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This is a warmup for Ishod Wair I Photo: @digimil

Every trip you will take in your life will create moments to remember. There are the moments you’ll never forget, the ones you will never remember, and then the ones that are hard to believe were real at all. This year was unique in a lot of ways and filled with moments that were truly surreal. For me, being a 30 year old self-professed man-child, it was interesting to see some of my childhood heroes still skating in the mix with the fresh crop of pros coming up today. There’s been so many changes as the contest has evolved over the years, and with the new ETN charging to view the finals over the internet, it’s a good reminder that there is no substitute to being there in person.

Totally beats a roach motel I Photo: @digimil

The trip has become a tradition for my friends and I. We all live in different places, but Tampa is the perfect party weekend to all get together. This year we decided to break from tradition and stay in an AirBNB instead of the roach motels down the street from the park. As a kid, these motels were where a majority of the pros stayed which meant games of SKATE, hanging out with the pros and literally turning the whole place into essentially one big house party complete with impromptu product tosses (not to mention trashing the rooms like we were rock stars with things like ramen-noodle fights). When the industry wasn’t seeing such high payouts, the pros would often sell you some gear out of the van for cheap. I’ll always cherish those memories, but was happy to have our own private house off the YBOR strip this year.

Cole & Kremer Crooning I Photo: @digimil

The first night, I got to hang out with Molly from Street League, Tom Asta, Wes Kremer, Chris Cole and a couple others at their tradition: Karaoke. I performed my go-to karaoke song “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, but the highlight for me was when I let my inner 15 year old out and did what I couldn’t resist. Nervously, I wrote down Chris Cole’s name with the song “Renegade” from his Dying to Live part. Even though he was caught off guard, Cole was a great sport about it and Wes hopped on stage for back up vocals. They killed it! If you’re reading this Cole, sorry I had to! Thanks for being cool about it. After that the night got a little fuzzy for me and headed back to the AirBNB.

Anthony Carpenter with John “The Man” Reeves and his book I Photo: @digimil

Once we got to the park, it was great to see New York being well represented. Jefferson Pang, Tyshawn Jones, Oscar Wagenbuchler, John The Man Reeves, among other Northeast names like Brandon Westgate, Anthony Shetler, Dave Bachinsky, Manny Santiago…the list goes on and on.

Frank Gerwer catching up with Nuge I Photo: @digimil

The nightlife was amazing this year. After talking to Ray Barbee and Brian Anderson earlier in the day on Friday, the entire park was treated to sets from Ray Barbee followed by Evan Smth’s band Drowning Clowns.

Legends I Photo: @digimil

Evan Smith shredding I Photo: @digimil

The next morning we headed to Bro Bowls to take a few runs and wake ourselves up. The park pays homage to the original bro bowls by keeping them in the center while a perfect replica joins up with a plaza style street section on the other side. Highly recommend a visit on a sleepy weekend morning in Florida.

Bro Bowls I Photo: @digimil

We found a Florida spot with New York ground I Photo: @digimil

Saturday meant qualifiers but the real show came later during the Converse Concrete Jam & Jenkem Best Trick contest. Jenkem brought in a portable party extension box complete with the Jenkem girls while Ian Michna and crew lit the deck on fire.

Ian keeping it lit with plenty of lighter fluid I Photo: @digimil

Following the best trick, Brooklyn local Frecks took the stage with Figgy and Nuge as their band Arctic played a set for everyone followed by Samurai Shotgun and DJ Romar as part of the nonstop nightlife SPOT puts on for everybody.

I’m terrible with names, tell her I’m sorry Frecks I Photo: @digimil

Sunday morning started off in a haze from the previous night. My friend Landon and I set off to get coffee to wake our minds and bodies up. It’s a good thing we stopped so he could tie his shoe or I may not be here writing this right now. The second we stopped so he could tie his shoe a truck blew a red light and was t-boned right in front of our eyes. After checking on the drivers, a cop that was down the block came up and took care of the rest.

The aftermath I Photo: @digimil

One of the changes I was a little disappointed to see was the removal of the long standing Moat Race. It’s understandable though, since taking a run in the dirty waters out front of SPOT puts the place one lawsuit away from getting shut down.

No parking. No Moat Race. No Lawsuits. I Photo: @digimil

The finals this year were much like any other year, there’s that one run that comes out when you just KNOW that dude is taking it. That guy was Louie Lopez for 2017. Everyone was killing it this weekend, but Louie’s run looked effortless, and it looked good. When you see someone out there just having fun it’s a great feeling. Standing out back, when the last run went down and it became clear Louie was winning it, everyone erupted around him.

Congrats Louie! I Photo: @digimil

Boards for Bros does a lot of good for skateboarding, giving back to the less fortunate in our community.

Professor Schmitt and the Boards for Bros team I Photo: @digimil

Professor Schmitt helped them out and created a Bromander-in-chief award that went to the people’s favorite: Evan Smith. All weekend he took time out to sign autographs, chill with the kids, and keep everyone’s vibe positive. He even lent me some rolling paper when I needed it, thanks Evan!

It’s hard to tell who was more stoked this weekend I Photo: @digimil

Once again, I’m happy to make it back to New York in one piece. I’ve got another year’s worth of great memories and looking forward to the next trip. Thanks to Brian Schaefer, Paul Zitzer, Michelle Box, Derrick Glancey,Anthony Carpenter, Elizabeth Limon. Landon Harris, everyone at SPOT, and everyone who helped make the weekend one to never forget. See ya next year!