The Northwest Shred Tour 2017
Every year, a hundred or so people request time off work, pack their cars, and make a multi hour drive or flight out to a small gathering of inline skaters in the US's Pacific Northwest. Some new faces, some seen at other events or other years, some are simply onlookers who are wondering when the 90's reappeared. But every year they pack in deep, load up on Rainier's and PBR's, and set out with the concrete waves as their guides. We might be from all different places, and different preferences for what we love to skate, but for a few short days we set it all aside to enjoy the NWST.
This years journey sent us deep into the farthest corner of the continental United States. Our destination was the Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Forest, and Hoh Rainforest. The trip was slated to last from June 21st through June 25th. The cities along the route were Seattle, Vashon Island, Gig Harbor, Port Orchard, Port Gamble, Kingston, Port Townsend, Sequim, Port Angeles, and Forks. It's a heavy list of stops for 4 days, but after exploring the vast nothing that was Montana last year, it seemed completely plausible.
We managed to miss out on the Seattle portion of the trip as a long Wednesday shift at the office kept us busy. Early Thursday morning the Audi was packed, and the road was calling our name. The night before everyone caught the ferry from Seattle to Vashon Island, a small secluded place right south of Seattle on the Puget Sound. Former home to K2 and the infamous K2 ramp, it now only has a small masonite park and some spots to camp along with a host of people who call it home year round. We arrived at 12pm at the Gig Harbor skatepark. The session was in full motion, and I was quick to snag my skates and dive in. Looking around I saw a bunch of friends from last year in Montana including Randy Juarez, Dave Hill, Dustin Jamieson, Barrett Rasmussen, and countless more. I also saw some new faces for this year like Geoff Phillip, Joe Hawkey, and at later spots the likes of Danny Beer, the Bratty Brothers, and more.
I luckily had the wherewithal to grab my camera and document some of the madness going down. Geoff Phillip was putting down some seriously technical wallride to grind, or grind to wallride, or just flat out wallrides on the out ledges. Zach was boosting 7's over the coping, and Sean Keane was finding what channel he wanted to tune into around the bowl corner. And as quick as we arrived, everyone ran out and hit the road towards Port Orchard.
Port Orchard sits tucked into the corner of the Puget Sound's Southwest corner. Tucked into that sleepy town lies a monster of perfection. The Port Orchard Skatepark is just a few years old and features some of the best skatepark terrain I've ever skated. The concrete is smooth and flawless, the coping is painted and fast, and the span is vast and wide. The crew started the turn up the heat on the park as soon as their feet hit the pavement. Session one seemed set on a small slider bar near the front of the park. Won't deny the fact that slider bar is one of my favorite obstacles to skate, and ripping it up with friends is nothing short of perfection. There was a great session on the small down rail as well. Won't spoil everything for the video, but Geoff Phillips got a little more than filthy on the rail. Every single direction I turned, someone was doing something dope. We could of called Shred Tour good at this spot alone and I would've went home happy with the trip overall. The session eventually moved it way over to a pair of down ledges near the big bowl, and Jeremy Townsend and Randy Juarez set to work on running every single ASA trick they still had in their bags. The camera was in full motion for the capture, and the edit will tell all.
The bowl started to pop off as well and the guys started muttering something about a contest in the bowl. I dropped the camera off in the car, got my skates back on and signed up. Heat 1 was myself, Dustin Jamieson, Tall Paul Hubbard, and one or two other people as well. Before the round even kicked off I had shaken Dustin's hand and jokingly congratulated him on the swift victory. It was a fun session. Jam format, 5 minute round, completely asskicking and humbling. Everyone shredded hard, and in the end, Dustin prevailed. There was a second round as well, and Kevin Barr was going all in against Chris Burns. I don't remember exactly who won, but it was a still a sight to see.
Preston Villanueva, the creator of the NWST, got up in front of everyone and introduced a new face on the tour, Aaron Newman. Aaron is a member of the Port Gamble Klallam tribe and he had approached his tribal council about allowing us to come to their tribes land to camp, skate, and put on a demo for the local youth. After deliberating on the question and looking back at Aaron's record locally, they had agreed to allow us to camp on the beach on their reservation. He gave us a quick rundown on the rules and guidelines for the evening (no drunk driving, no speeding, etc), and the lowdown on where to cop some illegal fireworks, the group was again in motion and on the hour long drive to Port Gamble.
