Category Archives: travel

Florida Trip Report

Repost from yesterday’s return trip from Florida.

I’m at the airport, waiting to fly home to Texas.

I got to Jacksonville on Thursday afternoon, late, and Terry Synnott picked me up at the airport. Spent the evening with him and Jenna, at dinner and then watching some old freestyle videos.

Friday morning we hit starbucks a bit late, and went to a public skatepark in Jacksonville. Nice little park, with a flat area not too bad for FS. A bit of a slope, but manageable. We skated the park  bit, and did some FS too. It was hot, but there was a nice shade covering and benches. A dude with a “come to Jesus” sign showed up with a guitar to talk to kids.

Our plan was to go to Kona, but after wearing ourselves out in the heat skating, then eating some too-big vegetarian burritos, we were done. Went back to Terry’s and watched more videos. Then more eating for dinner with Jenna, and THEN we went to Kona. It is 100% mind-boggling sanity-rupturing 4 dimensional madness. Everything is HUGE. It’s on the side of a hill, so there are all these levels. Like stepping into a Lovecraftian city of cyclopean madness.

Saturday morning we got up, once again hit a Starbucks near the beach and went to Terry’s main freestyle spot. (the Synnotts do this together every Saturday and Sunday). It was warm, but not too bad, and so close to the ocean there was a nice breeze. We skated for a little over 2 hours. It was really fun to skate with another freestyler. Terry has become a really good friend over the years. He would tell you he’s not at the top of his game now, having sustained a horrible leg break a couple of years ago. Top of his game or not, he remains my favorite freestyle skater. It’s nice to be friends with your heroes.  We skated, talked about some new ideas for tricks and sequences, and worked on ’em. Jenna shot some video. We need to do this a lot more often. Like quarterly. I know it would help my skating a lot. We then went for a late lunch, and back to the house for more videos.

Oh – Terry has a huge collection of video footage of freestyle contests from the late 1980s. Stuff that was never published, of old NSA and CASL amateur contests. So few of those guys skate anymore. I think Terry is one of the only ones, and probably the only one who does freestyle regularly.

Time for one more meal. We went out for Thai food. Really good stuff. Then they took me down to see the ocean which is always nice for a pale Texan who lives a couple of hundred miles from the coast.

Overall a really great trip. I can’t thank Terry and Jenna enough for hosting me. Good people. As good as you’ll find. They are doing a lot for the freestyle skateboarding community. From producing great boards and wheels to supporting younger skaters, they are doing it right.

Philly Trip, Day 3 – Contest Day

This post is being written the week after the contest, as I was too tired when I got back after the contest to even think about writing this.

Saturday, September 14 was contest day. The event was supposed to start at 11am, and of course being a skate event I knew it would be at least an hour late. Skaters sleep late. However, I didn’t know how the parking would be, so I got up early, payed way too much for the hotel buffet breakfast but got a nice big breakfast and lots of coffee, finished “the morning ritual”, and got to the contest site about 10am.

I started rolling around, thinking about a couple of good lines for my runs, as people slowly started to arrive. It was quickly very clear that in my division, “the Masters” (over 40), we would have some really good skating. Due to its nature, freestyle is a kind of skating that people can do it really well up to pretty advanced ages and still be really good.

AJ Kohn, contest organizer, had already been there for a while, setting up the “tent”, the sound system, chairs, and just generally getting things ready. He handled sign-in too. More about AJ later. For now I’ll just say he rules.

So, this venue is called Rizzo Rink. It is actually a public basketball court sitting under I95, just a block or two west of the Delaware River. The actual “rink” is a public ice skating rink.  The city uses the space under the elevated freeway for parking, basketball, etc. So the place is covered. It is pretty damned cool.

