It’s been a really, really long time since I’ve been to a knock-down, drag-out, backyard mini ramp battle. Come to think of it, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a backyard mini ramp at all. But Garrett over at Gator Skins gave me a friendly heads up a few weeks back that a couple of kids were organizing a contest at his mini ramp, and suggested that I might wanna make my way over there and check it all out. It sounded like a whole buncha fun. So, I went.  Liam Pace, back lip during the heated practice sessions.  I arrived on the scene promptly at 5:00 pm, as instructed. I was a bit surprised to find a friendly kid at the gate, asking me for my ID. Naturally, I had left it in the car… I rarely keep anything in my pockets when I’m skating a mini ramp, because it all invariably falls out every time I stake a healthy slam, which is practically every damned run these days. But then I gave it a second thought, and asked this friendly bloke what on earth I need an ID for, anyway…? “There’s a keg in the backyard, so I need to stamp you if you’re over 21”. “Ah! I see. Well, what do I do if I’m a fat, bald geezer with a gray beard that doesn’t drink…?” The kid took another look at my face, realized that I’m probably well over 50, and stamped my hand. It was kinda flattering to get carded, though, I must admit. I went in, and made my way over to the water jug to get my fat ass drunk on hydration.   Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a smith grind. Max Ruhland.  The turnout was humongous. I was shocked. There were a bunch of tents crowding out Garrett’s backyard. Active Rideshop was there; Uncle Skate (the charity) was there; Good Shit Board Company was there; Lifestyle Skateboards was there; and, surprisingly, Spinelli’s Pizzaria was there, delivering free pizza for everybody. That was a really nice touch; whoever thought of inviting a pizza place to be an event sponsor was a total genius. That pizza was damn good, too! I was starving! Thanks, fellas. Garrett is a super gracious host. Almost as soon as I’d wiped the pepperoni grease from my beard, he was toting me all over the yard, introducing me to everybody as if I was somebody important or something. The atmosphere was very positive, very uplifting, and extremely welcoming. Garrett made sure that everybody had all the pizza, pop, and beer they could ever want, and all the cold water they needed to survive in his desert mini-ramp oasis.  Peter Grannis, frontside grab nose stall to frontside 180 out. Pete does weird stuff like that. That’s why he’s so cool.  Checking out the practice session raging on the ramp, it was clear that some real heavies had come out of the woodwork for this. Jay Lauf (a recent Phoenix transplant from Evansville, Indiana) was on the deck, and accounted for. Liam Pace from Tucson was making his mark, as he has been doing quite a bit lately. But there were also a lot of rippers that I’d never seen before, tearing apart the ramp and/or shaking it into the ground. It was already pretty clear that this was gonna be an epic event.    Dudes were just flyin’ around everywhere; Garrett’s ramp is ideal for popping huge airs. Liam Pace and Max Ruhland enjoying some airtime. Photos by Estevan Corrales.  The first thing that happened was the “Worst Board Contest”, where the skater with the most chewed-up and splintered skateboard got a brand new one, just for needing it. Again: I’m not too sure who thought that up, but whoever did is a real sweetheart. The winner was pretty damn stoked on his new stick.  Noah Johnson, crail. Photo by Estevan Corrales.  The contest “format” was cleverly loose and uninhibited. The contestants were broken up into five-man jams, which got ten minutes per group to put down their runs and get in their tricks. There were no “rules”, there were no individually timed runs… and for the competitors, there was no need to be “conservative”, hold back, or fear taking a fall or a slam here and there. They were scored on their overall performance in the jam session (mainly based on the crowd response); getting creative, taking risks, trying new tricks, and snaking were all heavily encouraged by the judges and the spectators. That allowed for something that you almost never see at a skateboard contest: spontaneous progression.  Huge. Max Ruhland again. Photo by Estevan Corrales.  It’s absolutely impossible in this sort of scenario to give you, the reader, a full and accurate account of what transpired, because everything happened so quickly and so randomly. There were a few standouts, though. There was Mr. Creative, Peter Grannis, who was clearly the “revert king” of the evening, doing stuff like frontside-grab nose stalls and nose bonks, tail stall reverts, chink-chink reverts, and switch frontside grinds. There was Mr. Early Grab, Chase Herman, who did early-grab frontside airs to early-grab rock fakies, holding on to his board the whole time, right through the flat bottom and up the next wall. Liam Pace, The Smooth Operator, was locking in frontside nosegrinds across the whole ramp, cleanly nollie-popping out of them, and sliding backside lipslide reverts for a dozen feet or more. And then we had The Killer, Jay Lauf, with his classic, bulletproof style, taking basic tricks to insane extremes at full throttle, just like he always does.  Jay Fairman, aka “Chi-Town”, manhandles a bean plant. Photo by Estevan Corrales.   “The Third Heat” deserves a special group shout-out, because they were by far the most intense and uninhibited heat to watch; I had to go smoke a cig after spectating that one, just to process the awesomeness that I had just witnessed. There was one kid there, dead set and determined to stomp a backside smith to backside big spin out. The problem was that there was so much ripping going on, it was actually hard to keep track of it all. If you were paying attention, then you didn’t have the time to stop and take notes; if you stopped to take notes, then you were probably missing out on something really great. The two standout tricks of the evening were Liam Pace’s ollie up to a 50-50 stall on the handrail, grabbing frontside, and then landing in a disaster back on the platform. He also did footplants to fakie up on that handrail as well, taking out the Spinelli’s Pizzaria banner a few times in the process. But the official “Best Trick” contest winner went to Brandon Tran, who spun a sparkling-smooth tre flip to fakie that would have made Daewon pretty damn proud.  Terrell, one of the organizers, on the mic.  Before I left, I finally had a chance to meet up with the “kids” that Garrett had referred to as the organizers of the whole shebang, Terrell Ward and Edward Brown of Lifestyle Skate Company. It was funny; I asked them what their biggest fear was in throwing the event, and their answer was wondering if anybody was gonna show up! That was a laugh; judging success by the turnout, I’d have to say that they really didn’t have much to worry about at all. They were great, humble kids that are just super stoked on giving back to the community. They want to do more events like this one, and I really hope they do.  The Swag-Toss Craziness.  I could tell you who “won” the contest, but I’m not going to. I really hate the “scoring and judging” aspects of contests, and I really don’t believe in making “winners” and “losers” out of skateboarders. Here’s the important part, right here: Everybody had a really great time. Everybody was there to dole out hugs, high-fives, back pats, and yells of support for everyone else. Everybody left Garrett’s backyard either smiling, or laughing. Everybody made a few new friends along the way. And nobody is going to forget this event for a very, very long time (if they ever forget it at all).  Post-event stoke. Photo by Taylor Cohen.   You can hate me all you want for standing solidly on my principles, but I’m gonna stand solidly on my principles anyway. If you really need to know who won, f’n Google it. As far as I’m concerned, everyone that showed up won, and everyone who stayed home lost. That’s the simple fact of the matter, and I’m stickin’ right to it. Thanks again for the invite, guys. See ya the next time around.