doing some product photos and finally got up the mountain to do some Mountainboarding. Every winter Beejo snowboards this awesome DIY snow park in the woods. He had always dreamt of Mountainboarding it in the summer. So we went and checked it out. At first glance I didn't think any of it would be doable. All the rails are made out of trees and are hella bumpy. The run in was steep and you had to dodge a bunch of trees to get to any of the rails. We finally found one rail that we thought might be doable and started the session. We both thought it would be easy to get a trick on it but due to the sketchy approach and the weird sliding surface of the tree we where in for a long battle. Lots of stacks were had, but I finally rolled away with a boardslide.
We drove back to Colorado late that night. The following day I met up with Aj for another super fun session and filmed a bunch of tricks. We had our final family dinner at Jasons and Joels mums house and went to bed early. 4am my alarm goes off and we are ready for the trip to San Fransisco to spend the day shooting with Braille! Now if you don't know who Braille are they are perhaps the biggest skateboard YouTube channel with a whopping 3.7 million subscribers between their two channels Braille Skateboarding and Braille Army. A Few months back they did a video on a beginner Mountainboard, I was on the way there to show them how to ride on a high end board.
We arrive at SFO. I hire a car and teach Joel a few things about driving in the U.S. We arrive at the park and blown away at their set up. A full size skatepark, mini ramp, office and distribution center. Joel and I skate around for an hour our so to get the legs working and for Gabe (Cruz) to finish up with Carlos (Lastra). Once the boys had finished I was fired up and ready to go. I pretty much tried to Mountainboard up all the skatepark obstacles. Which made it easy with the Banshee Bungee. Everything went super smoothly and I even did a few doubles tricks with professional skateboarder Carlos Lastra. It was time to try the famous "Braille Drop". The Braille drop is pretty much a sheer drop off the roof of their office into the skate park. A lot of great skateboarders had done tricks off of it and it was time to get mine. I strapped in and did a couple ollies, 180s and a half cab. The drop was super big and I was happy to leave it at that but then something came over me and I started trying backside 360s. We moved the super narrow wedge ramp back about 2 meters. I bailed for about half an hour straight finding it super difficult to land in the narrow transition. I even grinded down the side at one stage. 40 minutes in I snap my truck and I thought it was all over. I then remembered I came prepared and had a spare in my bag. After about 15 minutes R&D Lee had got it sorted. The only problem was I had cooled down and the thought of trying again was daunting. The thought of not being able to land the trick made it easier for me to get back up there again. I tried the trick another 20 or so times and final rolled away with a clean one. It was the perfect ending to a productive session. Gabe, Carlos and the whole crew at Braille were super nice and very stoked on Mountainboarding and wanted to help inform people about the sport. I bought Gabe a boomerang. The afternoon turned into a boomerang throwing competition.
Absolutely exhausted I had one last mission to accomplish before heading home. I had to go riding with my friend Paval Peshin from Russia. So I dropped Joel off home and made why way to the local skatepark for a fun session with the man himself. All in all it was a super fun trip, action packed but great to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. Make great connections and help push the sport of Mountainboarding in the U.S.
Here are some things I'm excited about from this trip:
-Building and developing a camp program similar to Woodward in Australia
-Watching the camp Snowmass program grow and introduce more kids to Mountainboarding
- The new MBS Mountainboards products (stay tuned)
- The growth of the new Mountainboard groups in Colorado Springs and Denver
- The return of Aj Lawson
-The effect of the new Braille video on the Mountainboard scene
Big shout out to MBS, Joel and Jason, Jodi and Az, Braille, Jon, Kody, Jezza, Pat, Beejo and anyone else who helped me along the way. If you made it this far through this article please leave a comment below, we are doing this for you and your support means a lot!!
Photos by: Beejo, Dylan