The World Freestyle Championships ’04: A salute

A decade later, top riders & contributors remember ‘The Arctic Challenge’, the EPIC first ever World Freestyle Mountainboard Championships…

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The early-to-mid noughties was an exciting time in mountainboarding mythology: Board development was peaking (MBS had just released the matrix truck), centres were getting bigger, the Bomb Squad were dominating freestyle with the british Rat Pack snapping at their heels, and there was one magazine (on the shelves of your high street newsagent) dominating coverage of the international scene, the mighty All Terrain Boarding Magazine. As well as the monthly reports & features with sick photos, ATB mag sponsored comps and put on events. For the infamous World Freestyle Championships of 2004, the team dared to think big, real big, and act way ahead of time…

Mags

Before

The plan: 1. Invite an enormous amount of international riders. 2. take a massive old aircraft hanger (used to build helicopters) in Weston-Super-Mare that was being used as a Supercross arena- it was already full of dirt and seats for spectators- and turn it into a freestyle park with rails, jumps, kickers, acid drop, a couple of table tops, with massive roll-ins at either end. (Oh and a stage for live bands & DJ’s with massive sound system, an area for the riders to chill, pitch tents, vans & caravans, food stalls, and not to mention the bar). 3. Hold the WORLD’S FIRST EVER Mountainboard World Freestyle Championship. Phew! This was an event which turned out to be as notorious as it was ground breaking!

Riders who came included the whole Bomb Squad from the States: Leon & Austin Robbins, Jereme Leafe, Dave Starfighter, Saer White, not to mention Kody Stewart, Akoni Kama, Brack Lee, Justin Rhodes, Dave Sansone, Evan Carlson and Ted Ladue. The UK rat pack included Tom Kirkman, Renny Myles, Laurie Kaye, Laurie Barnes, Ollie Morrison, Josh Collins, and Ig Wilkinson alongside such stalwarts as Steve Birkbeck, Dave Tatham, Chris McCarthy, Tom Spencer, Matt Gaydon, Tim Jones, Mark Pettifer, and ladies Niki Forecast & Nat Reynolds. Among other dedicated International attendees were Diego Anderson, Alexey Potapou, Maarten DeBooser and Arno VDV… And Oh boy did getting this lot together it push mountainboard freestyle & jibbing forward.

 Here is a ‘before’ pic with some of the original plans and ‘artist’s impressions’ created to visualise show the event may look to sponsors etc:

Construction Week

 

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Jon ‘Smilie’ Garfitt (UK, in charge of the WFC’s Sound System):

If the prospect of an international indoor mountainboard freestyle comp to rival the likes of the big arena snowboard events wasn’t enough, riders were given the chance to turn up a week before to help create the park in return for pro tuition. This meant there were loads of random people around; there wasn’t much riding to do for the first couple of days as Andy Potter & Makin’ Trax crew (with da bomb squad) were busy pushing dirt about with assorted diggers, and massive scaffold structures were being built either end for the Pro & Am roll-ins…

As the week went by, more riders turned up from not only from the whole of the UK but also every major mountainboarding nation. Despite the cold & lack of park there was still an amazing vibe around the place!  Luckily to keep everyone occupided there were trips to Newport Skatepark and freeriding in Weston woods.

Also Apollo 11 turned up with a van load of plastic ramps and other wheeled toys for people to muck about on.. Plus there always seemed to be group of peeps clustered round a laptop watching video clips from one country or another. By this time most riders had worked out the best way to stay warm was to wear everything they had brought with them including their pads! The other option which the Beat lounge crew found worked pretty well was adding rum to your tea which certainly kept your spirits high!”

 

As the main event drew closer the whole place started to look like a proper festival. The ATBmag crew were working super hard; Anni had her face glued to her computer in the office and J was everywhere directing everything, while Will Freeman, Tom Baker, Jack Chew and Adam Zemunic were like Santa’s magic Elves. Resident art boy Dan Wilson (with a band of merry helpers like Joe Shmoe, Drats, Owen Apollo, etc) worked all week painting a massive murial along the spectator area, as well as abseiling down the 50 degree run-ins to spray sponsors logos on.. Not forgetting the massive back drop to go on the back of the stage- it was so big in fact when it came to be put in place it wouldn’t fit!

Here’s a bit of the original plan for the 60 metre long murals

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and some photos of the completed graf with wheat-pasted sponsors logos on (with Rob Ray of Hill 62)… It all got added to by riders over the week!:

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The official Event programme featured as part of the March 04 issue of the mag (issue 20) and contained all the info you could need if you were a spectator and finally, on the 20th Feb ’04, the video screens sprang into life, the bands started playing and music boomed out, and riders got their race numbers (sprayed onto their t-shirts): there were 179 competitors… It was time.