Skaters continued to arrive and start practicing.  The schedule was to be…

  1. Novice (groms)
  2. Amateur
  3. Masters
  4. Pro
  5. 360 Spin-Off
  6. Highest Ollie
  7. Launch Ramp
  8. Game of Skate

Unlike traditional freestyle contests of the past, in which each skater got two 2-minute runs, there is  recent trend of doing 1-minute runs instead. This trend was continued in Philly. Everyone got two 1-minute runs, and pros got three runs. I think there is room in freestyle for both ways. There are some advantages to doing 1-minute runs. It keeps things moving well. It is more interesting to watch. It encourages more people to enter, since one minute is much less intimidating than two minutes. I think it is true that the more limited time doesn’t permit more accomplished skaters put together a whole artistic presentation, so for some that is a big issue. Each contest has its own vibe and goals. For this event, AJ certainly made the right choice. It was a fun, fast moving contest with lots of participants.

I’ve been involved with freestyle for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve ever been to a contest in about 25 years. It was great to finally meet people face to face whom I’ve been collaborating with/communicating with for over ten years. I felt like I already knew these guys. It was very cool. I saw Keith Renna over at the judges stand, so I snuck up on him, put him in a very sloppy rear-naked choke (Keith is an MMA practitioner) and he had no problem guessing who it was. Frank Lavallee was there with Keith, and it was great to meet him too! Others on the list of longtime “hey I know you” people were Jesse Whalen, obviously Terry and Jenna Synnott, and of course AJ Kohn.

OK, I will give an overview of the divisions. Please forgive me if I leave out any names — these are just my recollections and impressions.

Groms: it’s always cool to see the little people (children) out there ripping at a contest. I didn’t know any of these kids, but clearly most if not all of them had participated in AJ’s events before. There were some solid flip tricks in this group — a few that were more solid than most of the adults/teens could do. A kid named Tyler Thomas won the Novice division, but really all of ’em skated hard!

Amateurs: This was the biggest group (20 riders), consisting of “the young dudes”. This is where you find the younger skaters who are all about freestyle, and the competition for the top 3 places was pretty serious. Pete Betti, of New Jersey, won this division, followed closely by El Paso’s Jacob Whitt in the #2 spot and Sweden’s Felix Jonsson in 3rd. I think all three of these guys are planning to move up to Pro in the next contest. My friend and co-cooperative at Small School, John Sargent, showed up with very little if any practice and nailed down 4th place with solid and impressive skating. Philly’s own Tyrone Williams finished out the top five with some killer runs.

One really fun thing about the Am division was the participation of a number of all-around skaters. Guys that don’t specialize in flatland. Modern street skating has enough flip tricks that with the 1-minute format these guys can enter and really put on a good show. It is nice to see their participation. It was also great to see El Paso’s Garrett Danger Morrison on a longboard. Garrett ended up in 9th place, and showed a different way of attacking freestyle. Hats off, young sir.

Masters: This was my division. 8 skaters. It was clear pretty early that Bill Robertson, from El Paso, was the man to beat. Bill is an accomplished demo skater who had a pro model on Walker in the 1980s, and he’s really an all-around skater and good dude. So yeah – Bill won this with very ripping and I think perfect runs. If he made any mistakes they were minimal. Glad to have him in Texas! 2nd place went to veteran FSer Mike Kinney, who skated with great precision and style. Great to meet him and see him skate. 3rd went to Rodney “Ancient” Watkins – a Philly local and longtime skate advocate and mentor. He seems to be one of those guys who can just skate everything, adapting and enjoying any terrain or event. Alan Benson got 4th. Alan is a cool guy, and he does the slowest 360s I’ve ever seen! And I mean that in a nice way. Just total control. Kind of amazing.

Pros: There were 7 skaters entered in the pro event. Each of these guys offered a very different bag of tricks and riding style.

1st place – Terry Synnott. Yeah, I was pretty much rooting for him, not because the other guys aren’t great, but Terry is just the best. He is still inventing new footwork tricks, and at over 40 years of age could have decimated the Masters division, but keeps it real in the Pro.

2nd: AJ Kohn. AJ stepped away from the MC microphone long enough to skate, hammering away with his very hybrid style of freestyle.

3rd: Jesse Whalen. Jesse is one of my favorite skaters. His ability to throw multiple 540 shove-it variations into a 1-minute run is just fantastic. He also has the craziest and cool footwork style.

