This whole trip started out with a run to the bathroom at the SIA show in January. I walked by the dudes at Tech Nine and saw Ethan Fortier and stopped to talk shop. On the way leaving I said, "Hope to see you at Super Park this year." His rebuttal was "you should go to the Launch, you'd have way more fun and you should bring Milo." And that set the ball in motion. Again proving my theory of it's not what you know, it's WHO you know. I ended up talking to Snowboarder Mag's Kyle Kennedy who is married to our ex accounting girl and asked about the Launch, who then told Pat Bridges that the worlds oldest grom and son wanted to come and then next thing you know we got the tap on the shoulder and we were in. Officially invited to the Launch.
The Launch is a Super Park for 21 and under's. It's an environment where kids under the legal drinking age can show what they got in front of Snowboarder Mag's staff and photogs without feeling insecure because their surrounded by super star shreds. Lots of these kids end up at Super Park because of what they do at the Launch. This years Launch was again at Bear Mountain in BroCalifornia. I've always wanted to go here since the 90's when the movies would show Thein, Dresser, Iguchi and Downing destroying the first real parks built. So 20 years later…I finally got to go.
At first this was gonna be a boys family vaca to Bear, then we threw moms in the mix and she flew with us to Onterio CA, and trained it down to San Diego to see an old college room mate. Then in the meantime, Tedore decided to get a CAPiTA house because we had a few AM's going to this event. So from family budget to work trip this turned for me. Translation, this ended up costing us a $1,000 vs. the $4,000 it could have run us with lodging, food, tickets and what not. Thanks CAPiTA. Our house consisted of Worm (Garrett Warnick), Spencer Shubert, Matt Penny, Jakob Krugmeir, Tedore and our bro Jonas Harris, who Tedore gave the approval nod too from his ripping at Baker.
We rolled in on Tuesday morning, saw Pat and Kyle, got our credentials and off to the lap park to get warmed up. Holy shit…it was pretty much everything you could dream of as far as a playground with nothing but white trash inhabiting it. I'm not making any judgements here, but Bear is littered with Americas white trash. For some reason every meth head / pill billy / neck tatted dude that snowboards moves to Bear, wears Just Live sweat shirts, rides T9 kits (sorry Ethan), and has a high back pack on the back binding. I was kinda scared of getting hepatitis just from sitting on the lift. After some sanitizer and hot laps we rolled over to the private Launch park. Set up was such, a monster hip with a pipe dragon cut landing on one side and a 60 foot gradual transition on the other side, a 70 foot lip to knuckle woo tang booter and a rail / wall ride plaza. Yea…a holy shit this is gonna be fun to watch for a 46 year old, good and intimidating for a 12 year old and a what the fuck for a just turned 10 year old.
The older dudes were like kids in a candy store hitting everything that day. Then there was the group of 11-14 year olds that are on the USASA shred circuit, home schooled, and came with coaches/team managers that have their clique that Milo and Jonas needed to break into. Broc, Kyle, Red, Toby, Cody, Jack, Ben, Judd, Graham and Darren are rightfully a little protective of their turf too. They've been told how special and rad they are from when they started shredding and when a new jack or two shows up, they're not gonna give up any of the hard earned glory. So day one was a learning experience for sure. The young guns came out of the gate hot and attacked the 30 foot tall hip and got a session going. During this time Milo and Jonas sat back and watched the action unfold claiming that today was a warm up day and tomorrow they'd jump in the mix. But after seeing the camera's come out and staff photographers line the hip like fencing the boys thought they should give the session well under way a go. This was like starting a marathon 2 hours after the start gun though and they were getting warmed up to something twice as big as they've ever hit while the young guns were in 5th gear. An important lesson they learned on day one though, when the crowd starts dancing, you better start moving your feet.
Day 2 was the booter day, so that left the young guns to rip around and hot lap different shit during the day. It also let the boys get a little more comfortable with everything and everybody. The jump session was incredible. Fearless kids looking to make a name for themselves sending it every 15 seconds or so for a solid 2 hours. We sat back on the hill and watched the whole thing unfold. Bloody Dracula 7's, double corks, doubles, rodeos, 10's, the longest floatiest bs 1's were the regs. Milo started to get a little ansy watching the action and was threatening to hit this thing. I asked him why and he said "because I want to be the first one out of these kids to step up to this thing." Wrong answer and he was sat back down to watch the rest of the session.