I arrived quite a bit before most of the others. I decided to scope out the skatepark for tomorrows demo and quickly discovered that another car was there waiting too. Turns out that Watch Da Game came out in force and drove down from Canada for the trip, along with Andrew Nemoroski and Brian Long. With a silky smooth paved skatepark in front of them, they opted for the 3 foot slider bar they brought with them. Shortly after, another van rolled in filled with Collin Martin, Rory Mellahan, and a few friends from SF. Even though my skates were on, I felt so out of place between some of the most creative bladers I've ever watched. I opted to hang back and watch it all unfold in front of me. A small park with some fun objects and lines and fully inhabited by some of the skaters I respect the most. It's a memory I wasn't expecting to take home from this year's tour.
After seeing a few more friends arriving in the reservation, I decided to head down to the camp spot to setup and cook some dinner. I came around a corner to find a long sweeping hill that dropped onto a small secluded beach with the sun setting across the bay. This was going to be our home for the night. I quickly busted out the drone and got some sunset clips before setting up my tree tent for the night and making some food. Before I could finish our Facebook live cast, the fireworks began. The war of the South Side of the road vs the North Side of the road went on for almost an hour. Mortars, Roman Candles, Bottle Rockets, all flying back and forth, exploding right in peoples faces. The fire started to die out along with the fireworks, as the last bit of light ran out on day two of the trip.
With an early start, I woke up to mobs of people bombing the hill down to the beach. Sometimes running ten plus people deep, the locals were not pleased. Cops were called and they arrived really quick. Instead of shutting us down though, he just wanted to watch the hill bombing go down and shoot some video of the crew. K2 was on hand this year and had plenty of rec skates for everyone to try on. With nearly everyone on their r100 frames, everyone was hauling full ass down the hill.
I packed up and rolled over to Kingston's skatepark before heading back to the reserve for the demo. Kingston is an older park, but it features a medium sized launch box with a sloped left hand wallride. This was almost everyone's favorite stop on the tour. I got plenty of footage at the park, and some great aerial shots too. Our stay wasn't long enough before heading back to the reservation for the demo though. It was just long enough though for the one man army, Dustin Jamieson, to do everything possible on the wallride. Grinding the top, 360ing into it, somehow grinding the back corner of it, and even frontside cessing it. We attempted to rename the tour at this point to "Dustin Jamieson and the NWST" as he skated off laughing and 360'd into the wall again.
The demo was a great chance to show the locals all they types of skating they can partake in. K2 was getting everyone on demo skates, all the parents were asking questions, and the crew was shredding hard. Local superstar, Aaron, was getting called out for all the tricks we were doing that he said weren't possible. Pretty sure we left him in lower standing with the kids after tricks on demand were being called out left and right for us. We snagged up a few quick clips and got on the road to our next destination, Port Townsend.
Port Townsend is a awesome little seaside town nearing the top corner of the state. Just a block off the water, the next park featured a downrail, huge hip, big bowl and lots of other unique features. A few people decided not to join the demo and instead were already there ripping. Zach Newton actually snapped his skates the day before, but was back in action on his fresh K2's showing everyone how to land real tricks. Dustin was on another war path just doing the impossible all over again. A big quarter pipe session started up at the bottom of the rail, before leading into the hip session, and leading into the gap over the steps. Collin Martin was doing some technical "jumps", and Jeremy Townsend was flipping out of the banks over the gap. With the day starting to run it's course we decided to skip the session in Sequim and head straight into The Heart of the Woods over an hour and half away.
We made it just in time to snag the last five campsites. I got invited into Dustin's group site, with Portland, Eugene, K2, and Spokane all surrounding that site. A large number of the people who couldn't snag a site camped out a little further down off the roadside. We started the fire, got dinner rolling, and had some great conversations. Spokane turned it up with some mushrooms, or so I've been told, and had some killer conversations with K2's lead inline designer, Dan. The Spokane crew kept the midnight oil burning long after I went to sleep around 2am with the music only getting louder as the night went on.
The moments before sunrise brought silence into the woods before the sun crested the horizon, and was quickly ended by what can only be described as screaming birds. So the screaming began, and continued, and continued, and even as we left, it continued. Our morning took us to the top of the Hurricane Ridge deep within The Heart of the Woods. Though we didn't make the final ascent, Brad Oz made it, and provided the stunning photos for this article. Our party instead headed downward to the city, and got ready for the final day of planned skating.