4th: Bert Mathieson. This was my first real look at Bert. Dude is a doctor — you know – a physician. At over 50 years old, he is in phenomenal shape, and is absolutely rewriting the book on handstand variations in skateboarding. It is something to see. Got to spend some time with him later at dinner, and he’s a good guy.

5th: Kyle Hamilton. OK, this guy is one solid muscle. He skated in a full Indiana basketball uniform. Seriously. Including red headband and white tube socks. He has a solid pro-level trick arsenal, including a very killer 360 fingerflip.

6th: Dave Vey. Dave came in with Terry. I was totally unaware of him. Real cool guy, and some serious pop. Dave does some really hard ollie tricks, as well as good footwork and all-around freestyle. Very impressed.

7th: Steven Vera: Steven skates for Bustin Boards, a longboard company. He entered on a total downhill style longboard — dropped platform, drop-through trucks, tiny nose and tail kicks. I loved watching this guy’s runs. He did his own thing and did it well. Absolutely the best G-Turns of anyone there, spiraling them until finishing with a shove-it out. I’m not sure that 7th really properly represents the quality of his skating — I think that the FS judging model just isn’t really geared-up to deal with this style of freestyle.

360s Spin-Off: Bill Robertson won this even with 22.5 spins. Closest competitor was Terry Synnott with 14.

Game of Skate: Don’t mess with Jesse Whalen. Just don’t do it.

Jump Ramp: Joey Uva

High Ollie: Official: Arjun Shah (6 Decks)
Un Official: John Jones (7 Decks)

Oh yeah, I ended up getting 6 out of 8 riding my longboard in the Masters Division. I was pretty happy with it. I did what I wanted to do. The guy just below me, Jason Thoel, probably maybe should have been in 6th. He did some good solid freestyle, and it was fun meeting and skating with him.

OK, a few words on AJ Kohn.

AJ organized this contest and essentially put it all together. He does this once a year, plus lots of other events. It is one thing to go skate and be a good skater, but another thing entirely to make things happen. AJ makes things happen. He is great on the microphone, keeping the contest moving, the crowd engaged, and is especially good at encouraging the little kids and brings out the best in them. He even does this all legally! Yep. He had a permit from the city for this contest at this location. So you don’t even have to worry about the event getting busted!

So he really deserves a lot of thanks, and in my book he has it.

I’ll be going back.



Philly Trip, Day 2

My typings from day 2 of the Philly Freestyle Trip, 2013…

Friday, Sept 13, Airport Hilton in Philly.

12:15pm I have been here less than 24 hours, and have eaten two gigantic cheeseburgers already. Not good — well — the burgers were OK, but I can’t do that the next 3 days. The hotel restaurant’s menu is very limited, and there is really nothing else around here, as the hotel is quite literally across the highway from the runways.

I slept in pretty late today. I probably needed it. My friend Terry Synnott and his wife, Jenna, and a friend, are coming in later this afternoon. I believe they will be at this hotel. Looking forward to meeting them for the first time in-person. So strange to “know” people for all these years and never meet face to face. But I feel these are real relationships, for sure. We share the skateboarding bond, which often equates to instant friendship.

Hotel rooms have to be the most solitary places in the world. If I were writing a book, a hotel might be a good place to do it.  There’s nothing else to do. It is quiet. If you don’t like “to drink”, most hotels are pretty boring. I can also see how people who are on the road all the time become drunks. Most people would not enjoy sitting in a hotel room reading or writing every night. They would seek out the bar, and soon they’d be done.

I am digging this coffee that was in the little machine in my room. Single cup servings, measured out pretty well. Cream and sugar. It’s not bad at all. I needed it too. Feel an ocular migraine coming on.

Considering all the sitting in airports and on planes yesterday, my back feels alright. If I can loosen up a bit today with a short skate session, just to get my legs under me, I think I’ll be good for tomorrow. I still have very little in my bag of tricks. Looking at the Masters division, with a little practice I might have done well. I may still.

Only a skateboarder would go to a new city, a historic and famous city, and sit in the hotel until it is time to skate.

Well, time to let this burger digest.