The Comp Starts

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Daz ‘Dirt monkey’ Murphy (UK, Amateur competitor):

“Most of the riders, including me, hadn’t even seen, yet alone ridden, anything on this scale. Nobody really had. It was massive and it had a full lighting setup to boot. Standing at the top of the run-in, just above the lighting rig, left you staggered. The only thing I could compare it to was the time I dropped in off the side of the pyramid centre in Southsea, and that didn’t lead into a 10ft dirt jump. The top transition wasn’t smooth so you had two choices, jump 90 and land 10ft below where you started or ride it straight and hope your back trucks didn’t hang. The acceleration was amazing, the speed at the bottom transition made your eyes water and the transition seemed tiny. The G’s meant that if your weight was even slightly off you were boned and probably going to eat the beautifully sculpted wall of dirt. Then into the biggest dirt jump I’d ever hit.

All this while live bands like Sensor played and the stage lights and lasers whizzed around the dirt pack trying to distract your attention from the lip you were about to hit!

We were sent up for practice in groups with a couple of Pros to encourage and direct. I’d say 70% of the people in my group never got as far as dropping and part of me didn’t blame them but once you’d hit it once and got a feel for the rhythm of it, it was ok. Actually it was wicked. You could see the change in others as the session progressed. People began to smile, people started running to get back up for another drop and the sense of humour returned on the deck. As confidence grew everyone started to push harder and hit more of the features around the park.

You could see that this, despite the cold and the endless waiting about, was turning into something truly epic.”

WFCs ’04: stills by Paul Crilley

Arno VDV (Belgium, ranked semi-finalist):

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“The world freeze styles were one of my first events in the uk and by far the biggest thing in mountainboarding that has been organized by that time. We came over by van and i slept on a cold concrete floor in a tent inside a tent.
The course was probably the sickest ever build and i would love to ride it in these days, pretty sure it will be quite spectacular!!!! All of the international legends and heroes were present and there was a special vibe in the air. I remember being super intimidated by everyone and the sheer size of the course but somehow i managed to get in the semis, then everyone was super motivated and stepped up a big notch to even drop in on one of the massive roll-ins.
There was also a very good party and crazy live bands but there was only one thing missing : a crowd!!! somehow the Weston-super-mare people didn’t know anything about what was happening and not very many ‘outsiders’ turned up. For me the event was a huge success but i’m sure it left a huge financial hole for the organizers and sponsors… One of my wildest dreams is to do something similar one day…….
I also remember the burgers me & Rudy ate, flat ground sessions with Matt, and Rudy interrupting a talk with Debbie Crilley by saying ” yes and today i fell on my dick” and Debbie being worried and asked if he needed someone to take care of it haha”
Ted Ladue (USA, 4th in the ‘Masters’ category):
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“I think about the WFC 04 quite a bit, actually.  Usually as part of discussions about traveling.  As it turns out, that has been my one trip to England, as well as my one trip to Europe (so far).  So England is pretty much the interior of a frigid helicopter hangar in some dismal sea side town.
Aside from that, it was obviously cold.  Really cold.  Constantly cold.  The only way to really warm up was to ride, and then it got cold quickly after.  It was worth it though, because it was a hell of a great time.  The hospitality to a bunch of Hillbilly’s from across the pond was amazing.
 I got a chance to meet some really fantastic people and ride a pretty interesting course.  
When I saw that drop out of the rafters I KNEW I had to try it.  If I didn’t try it, I would be kicking myself for the rest of my life.  So try it I did.  A couple times, even though I didn’t land it as such.  I did somehow manage to snap a board or two and a couple hubs though!   I think I even managed a podium spot for old farts over 30.
The parties were pretty wild.  Leon drinking his own pee.  Hillbilly being hillbilly.  Jumbo getting a dislocated shoulder after some shenanigans while he was sleeping in the middle of that crazy tent village.
And on the way back we stuff as many Americans as possible into one tiny hotel room.  I think we had Akoni, Leon, Austin, Kody, Me, Jumbo, Hillbilly, Jeff and a couple others in there.  Every inch of the floor had a body on it and someone even slept in the bathroom.
 Epic. Here are some of my pics.”

Tom Kirkman (UK, 2nd position in the ’18 & under’ Category):

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All i can really remember was that it was the event that gave birth to the mega toe as i broke it a week before doing a handstand and then stuffed the chubby beast in my shoe…
And that Laurie wouldn’t share his food, and Poom was texting a secret girlfriend who had no arms or legs.
 I also remember Dave Sansone had a broken wrist so couldn’t ride, he was my hero, so gutted he wasn’t on his board killing it! 
Plus it was shittin cold but the park was tight as hell!

Matt Gaydon ( UK, 3rd in the ‘Am’ Category):

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What an event!!.. if a little cold, back in my freestyle days. Though thinking about it, I rode like a true Team B.A.D rider, starting most of my runs doing the crazy scaffold run in to the 10ft acid drop over the dirt gap followed by one of the big kickers as that felt most like free-riding in the woods. Which seemed to pay off a I came 3rd in the Am’s and got a wild card into the Pro Final.