Day 3 was the day. People were all over the place doing this thing or that, and a session frenzy at one spot never happened. Instead lap after lap thru the Launch park happened and the young guns fully led the charge. Hips, rail garden, double tube quarter pipe ride to snowball fight every chair ride up was the norm for the day. We rode from 9:30 am straight to 4:30 pm that day and it was awesome. There was even a backside hit cut into the monster hip that was dad doable so I took another 4 Advil and joined the grom train. WeGnar was doing mini dirt patch rides all day in between hucking snowballs at kids. Then at the end of the day told me to follow him with the camera, cause he was going to send it. Ok, and I started to follow him down. Lil guy was hauling ass down the hill then took a left turn onto a 100 foot or more patch of dirt, grass and rocks and dropped it into over drive. The chairlift went nuts and the dude screaming the loudest was Bridges. That gave the older kids incentive to follow Gnars lead and 40 or so shreds took to the dirt.
Day 4 the hill was a ghost town. All the older kids were beat up from the 3 days of hucking meat for the photographers. 25 of the 70 or so invited Launch kids were left on the hill with Snowboarder Mag staff photographers Yoshida, T-Bird and Fortier holding their cameras and wanting to point at something. Captain Bridges had a group of them hitting the booter and some euro kid Emil was throwing out triple corks or something. Which left the hip lonesome and Milo decided that the hip was gonna be his that day and started hitting the front side lip to tight tranny landing over and over. At around 2 pm, Tedore came over and told the boys the Pat was leaving soon and they should make sure to thank him before he ghosted out of there. I was still down at the hip and saw Milo up there shaking Pats hand and then walking back over to the 300 foot drop in to the hip. Over the radio I heard Pat say "T-Bird, get over to the hip, I want you to shoot Milo hitting that for the grom edit." The first two pulls for T-Bird were huge, but the landings came up splat as he was landing too deep in the belly and not hitting enough tranny. T-Bird told Milo to take off a little more to the left and he'd be sweet. Which was all the advice lil guy needed. For the next hour or so he sent it over and over again grabbing tail, stale and fs indy (sorry Richards) 15+ feet out of the 30 foot hip. Red Gerard, Toby Miller, Matt Penny, Jacob Krugmire, Chris Bradshaw and Lucas Magoon all joined in on the session making it pretty all time to watch. While switching angles for shots, T-Bird comes up to me and says "today, your boy turned into a man." Words I'll always remember. The session came to a screeching halt once Penny took it too long and rolled over his nose coming out of hyper space and blew his knee. An omen was there to call it, and we did.
I walked away from this event with an unbelievable amount of respect for the guys at Snowboarder Magazine. Pat Bridges is an amazing gift for snowboarding to have on it's side these days. I'd say he's pretty much the voice of snowboarding. I'd actually go as far as saying the he and the magazine are doing more for the lifestyle of snowboarding than anyone one else out there. His knowledge of the past, grasp on the now and vision of the future are whats gonna keep snowboarding a lifestyle vs. a gays ass sport like some people want to make it. He was at the hill every morning before we got there, as well as the last guy off the hill. He knew 90% of the kids there by first name and a snip it of each kids life story. The smile he had while commandeering the jump, rail and hip sessions was bigger than anyones. And you'd think with how much snowboarding he's watched thru his career that it would be old hat to him. It's not. Dudes more stoked now on whats going on than he ever was. Its pretty rad to see the respect that the kids give him too, not because he's the boss of Snowboarder Mag, but because he's a snowboarders snowboarder. Lap after lap doing hand plants, nose wheelies, tail blocks and two handed toe side belly carves were witnessed by all as Pat lapped the park with anyone from young gun to old burnt out pro. On top of that you can't help to admire the way Ethan, T-Bird, Yoshida and the rest of the documenters worked with the riders thru out the 4 days. They sit their asses on the hill without the luxury of lapping, instead looking thru the lenses and offering up encouraging advice to the kids to get the trick that their after. Again, its pretty amazing to watch how genuine these guys are taking in account how much they've done this.
Thanks Ethan Stone Fortier for setting the ball in motion, Kyle Kennedy for making it happen, Pat Bridges for Generaling the troops, Mary Walsh for writing the stories, Tom Monterosso for pointing a camera, Bear Mountain for maintaining a monster park for 70 riders and CAPiTA and Tedore for the roof over our head.
When we hooked back up with Moms at Onterio Airport on Friday night, she asked the boys how would you rate the trip to Bear on a scale of one to ten. The answer, "TWENTY."
Monday nights flight, Seattle to Onterio "I call the window seat" bullshit.
First chair ride up. Terror Squad invades Bear Mountain.
The dude that makes it all go down. Mr. Pat Bridges
Day 1 backside hip session.
Day 2 booter spectating.
Chris Bradshaw oozes style. I'm a fan.
My blog, my kid again. Deal.
My Launch MVP, Red Gerard. Charges, style, fearless and polite. Toby Miller following.
Matt Penny, mid orbit.
Goggle tanned, healthy, smiling and sore.
Check out more photo's of the Launch on the Graham, #thelaunch2013.