Port Angeles skatepark was home to some of the gnarliest bowls of the entire trip. This included a pool coped 14 footer, a 8 foot oververt corner, and a triple wave feature. Minimal street objects brought the slider bar hidden in Tom and Barrett's truck out to play, and managed to bring the legendary Billy Prislin out of his slumber to enter the slider bar contest. The heats got fired up really quick and the format was jam session but based around 4 teams. Some real standouts were Moe from Kelso who landed some super buck switchups, Danny Beer showing off his mighty mizues, and the man himself Billy Prislin doing some absolute classics. You can watch the entire jam in our live stream.
After the contest wrapped up, a bowl jam started to unfold, so I dropped the camera off and strapped on the skates for one more ride. The contest was a best air trick format, one at a time. It was myself, Dustin Jamieson, Barrett Rassmussen, Andrew Nemo, John Vossoughi and many others! I tossed a Misty 7 to my hip, and backed out of the contest. Barrett was lacing cool lines and ending big with fakie 5 on the quarter pipe. John was flying around everywhere like a damn mad man, Dustin was tossing 5's, 7's, and 9's as well as huge gaps, and Nemo was handling business with a huge misty, front flip, one of the cleanest 7's I've ever seen, and nearly rolling away with a fakie to forward 900. Nemo took the win, with Dustin taking second, and John handling third. By this point the majority of people were spent and ready to call the skating good. We started to say our goodbyes and pack up for one last stop, onward to Forks for Team Jacob.
The hour drive through the pristine Pacific Northwest lead us to the tiny town of Forks Washington. What transpired next is not fiction and actually happened. Forks is nothing more than a blip on the radar contrary to what you might of seen in the movie Twilight. The skatepark sits tucked behind a decrepit Army Tank and ruined tennis courts. There were three people at the park besides Dustin's crew and myself. The one girl who must of been no older than 14 was hanging out with the locals we were skating with. They were describing the nearly pristine bowl the park had and out of nowhere she says "Why is it called a bowl?" being 100% serious. I'm pretty sure the answer back was "Are you fucking serious?". This was followed up with her calling Dustin "dad" which sent him off to go sit and ponder his life, but not before they shouted out to him to not sit on the rock in the middle of the skatepark because it's known as "piss rock" mostly due to the fact it's where everyone pees. This only inspired more WTF's before the locals just grabbed their stuff and wandered off through the field. We headed over the overhang area at the start of the street obstacles and attempted to film a tiny few tricks before another local stumbled out our direction. From the moment he opened his mouth we knew something wasn't right. He was a younger kid andinto our skating, but had that vibe like he was scoping out your stuff that he was looking to steal. He asked the usual "how long you been skating?" and I explained 25 years. He said we were super good which prompted my reply of " you can be too. Just stick with it and stay off meth.". This inspired a small chuckle, and an awkward shrug and self shoulder touch. He followed us back across the park where we discovered a bag with DVDs and a roll of toilet paper in it. Of the 9 movies, Jennifer's Body, 9 Months, John Wick, Furious 7, and a few others were in there. I told him to snag them and take them home. He just took 9 months and the roll of toilet paper and was on his way as we wrapped up the session. The fun hadn't ended yet as I said my goodbyes to Dustin and crew, and Tom and Barrett. I stopped across the street for gas which in a small po-dunk town in an Audi TT leads to people staring at you and peeking in your car really awkwardly. I went in the store to a woman yelling about the quality of her jojo's and how she expected better (from a gas station). I payed for my gas as the woman's boyfriend rolled in and started yelling too. I dove into the car and put the pedal down and didn't look back. Seriously, all this happened in under an hour.
Reflecting on my trip over the 5 hour drive home reminded me of everything we share as inline skaters (thanks Ricardo, haha). Every year this journey brings all my friends from all the corners of the US together. We share stories of tours past, sessions in our home towns, reflect on the state of the industry, or even come up with crazy ideas like Blader Union. We smile, drink, laugh, shred, and jam out. But mostly we come together over the love of this silly thing we've all stumbled into. Maybe we saw videos when we were kids or had a friend show us skating. Maybe this is the first time you've skated or your 30th year on skates, the Northwest Shred Tour is a trip that will call you back year after year. For now we can reflect on the memories captured here in both image and text and look forward to that post next year when the road calls our names all over again.
The full video is available here at www.BladerUnion.com