Andrew Hutchins

Delaware Downhill Labor Day Sesh

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What do you get when you gather a bunch of longboarders, give them a campfire, a backyard, beer, tents, hills, and the oldest skate park in the USA? A entire weekend of gnargasmic skating action, and a little bit of drunken debauchery… That’s what this year’s Deleware Downhill Sesh was all about.

Dylan Baist-Bliss, the creator of the event and lender of the backyard, made this the second year that the event occurred, with assistance from NYC’s Shralpers Union. Last year’s event touted a comparatively massive 40-60 people, all crammed into one back yard and numerous tents. This year, however, was significantly smaller with a core group of only about 12-15 riders from Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and even Maine. Some of which were race organizers themselves, including Matt Micchelli, organizer of the Philadelphia Broad St. Bomb, Adam Dabonka, organizer of Major Stok’em Downhill in New Jersey, and Kyle Mac, organizer of the Langhorne, PA President’s Day Slide Jam in 2012. The small outcome was of no disappointment: “Having a small amount of people this year was great! It was so easy to get moving to new spots,” said Dylan. His one concern about the event was time, considering it took 20-40 minutes to drive to a skateable hill. Because of this, we could only hit up a few of them. But there was much more planned on the horizon…

Dylan’s parents were amazingly accommodating. They were not only very nice, but they provided us with free food and an outdoor shower to cleanse the stink from a day’s worth of riding. To boot, they also made us coffee and breakfast on Sunday morning. Dylan said, “My parents had no idea what to expect but from what they’ve told me, they were happy everyone came to stay. I don’t think they realized how tight knit and positive the longboard community really is.”

Earl Stout III, a participant and member of the Shralpers Union, agreed with Dylan: “We are all Shralpers as a family of the whole community. We have the common ground of the same passion of the side stance board culture and ever evolving progression whom support one another!”

The Shralpers Union is a collective of board-sports riders along the East coast, covering surfing, snowboarding, and skating. But one does not need to be a member of the Shralpers Union to see what kind of influence they have on the longboarding scene. “Out of Control” Noel Korman, founder of the Shralpers Union, can be seen regularly at various events helping out to make sure everything goes smoothly, from the infamous NYC push races to downhill races all over the East Coast. And when his face isn’t seen, he’s normally doing something behind the scenes to help organize or help procure sponsors for events.

“I had never done anything like this, didn’t know how to plan or prepare for it. But the first year went over so smoothly that I could not NOT be a part of the second one,” said Noel. On top of that, they also helped fund Sasha Popper with the A-Cross America skate trip, in which (originally) a group of three started to skated across the USA from from NYC to California. Noel had this lengthy paragraph to say:

“I don’t do this for money, haven’t made a dollar, and I don’t expect a paycheck. I hope in the future, breaking even is my goal. I just want everyone to know that I’ve been doing this for a very long time, I’ve been skating and surfing 31 years, and snowboarding since 1990. I want to promote positivity and radness and the Shralp. Money will never be a thing that makes me happy, I believe in giving back to the community, that makes you happy in life. We will support any person/event as long as it’s a positive aspect to the community. That’s what Shralpers do, we take care of our people.”

Dylan was very grateful for Noel’s help and the general help of the Shralpers Union. “Noel from the Union is such a great guy,” said Dylan. “He’s all about spreading the stoke and making sure everyone’s having a good time. This year Shralpers Union brought some unexpected swag. Everyone that came left with something which was awesome. Thanks Noel!”

Saturday night brought about a small push race around the block. By then, most of us were already at least six beers in, making it a very interesting competition. Dylan reminisced about it fondly, “Ha! Slightly faded at that point, we decided to do a small push race around the block and after the lap you had to chug/shotgun a beer. We all sped off into the night in various states of mind. On the first section Dabonka, Jkan, and Jean clipped wheels or feet or something and ate it hard. I was pushing alongside Hutch and only caught a glimpse of Gene hitting pavement hard! Everyone turned out to be okay thankfully.”

And then there was Landsdowne. Landsdowne is the oldest skate park in the USA. Let me repeat that. The oldest skate park in the USA. It’s a utopia of concrete godliness located in Baltimore, Maryland, roughly an hour away from Dylan’s home. It starts at the top of a hill; you carve up and down the snake runs that emulate that style from the dawn of skating. The gentle gradation makes Landsdowne a very longboard-friendly environment. What’s even better is that we had the whole park to ourselves, so those who had never skated in such an environment, such as myself, were able to comfortably progress to the point where we were cutting through the dual snake runs and doing pack runs. The first of two runs ends in a near vertical bowl, but it’s mellow enough that one can early grab out or simply ride out at an angle and be fine. (Though I should like to note, bringing a double dropped deck was not the brightest of ideas on my part.) There was also a newly added street-style park attached to the snake run area to appease riders of multiple disciplines.

It’s up to Dylan as to whether or not he’s going to allow more people to camp in his backyard next year, but it’s likely that anyone would be able to join for the skating aspects of the downhill and Landsdowne. “I hope I can pull this off annually,” said Dylan, “I think Delaware has great hills for people who are just getting into racing. And I would love to provide younger DH skaters with a time to shine.” Because the event was much smaller, lesser experienced riders were able to easily talk to others about how to improve their technique. Dylan said, “I think these small events help the scene grow. I believe that there can never be enough beginner races. It’s a great way to get beginner skaters into downhill safely.”

Dylan hopes to hit up more spots next year, an everyone that attended this year agreed that Landsdowne needs to become an annual part of the event.

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