Striker’s Tales: The Caribbean Party Island Downhill St Lucia Pt. 1

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You just never know who’s in the crowd! It all started in Kimberley British Columbia when St. Lucian local humanitarian Reggae artist Taj Weekes was booked to play July Fest. Taj caught the Sullivan Challenge show a race Shnitzel and myself hosted for the town, he enjoyed the event so much that day and decided that he wanted the same thing for his island. He contacted the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce, got Shnitzels info, and the rest was history.

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Shnitzel gave me the heads up that Taj wanted us to host a race on his island and asked if I would be into helping organize the race. Well of course I was in, this would be the first time in my fifteen years I would finally get to team up with my good old pal to host a race our way together not to mention a Coast NUAC style. With over thirty years between us in event organizing and promoting races I couldn’t have been more excited to tackle the project with the Shnitzel and Taj!

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Months went by with no new word about any further plans to host a race on St. Lucia Island but it was still in the back of my mind just in case then about a month and a half before December 13th I got a call from Shnizel asking if I was still in to help him organize this event. Jody straight up told Taj and Mike “no we should wait till next year” but Taj wasn’t taking no for an answer. Shnizel told Taj that we both had about twelve to sixteen racers in our first years at our event so that was pretty much where we set the bar and why not!? Really, this would be a realistic number we thought.

I told Shnizel we should go for it but we needed a banger poster right away so I could get to work trying to promote our race, that nobody has ever heard of before and then try and fill a sixteen man bracket only a few weeks before Christmas. This wasn’t going to be easy Keeping in mind this is in the season that everyone world wide is broke as hell from another killer summer packed with traveling, bombing hills, drinking Cariboo and racing. It was going to be hard I was worried off the start but I had faith.

We needed a good name for the event in my mind its one of the most important parts of hosting a race. We needed a name that would reflect the island, reflect the organizers and to catch a racers attention. After giving it some thought I thought Party Island Downhill was a killer fit for this event and would be fun to promote.

What have we been doing for the last fifteen years at Attack of Danger Bay and The Sullivan Challenge? We’ve been skating and partying!! Now were getting a chance to organize a race on incredibly beautiful island in the Caribbean!!? It’s a dream come true!! The only name that came to mind was “Party Island Downhill” plain and simple. What else would you expect from a couple Canadian rockers?

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I needed to catch the imagination of sixteen riders, I needed to convince sixteen riders to take a leap of faith, buy a huge plane ticket before Christmas and come experience Party Island. It was tough, it took many many hours to recruit a solid team to put on a show and represent us to the island folk but we did it.

I waited online all day, all night just waiting for riders to log into Facebook while I would lurk in the murky waters of the internet world like a shark waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike!! I needed to be ruthless every hour lost was an hour less of notice for anyone to make a serious commitment. I couldn’t take a break I couldn’t waist anytime. We needed racers and fast I could not stop hunting.

While I worked social media building racers posters and spreading the word world wide through Snapchat, Instagram with other means Shnitzel spent hours getting our old www.nuac.ca website back up running totally devoted strictly to Party Island Downhill. “NUAC” Stands for Northern Underground Adrenaline Circuit an underground circuit that Jody started and we’ve been running for nearly twenty years now.

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Our plane tickets were booked this race couldn’t be anymore official. Taj Weekes was our main man our island contact. We needed to put all our trust in Taj to pull off whatever we needed to get lined up to run this sucker. Taj nailed down some very important sponsors including Domino’s pizza on the island right off the bat that was huge.

With a race giving two thousand USD to the podium and only inviting sixteen racers while charging them only fifty bucks to race including accommodation, no hay bails and a ride from the airport this was unheard and unrealistic unless we nailed down some heavy sponsors right away. Most events organizers go all in and hope for the best, we went all in but a lot was unknown.