Can’t remember the final results but i think the Americans showed us Brits a bit of a masterclass in what could be done on a mountainboard when it came freestyle with Justin Rhodes Superman grabs and Austin Robbins Rail tricks: (Returned i think because at ‘The Blinder Comp’ at the Quantocks in 2003  we beat them all but Leon Robbins haha). 

Also remember Dan W painting the giant logo on next to the side of the stage.. oh and Rhys Cowe rocking out with his band at the party.. And who can’t forget the ‘sugar’ in the space heaters meaning they had to be turned off for the rest of the weekendAlso, maybe i am wrong but think this was the same comp Scouse and Skully created flatland mountainboarding to pass the time while the course was being changed…

Joel Treliving (1st position in the ’10 & under’ Category):

Joel (centre), with Kane Joyce(l) and Mick Kirkman (r).

” The guy called Miles who didn’t speak and only did caveman’s on his orange trampa and no other trick… That memory is pretty fond haha. Oh and fingerflips, as he had a leash he had to wrap it around the board before he went for his run.
It was a shame I never got to see the pro final as it got to 1 am, far past my bed time for a 9 year old.. Besides I was way too proud of myself to know what was going on in the rest of the comp as I was the newly crowned champion of the world.”

Kerry Whitford (5th in the ‘ladies’ category):

It was an epic week.. You knew how cold it was because the Russians were hanging out by the hand dryers, cursing the lack of vodka.
I remember the Americans throwing down Supermans, dressing as Elvis and Tigers and painting themselves white.
It’s telling that it’s 10 years later and we’re still talking about it. The financial repercussions were huge for the organisers but you can’t knock their vision.

Paul Taylor (ATB mag Photographer):

“It was cold, we met a lot off new people, and if we built it again the riders would rip the shit out of it 😉 “

Results!

Here are the results of the first ever Mountainboard WFC’s from that february in 2004…

10 & under: 1st Joel Treliving, 2nd Mick Kirkman, 3rd Kane Joyce, 4th Luke Parkinson, 5th Zak Campbell

14 & under: 1st Miles Oliver, 2nd Jed Hornyold, 3rd Pascoe Kelly-Sinclair, 4th James Alexander, 5th Lester Shrimpton

18 & under: 1st Kody Stewart, 2nd Tom Kirkman, 3rd Renny Myles, 4th Laurie Kaye, 5th Laurie Barnes

Ladies: 1st Tiffany Ecker, 2nd Nat Reynolds, 3rd Jos Kirkman, 4th Niki Forecast, 5th Kerry Whitford

Masters: 1st Brack Lee, 2nd Bryan Mahn, 3rd Matt Shipp, 4th Ted Ladue, 5th Jerome Dufaur

Am Final: 1st Tim Jones, 2nd Ig Wilkinson, 3rd Matt Gaydon, 4th Tom Spencer, 5th Steve Walrond

Pro Final: 1st Leon Robbins, 2nd Kody Stewart, 3rd Austin Robbins, 4th Tom Kirkman, 5th Renny Myles

Final random memories:

“Starfighter & Renny Smiles going massive. Austin’s rails & creative lines. Akoni’s dreads. Frisbee. Weird boards. No sleep at Camp Ming.”
“The burger stand was called ‘Slurp n Burps and Stateside Hombres rocked.”
“I’m sure the lady in charge of ‘Health & Safety’ left on day 2 for fear of being held responsible for the impending accidents. There weren’t any by the way. I think.”
“We stuck ATBmag stickers everywhere, including in the toilet bowls”
“i remember Tom K getting his eyes on the Scrub ‘Tommy K Signature’ board for the first time. It was shit, and he wasn’t amused.”
“Tom Chapman on his dirtsurfer and Stella Artois.”
“I saw some kid and his dad arrive after registration & ask the race office if they could still ride. By the reaction, it was a bad idea!”
“Someone spilled half a tin of yellow emulsion on the back seat of my car. It froze solid overnight and i picked it off the next day.”
“All i remember is the smell of chong”
“Justin Rhodes kept trying the superman and kept slamming again & again, it was painful to watch but he landed one in the end haha”
“We went to the local McDonalds and there was a pimped-out chav car drag race at the drive-thru.”
“Without this event there would be no Remolition as we know it.”
“I don’t remember any of the bands, what riding went on, or how i got home. What an awesome event.”

Now head over to the Paul Taylor gallery for the full visual experience

JandMaisie
J Bisson, Visionary, and daughter Maisie
Big thanks to all contributors for the memories.
Photos & Pictures by Paul ‘Crillpix’ Crilley, Ted Ladue, Paul Taylor and Dan Wilson.