6 minutes later…tried to sleep, but I have slept all I can. Reading may be the ticket.

 9pm I spent most of the afternoon watching World War Z on streaming It was better than I expected. Actually, it is pretty good and exciting.

About 3/4 into the movie, and maybe 3pm, Terry called and they had gone directly to the contest site to skate, without coming first to check in at the hotel. I made a quick call to Enterprise Rent-a-car at the airport, got the hotel shuttle driver to take me over there, and within about 25 minutes I had a car, had my board in the trunk, had a vague idea based on some half-ass directions how to get to this skate spot in downtown Philadelphia, and was on the road.

With very little difficulty I found the place, and when I got there Terry, his wife Jenna, Dave Vey, swedish freestyler Felix Jonsson, JT, and Gary Spatola were already there. So good to meet Terry after all these years of internet communication.

The spot is pretty cool. It is under a freeway on some basketball courts, next to a public ice rink — also under the freeway. It’s in a classic Philadelphia neighborhood — so cool! The surface is pretty good. The whole thing has a bit of a slope, which is a little freaky at first, but really not a big deal after you get used to it. I was glad to be there a day early and have a chance to check it out. I never skate well on the first time at a spot, even on flat ground.

Sooo…we skated, then Terry’s group and I went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and me down a the hotel sports bar for dinner. Great time at dinner talking with them. Terry is a freestyle skateboarding history freak, as am I, so it was fun.

Now back in the room. Lights out soon. Long day of skating and fun tomorrow.






Philly Trip, Day 1

I wrote this on the way to Philadelphia last week for a freestyle skateboarding contest. Posting it now…it is kind of stream of consciousness, so if you find it tiresome just go back to watching your stories.


9:44am First learning from this trip: School zones suck. Morning traffic sucks. When caught in school zones and frustrated, Slayer is not the optimal music for avoiding nervous breakdowns or strokes.

Sitting now at the terminal waiting on flight, which is already 5 minutes delayed.  Already there is a crying baby, and we’re not even on the plane yet. While I appreciate air travel, it is stressful. Going through security, the scanner operator asked what my digital voice recorder was. I explained its function and she was cool. It does look like a taser, so I can understand her question.

Grabbed some coffee and a not-so-fresh cinnamon roll from the Dunkin Donuts stand in the airport. The coffee is alright.

I have a 30 minute gap between my connecting flights in Tulsa, which is already down to 25 minutes. Just relax, Bob. Relax. You are not in a hurry. As long as no one steals the longboard out of your luggage all is well.

You can’t help but hear people’s conversations in situations like this.  It’s weird. Especially travelling alone. It really makes me feel like an alien. Hearing business people talk on the phone is especially strange.

As my longtime regular readers know, I’m on my way to Philadelphia, for a skate contest.  So all this bullshit should be worth it. I have plenty of time. Southwest Airlines will just have to get me there.

12:03 After a 30 minute delay in Dallas to get some overhead light repaired, we got underway and I made to Tulsa just in time to hand the agent my boarding pass, A-32, and step on the plane right in order. Then I looked out the window of the plane and saw my longboard bag being loaded on the new plane. So cool.

The WiFi costs $8 per day on Southwest, so I’m writing this offline. Will write a bit, then spend a lot of time reading.

So far, combining traffic with flight delays, it has been a stressful day. Now I am settled in to chill. Black Sabbath playing on the iPod. I messaged on FB this morning with Terry. He will be getting to Philly later in the day on Friday, which is fine. I will have a day of chilling at the hotel, then we’ll go skate and check out the spot. Not sure who else will be there at this hotel. Maybe no one.

Digging the Chromebook. Size and weight are perfect for airplane use. I could see getting the 11” MacBook Pro when money allows. Portablity is great. Funny – spell check doesn’t work offline on this machine. It really is all in the cloud. Also will not allow me to rename it offline. Crazy. Also loving that I have over 6 hours of batter life left.

Lots of early drinking on the plane. Couple in their 60s next to me ordered matching bloody marys. Seriously, there are a LOT of alcohols being served on this airliner. hahaha — yeah – this could be an interesting flight.

