April 19-20, 2003
Other than the humidity, Orlando is a nice place to visit, and even though it wasn't that hot there, it still seems like every part of your body sticks to everything. This is the sixth year for the Roots Jam and it has gained quite a following. The contest takes place at the Orlando Fairgrounds along side a swap meet and a BMX race track. In fact, the NBL Easter Classic National race was going on 100 yards away at the same time as the Roots Jam. The whole event is covered, thank God, because its either too hot or raining too much.
The ramp set-up was pretty a fun-kind of a straight back-and-forth design to limit collisions. It was all about speed and going big--not really the super-tech kind of course you see these days, but more of a traditional box jump-style course. There was a curved wall ride that got thoroughly abused by all, a huge regular wall ride on one end of the place and a wild sub wall / box tranny side on the semi truck set-up. In the middle was a sub rail on top of two back-to-back quarters. Next to that was a spine with a six-foot wide channel, and next to that was a box stock launch box.
The Roots Jam is unique in the sense that it has a couple of amateur classes, which a lot of other contests neglect to offer. This really gives the younger kids a platform to show their skills before being slung into the pro class. There was a 15 and under division, as well as 15 and over. It was very impressive to see how many kids are participating in BMX--there were about one hundred and fifty ams and about eighty riders in the pro class. Getting some practice in could have been tough, but this was somewhat remedied by having twenty-minute heats all day long with only a limited amount of guys on the course at any one time. This turned out to be good and bad, because just as you were getting warmed up, it was time to quit until your next practice session, which could be hours away. But, then again, it did allow you to get a good feel for the course.
A lot of good stuff went down. The qualifying ran smoothly with a lot of rambunctious action--each guy had a minute run to strut their stuff. Fifteen guys ended up making the finals, which was in a jam format of sorts with each guy taking three or four runs of whatever length they wanted. There was a 50 / 50 blend of guys-some who do the more mainstream comps, and the other half were more of what you would consider core riders. etnies rider Brian Vowell made the cut and ended up in 8th place with a lot of hang-five ramp tricks that always blows other guys' minds (mine included) and some tailwhip variation tricks. The guys who placed in the top five were more along the lines of jumpers and guys who were really fast, as opposed to the slower more technical guys, even though you had a few of those dotted around here and there.
Flatland was cool. etnies had the pro class pretty well represented with Aaron Behnke, Leif Valin, and also making the finals was flow rider Manuel Prado, who placed 7th. He was an amateur at Roots last year, so he was stoked. Some other highlights were the art show put on by TransWorld BMX's Keith Mulligan, but getting there was an adventure with myself and seventeen other guys getting stuck in an overly-loaded elevator between floors for forty minutes in 110 degree heat. Needless to say, there were guys freaking out, which didnҒt help matters. Freedom came by way of the Orlando Fire Department, who were in disbelief. But, there was no escaping the laughter of about five or six dozen BMXers at the art show when the elevator was finally opened.
All in all, the Roots Jam was a good contest--lots of fun, friends and good times. Thanks to all the etnies riders in attendance: Brian Vowell, Aaron Behnke, Leif Valin, Marvin Lotterle, Manuel Prado and Hector Restrepo.
For more pictures, check the gallery