Having an event name “Party Island Downhill” you better be ready to PARTY!!!! The most expensive part of the trip is getting wild in the airport to numb the pain of a fifteen-hour layover in Toronto. If you’re smart you’ll book your flights with some buddies then you can share the pain with someone

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Having only sixteen riders makes it fun for us to try to really focus on each riders Party Island Downhill experience. Part of that is having drivers pick up racers from the airports. The first year of any events kinks need to be worked out so nothing ran perfect but hey what do expect from two guys that don’t own cell phones. To me, I’m really looking forward to being able to have this dialed to where were really taking care of our racers like kings for making the pledge and commitment to this event! Making a difference and having the opportunity to participate in some humanitarian work! Not everyone gets the chance to do this in our scene but here’s another opportunity!

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We missed Rookie some how at the airport but he got a eighty dollar van ride around the island with a stranger that picked up and charged him for the company of a woman that he never wanted in the first place.

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Edmonton, Andrew was picked up at the airport. It was like something out of a Walt Disney fairy tale storybook. There she was holding a sign with his name written on it. It was a St Lucian Princess and they blew each others minds at first sight. The two of them drove around the island meeting family, sexy discussions, maybe even some kisses, most definitely hugs. They hung out in the jungle while a handsome young Canadian boy watched this Island Princess climb fruit trees just to feed him. What a way to start a trip eh? Andrew got Delicious meals and maybe even a future wife out of the deal. Nice little story. Anyways, I’ll have to keep you updated. hahahaha!

JM Duran and a pile of other racers got stuck in the back room with customs playing a very risky game of dress up as an official officer. Get caught wearing this you might find yourself getting clubbed but makes for a great picture thanks for the shot Jonny. JM you’re a beaut!!

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A nice hour ride through the jungle in a skinny little white van speeding through small island villages and homes we arrived in Castries at the Vigie Sports Complex. This is where we would spend the next ten days. We had 24/7 round the clock security looking after our gear and us. Couldn’t have, and can’t thank the security team there enough for having us as guests! You kept us all safe along with our gear.

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It was a very busy but entertaining spot, there was never a dull moment at the dojo. We just happened to arrive in time to enjoy the St Lucia Ladies Netball Championships. The guys were drooling at these incredibly talented athletes.

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I guess I ended up being the St Lucia mascot after the first game because the team called me out from the stands to take a group photo with them! It was the first time I ran in years. This team is hardcore! these ladies are big, strong and never lost a match the whole weekend. These ladies absolutely destroyed their opponents every game.

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You can’t out-party “Party Island Downhill” !! You can try but you just can’t out-party the Party Island. Every Friday up on the north side of the island is a huge street party and it was here I realized the name we picked for this event couldn’t have been any better. Everything was new to me! Now I was getting to feel out the event as a whole this is racer’s paradise. I really liked what I was seeing so far for the future of the event. Skating is always the main reason we do these trips but you better have a kick ass party or what’s the point. THIS RACE HAS A PARTY!!

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After another wild night we woke up to a “stadium grade pounding sound system” where we witnessed St Lucia Island Adventure Soldiers, a missionary group graduating through the ranks of greatness. They are peacekeepers and skilled builders they are trained from a young age to make a difference in all communities all around the island. It was really powerful to see this program raising kids into young adults, young soldiers of greatness getting them trained and rewarded to better their Island and themselves. Inspiring!

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All that fun pretty much lead to me hooking up Nuss the owner of Unveil skates with a little of Canada’s finest beer.

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The locals were really protective of our skate family and wanted to make sure we were all safe at all times. It’s not a smart thing to just go for a walk alone at night in Castries or many places in America or around the world for that matter. When we decided to head out on this night the security at the dojo made sure to call us a tour guide to take us out on the town for the night. They wanted to know how many of us were heading out and to make sure we all came back in the same taxi. They kept tabs on us while educating us!

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It was shocking when we got to the local bar! I would have never thought that the St. Lucians were into old country and western music or something. The place-pounded out old country classics from the fifties, the two story building was packed. The music really reminded me of listening to my grandparent’s basement bar stereo when I was a kid and there old A-Track Cartridges we used to play, this experience was really cool.

