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Hood River Slider Jam

On July 28, 2016   |   By thekiteboarder.com

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Words by Rich Sabo

This story first appeared in The Kiteboarder Magazines Fall 2015 Issue:Volume 12, No. 3

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While skate and snowboard parks are commonplace these days, kiteboardings equivalent, slider parks, arestill incredibly rare. To my knowledge, there is only one freestanding kiteboarding park in the world and it islocated in Hood River, Oregon. The east coast has a slider park at REAL Watersports in Hatteras, NC, butbecause the features need to be brought in and out of the water for every session, it is not always available.

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Hood Rivers slider park is made possible through the efforts of the Slider Project, a community of kiteboardersdedicated to maintaining and advancing slider riding as a part of the sport. Sliders require a significant amountof upkeep, but a freestanding park like the one at Hood River allows anyone to show up anytime during theseason and get their jib on. While this may pose a liability nightmare somewhere down the road, it currentlyoperates smoothly and consistently draws the top kiters as well as up-and-coming talent from around theworld to the Gorge ery summer.

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This segment of the sport is incredibly small, but is becoming increasingly popular amongst professional andrecreational kiteboarders alike. The 2015 Triple-S Invitational was a slider specific event with more prize moneyfor its podium than any PKRA (now the VKWC) stop in 2014. Most of the Triple-S competitors travel fromall over the world because slider events (let alone opportunities to train for them) are few and far between.Other events have come and gone, such as the Ro-Sham-Throw-Down and the Islamorada Invitational, butas of last year there was no park event in Hood River, a location that to many, would seem to be a no-brainer.

Following this years Triple-S, a group of riders met up, myself included, and decided that we needed toput together a second event that would take advantage of Hood Rivers permanent features. From afar,creating a kite event might seem easy, but convincing athletes to show up without prize money is hard andproduction costs add up while sponsors are hesitant to throw money at a fledgling competition without aproven track record.

With these challenges in mind, Eric Rienstra, Brandon Scheid, Craig Cunningham, Colleen Carroll, andmyself setup an informal meeting to solve these problems and lay the groundwork for a successful slider parkcontest in Hood River.

Grassroots riders meeting at the Hood River Marina. Photo Moxy Int.

We started by figuring out the who. As this was a slider focused contest with the end goal of creating onecomprehensive piece of media, we decided to invite all of the riders from the Triple-S Invitational invite list.We figured this would be a good baseline for keeping the skill level high and the chaos level low. Reachingout to riders and discussing possible dates, we picked a weeklong competition window in August when mostof the riders were available. Since we had no sponsors and very little time to prepare, the prize purse was setto zero. The winner would receive nothing more than a makeshift trophy and a years worth of bragging rights.

Then came the important questions: What should the format look like and how are we going to judgeit? All of us are huge fans of Rob Dyrdeks Street League and wanted to try to capture as much of thejam style format as possible. The problem with jams is that theyre fun for the competitors, but they usuallylack excitement for the audience. The average Joe doesnt know the difference between a blind Pete and ablind Fredo, let alone a Moby Dick 540 and dum-dum (yes, those are all real tricks). With this in mind, wedecided to come up with a format that would allow riders to showcase the best of their technical abilities,while maintaining the competitive pressure and overall viewership.

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We divided the contest into three sections. Starting with the Tech Section, the riders received three hits oneach feature in the park. No rider would benefit from their favorable side (regular/switch) because we plannedto change up the kickers direction. We wanted riders to demonstrate their best tricks, but with three scoresper feature we had hoped to encourage a little bit of risk and consequently, a lot of progression.

After the Technical Section, we moved into the Line Section. In this portion of the contest, riders had to hitthree features, one after the other, similar to a slopestyle ski or snowboard course. However, if a rider crashed,that run was over. The monotony of repetitively hitting one feature and one-trick pony flat water freestylecontests are part of the reason that kiteboarding isnt as spectator friendly as other extreme sports. The LineSection allowed riders to showcase their style and flow by linking multiple tricks together.

The final day of the Hood River Slider Jam was the Build Section. Upon entering the contest, all riderswere warned, if you plan to participate, plan to build. During scheduled lay days, riders worked togetherto build extensions onto the parks existing features. With the addition of some pipe and culvert tubing, wewere able to increase the risk factor and technicality to really put the riders abilities to the test. A few of thecompetitors even opted out of some of the features as they were too gnarly.

Heavy lifting in the slider factory.

Without prize money, the judging was done by the riders. Steven Borja with ESBO.tv organized all of thefootage from the previous day and created a rough recap of every single hit each rider performed (a sort ofinstant replay style of judging). After the event, all of the competitors gathered to watch the footage and scoreeach hit on a 1-10 scale. An average from all of the hits were taken and the best score for each section counted.

Since the main idea was to build a sponsor driven event for the future, we were going to need to prove thatthe media exposure from this years event would justify a sponsors investment. We hit up every single camerasavvyperson on our list and pitched them a week of hard work and little promise of compensation. Luckily,professional photographers Steven Borja, Andre Magarao and Toby Bromwich believed in the uniquenessof the slider event and volunteered to help.

The media focal point was the final event video in which the scores were imposed onto the video withrecaps to give it a Street League feel. Most of the time its hard for non-kiters, or even recreational kiters,to comprehend what is difficult and by placing the actual scores on the screen with the trick performed,we helped engage viewers and distinguish that line.

The biggest challenge in a grassroots event is maintaining structure; Unlike most contests with an EventCoordinator and a Head Judge, the Hood River Slider Jam gave everyone a chance to step up and wear anynumber of hats. The end result was a fun and competitive event in which we made something very specialfrom nothing other than the hard work of passionate people.

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This story first appeared in The Kiteboarder Magazines Fall 2015 Issue:Volume 12, No. 3

 

Read the full article: Hood River Slider Jam