February 28 - March 2, 2003
I guess living in Southern California for the last thirteen years has spoiled me, because I was not at all prepared for Toronto's harsh winter weather. Although my friends, who had come for last year's Metro Jam (then called a La Revolution) had warned me, it still seemed painfully cold.
Holy cow, the weather sucked! The first order of business was picking up Jason Enns and Justin Inman at the airport and then checking into our hotel in downtown Toronto. A little confusion over our rooms was quickly sorted out. As the evening wore on, other etnies team riders trickled into town. Making sure they have a place to rest is always a priority--especially after their long drives or flights. It seems theres always an additional entourage with every rider who are in need of a place to stay, as well, and these crews usually end up occupying hotel room floors, which is cool--thatҒs the fun of it all!
We took a side trip up to Niagara Falls (about an hour and a half away from downtown Toronto) on Friday while the amateur contest was going on. In attendance was Ruben Alcantara (who flew twenty-four hours from Australia and the T1 World Tour to be at this event, and then flew right back), Jason Enns, Dave Freimuth, Ian Morris (who had just flown in from Taiwan to hang out then head home to England), Josh Stricker and friend, Justin Inman, Don Brown, Mark Holder and myself. Just a fun day of sightseeing, taking pictures, filming and hanging out with friends, throwing boomerangs into the falls, falling around on ice and freezing our balls off. The Niagara trip ended with the team having dinner inside a revolving restaurant at the top of Skylon Tower overlooking the falls. Then it was back to Toronto for some socializing.
Saturday was pro practice from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and prelims after that. Seeing friends is always the best part of going to these events. You cant walk five feet without getting caught up in a conversation with someone you havenҒt seen for a while. The only complaint I would have about the Metro Jam--and its more of a criticism than a complaint--was that practice seemed to be a nightmare for all the riders, with way too many guys practicing at the same time. It gave each guy very little time to prepare for his run. I heard a lot of guys talking about that. Besides, the guys that were already mentioned--Brian Vowell, Edwin Delarosa, and Mike Tag, plus etnies-CanadaҒs Dustin Guenther and etnies-Spains Sergio Layos were also at the comp.
Considering how many people were riding (around eighty), things ran surprisingly smooth. The heats were divided up into groups of four with ten minutes allowed per group. All of the etnies guys rode really well. It was tough qualifying, but five etnies riders made it into the finals: Ruben, John Heaton, Sergio Layos, Brian Vowell and Dustin Guenther. Highlights from Ruben's 2nd place qualifying run were wall ride to double peg down the ledge six feet away, which he pulled first try, and then air over the same grind ledge to peg grind down a very steep rail. With everything else Ruben does, he had a well put-together run, but he banged his knee on one transfer and decided to sit out the finals.
John Heaton did his usual flawless riding, whipping everything in sight, 360ing the crap out of the spine and generally going higher than anyone else. A big wall ride to whip put him in the finals. Brian Vowell came out of nowhere to make the finals. This guy has an awesome blend of ramp and flatland riding to make a very entertaining run, airing the spine to hang five and hang fives to 540 g-turns on top of the bank to wedge sub set up and pulling it. Sergio Layos from Spain just plain rules! Smooooth is the key word here--he is like a mini version of Ruben. CanadaҒs Dustin Guenther also made the finals and got the job done with an alley-oop 790 over the spine hip and numerous whip gaps to feeble attempts over the so-called driveway box (which he later pulled in the finals).
Saturday night was spent checking out the new Square One video that turned out to be pretty awesome, plus hanging with everyone, playing pool, bubble hockey (which Dave Osato kicked my and Don Brown's asses at) and just enjoying the usual nonsense and stupidity going on all around.
Sunday was the finals. With Ruben out of the picture, it was anyones game. Some young whippersnapper from New Jersey, sixteen year-old Scotty Cramner, who the previous day had qualified first, just couldnҒt pull it together. Even though he rode awesomely, it wasnt good enough to compete with some of the other veterans. Sergio Layos upped the ante to pull off a 12th place finish, but one too many falls stopped him from placing higher. Brian Vowell rode amazingly well--earning a well deserved seventh place. It's just pure entertainment when he rides.
The top five went like this: Mike Aitken is a treat to watch always, video doesnҒt do him justice. Fifth place was his. Heaton is just Heaton--consistency is what its all about with him. Fourth went to John. Third was bestowed upon Allistair Whitton, who rode smooth and fast with a big Jersey barrier to wall ride to downside whip. Second was claimed by etnies Canada's very own Dustin Guenther, who pulled his gap whip feeble down the ledge plus much, much more. Congrats. Stepping up for top honors was ChicagoҒs own Kevin Porter, who is the king of spinning. This guy spins like a madman: 450s, 720s, wall ride x-ups to crank flips, back wheel g-turn 720s. Kevin pulled it all together and was the hands down winner.
Aaron Behnke was on hand to represent etnies in flatland, as well as flow rider Erin Donato (who just so happens to be the hands-down best girl flatland rider in the world), but today just wasnt their day. Neither of them made the finals and both went home empty-handed.
All in all, the Metro Jam was a great contest. It seemed everyone went home with a smile. Thanks to everyone who made it possible. See you next year!