I only brought one board – the 41” small school FS longboard. I got on my normal FS board this morning and it just didn’t feel good. Last thing I need is to land a little off and throw out my back again. I could see that happening right now.

Even with the battery life of this Chrome book, I’m gonna be cutting it close if I left it on the whole flight.

2:02  Landed in Chicago’s Midway Airport to change crews and continue on to Philly. Apparently there is some bullshit traffic issue in Philly, so we are delayed two hours. Glad I don’t have another connecting flight. I realize this is the kind of thing the frequent travelers deal with all the time. It was a nice chance to get off the plane and eat some really horrible chinese food. Not sure what this means for my arrival time in Philly. Doesn’t matter too much.  Think I will walk around a bit more.

6pm –  Eastern time. In the air. Spent a few hours in Chicago. Weather on the east coast was a problem. Lighting hit a control tower in Baltimore, and lots of planes were diverted all over, including Philly. A real mess. On the way now, in the air, and expecting a rough flight. It is already rough.

So I’ll probably get to my hotel about 9pm. What a day. I guess I shouldn’t complain. Had a nice conversation with a fellow traveller in Chicago. He and I talked technology — gadgets. Nice guy. Wished him luck on his travels.

I’m really glad I have a day to rest now before the contest. Will need it. My back feels tired. Will try to work out tonight at the hotel. Get some exercise.

Need to come up with a good run for the contest. I think I have a some good longboard lines. Need to practice them. Big trick should be a kickflip at speed, I think. Need to make it more than a novelty — it needs to be a statement. Its a shame I wasn’t able to really crush the practice this year. I had such grand designs. Oh well. Fun is the name of the game. All that matters, really.

I will experiment tonight and tomorrow with the online audio editing app I installed. Curious how it will work for podcast editing. How will it handle multi-track, etc.

Travel can be so tiring, even if you aren’t doing the driving. Having music/internet does help. It was great to be able to chat with my wife while hung up in Chicago. I always find when I go to conferences that I’m kind of antisocial. I think this will be different. These are my people.  Gonna make the most of this opportunity to get to know these guys I’ve been collaborating/communicating with for 10 years or more. This will actually be my second big skate trip of the year. Went to the small school jam earlier this year, which is always fun. Always great to see Jeremy, Sean Burke, Connor Burke, Sarge, Tommy, etc. Wish I could have seen Tyler Self this year, but he is deep into the college life. He’s a very smart young guy. A lot of fun to talk with.

New Chromebook realization: I guess it will not let you rename stuff on the offline files, once you have created them, unless it can simultaneously do the name change online. Lots of stuff like that seem to be the case. The problem is it won’t let you delete all the “Untitled Documents” you end up creating, because I can’t figure out how to find these offline docs in the “files” folder.

I feel like the Google Docs word processing editor is more intuitive than the newer versions of Word. Most people don’t need all the power of Word. Maybe if you are a PhD student, but not most users.

Will sign off for a bit. Write more at the hotel.

Later — after getting home from this trip…

As you will see in the coming entries, I did indeed make it to Philly and it was indeed worth the fairly horrible day of travel. That first night after arriving at the hotel I slammed down a cheese burger of epic proportions, fries, a Coca Cola, and a big piece of chocolate cake, then went to bed. A fantastic event, and I will write about it soon.

On my way

Left this morning for the Internet Librarian conference, in Monterey, California. Good but crowded flight to LA. I’m now waiting for the puddle-jumper up to Monterey, after which I’ll drive up to Marin County for a couple of days before the conference starts.

Reading Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”. I am not a particularly literate librarian. Well, I’m really a reference librarian, and am pathetically poorly-read compared to a lot of my colleagues (though I’m pretty well read on some non-fiction areas – science, stuff like that). Anyway, I’m enjoying the book.

Hoping for good skateboarding weather on Saturday and Sunday.

Gonna be a long day of travel today – left the house this morning about 6:30am, and will get to Dale’s place about 8pm (10pm at home). But its better than the Greyhound. But then, what isn’t.