Back To The Banks
Through winter weather, grimy neighborhoods and rough streets, New York City's skate scene has managed to unite and maintain as a dominant presence for decades. The tremendous influence of the NYC scene is embraced by skaters the world over. Nowhere is that vitality and individuality of NY skaters on display more than at the annual Back To The Banks jam.
The uneven bricks, the echo of rolling wheels in the imposing arches of the Brooklyn Bridge, the filthy walls, the stink of urine—it's all characteristically New York. Judgments about which coast is better aside (I think they're both awesome in their own way), New York's scene is rough around the edges and that's what gives it character. In a city that contains the whole world, you get everything.
Luckily for NYC and us, Fiveboro's Steve Rodriguez is there to bring everyone together. Rodriguez, with the help of 5Boro, Emerica , Spitfire, Volcom, Skateboarder Magazine, Red Bull, MetroPlus, World Industries, Bones and Tech Deck, drew crowds of people to the historic skate spot under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge for the fourth annual Back to the Banks contest (considered the fifth, but Steve Rodriguez stressed that the first was not Back to the Banks, just a jam). The crowd was a beast; thousands of skaters, pushing screaming, littering and ripping all day.
The jam divided the Banks into four sections to be sessioned separately. There was bank-to-pillar, the bank to ledge, the bump to weird, steep quarterpipe and the big rail. Gnarliest tricks and greatest variety of tricks were awarded with cheers and cash.
5Boro's Willy Akers took best trick on the pillar with a frontside wallride 180 out, frontside wallride 270 out, backside wallride to bluntslide down the side of the pillar and a wallride nollie 360 that blew everyone away.
Willy Akers also took the bank-to-ledge cash when he stuck a tailslide on the higher of the two ledges and a nosebluntslide across the top ledge as well.
Finally, the day commenced with a gnar session down the and over the big rail. Timmy Knuth stuck a kickflip nosegrind. Some rando-comando switch heeled the rail. And Andrew Pott pulled a frontboard body varial to back lip. But in the end it was Floridian and 5Boro rep-flow kid Chris Blake who won the rail jam with an astounding switch front blunt.
MVP of the day went to Collin Provost who stuck a grip of tricks on every obstacle and never seemed to stop skating or smiling the whole time. Collin pulled a frontside 360 over the big rail but landed in almost a dead stop to tick-tack away. It's still a mind-blowing trick.
Beyond the tricks, all types of characters showed up at the chaotic session. Everyone from big timers like Zered Bassett and Alex Olson mixd it up with the "where have they beens" like John "The Man" Reeves and Doug Shoemaker. Chad Muska cruised in on a bicycle with a basket. And The Berrics' Giovanni Reda got more mobbed by fans than the pros did. You couldn't ask for an event with more energy and hype than Back To The Banks.
Besides all the East Coast West Coast jabber, there's something else that the Red Bull Manny Mania contest shines a light upon: manual magicians. There are a handful of skaters that are known primarily for their manual skillsBrandon Biebel, Chris Roberts, Stevie Williams, Rob Welsh and Joey Brezinskiwho might not get the chance to show their skills in a contest format.
Although skateboarding is starting to round itself out, we're still in an era that thrives on gaps, rails and feats risking nard smashing bodily harm. The skill and technicality of flicking and turning into and out of two wheeled blancing acts is often overlooked even by the avid skate fan, let alone the general public who's mouth waters at the sight of a skate bail that comes close to Jake Brown's 40-foot Mega Ramp debacle ("Make it or Jake it!").
So, it brightens the world to highlight skating's more precise side, especially at the tail end of a weekend that brought the best to celebrate New York's unique history in the big picture of skating. Last year's winner, Joey Brezinski designed the decidedly less frightening obstacles (when compared to the ledge, gnarly quarterpipe and rail at Brooklyn Banks) and a lot of people expected him to manual himself into the finals.
But, in the end, éS and Expedition's Kelly Hart , Girl's Mike Mo Capaldi and the East coast's Eli Reed made it to the finals. Kelly Hart put down a switch shov-it switch manual among a few other things. Mike Mo killed it all day, with a hang 10 nollie 360 shov-it manual (you're just going to have to see the video for this one) earlier in the day and a load of bangers in the finals, like switch heel switch nose manual, switch tré flip switch manual, and halfcab manual backside flip. But, Eli Reed, hot off the premiere of Zoo York's State of Mind video (in which he has been rumored to have best part), pulled out a variety of bangers, like switch backside 180 manual nollie bigspin out, backtail on a ledge to manual to front board on a flatbar (also makes more sense in video), manual to feeble, backlip to manual and too much stuff to write herereally.
It was heartwarming to see a kid who's been loyal to the East Coast for years (including repping homegrown companies and hooking up local kids with product, tools and advice) win the Red Bull Manny Mania championship belt, $10,000 and a lot of notoriety for one of skating's often ignored skill sets. In an industry born out of California and fixated on stunts, the underground was front and center today and there's probably no better winner than Eli to finish it all off.