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We were the youngest in this place and in the bottom half of the bar there was a few of old timers just sitting around enjoying the music in their country button up shirts. Every so often the music would change to some really good reggae music but never for too long because the classic country was what everyone was there for. I had a dance with this fine lady I love people.

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Morning came very quick with no sleep; only half the racers made it out for our early “Morning Show” appearance on the local news station. We had some fun in studio educating the viewers on longboard racing and what to expect to see from us. I’m sure the people at home thought we were nuts we were still pretty rowdy from the night before at least I know I was but its Party Island Downhill!!!

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Little did I know Taj had a full day of live TV and live radio interviews lined up for us we ended up doing four different television stations, three different radio stations and most of them were live. I let Jody do most the talking off the start I loved to watch the shnitz behind the lens and microphone you don’t see this too often so I relaxed, enjoyed the shows jumping in whenever it felt right and getting educated by the man. What a treat!

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More and more interviews about Party Island!!

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Getting interviewed I remember saying something quite shocking but funny off the record for this shot. This is a nice picture that caught us all laughing.

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All the riders had boards, wheels or trucks to hook up some of the locals. Berley Skates brought in some Hollow Teck decks and Kebbek Skateboards donated seven completes to help spread this positive sickness. I loved seeing the St Lucian skaters screwing together their boards the future starts now on the island!!

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We met up downtown to teach some young kids how to skate but it didn’t work out how I envisioned it so next year we’ll make sure to organize this much better attracting as much island youth that wanna learn to skate as we can. This year was a huge learning experience I’m stoked on next year’s event.

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Thanks to Flatspot Longboards we brought the extreme bungee launcher. This thing was dangerous as hell. It took two strong guys to yank the sucker back half a block before they launched it sending riders ripping down the street either ending in a giant standup slide or getting whipped into a violent tumble leaving a little skin on the road for the dogs to eat.

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The first time the bungee was fully extended one of the riders let the handle go by mistake. There were some very lucky by standards with a higher power looking over them they almost got shot with the whipping hard plastic handle on the end of the biggest human slingshot ever built. Let me tell you this thing could really wreck your day if you took a punch in the face from the whip

Makes me laugh to think of the by standards and their reactions just after a near disaster, jumping up and away from pain. When that bungee snaps at you and your standing on the other end of it you have no time to get out of the way. Our second and last mistake we launched danger!! The cops seen us almost smash out the back window of someone’s parked car and miss a few more spectators. So that was it the plug was pulled and our fun was over. Stoked nothing got broken and nobody got hurt.

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Sales were great at the ice cream cart near the start of the block. This was a nice lady; she was kissing and licking the hands of Wes and Stumanchu. She didn’t want to let go until she got enough coins for an ice cream cone too. Seeing all this action I couldn’t resist an ice cream cone of my own. Wes hooked her up.

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We got back to JoJo’s Guantanamo Dojo and our final racer arrived! It was Puerto Rican downhill Grandmaster Jorge Mendoza he was finally reunited with undefeated Canadian and Puerto Rico Guajataka Grandmaster Champion Hollywood Wes Sampson.  We had a well-balanced crew here on the island I was very happy when we roped these two hill killers into the show!

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You can’t out-party Party Island!! It was full on to this point it was our first time on the island, we didn’t really know what to expect. We made a mistake and my only regret. We missed the National Day Celebrations!! We left the downtown core and I guess all the fencing, stages and booths all around the park I didn’t clue in. Wasn’t it obvious enough that the St. Lucians were going to throw the party of the year for their national day!!?? And we missed it!! It wasn’t until after a half hour of outstanding fireworks blasting ten Eastern Caribbean dollars away by taxi I realized we blew it and should’ve been down they’re representing. But The only problem then was we had a race to put on the next day and we had a checklist of things not checked off so all we could do was hope for the best at this point and hang on for the ride. But I would have in my younger days!!!

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I had some serious concerns but we just needed to trust things were going to work out. I was really scared about the amount of people that were going to show up for this event. I figured with all the TV and Radio interviews along with the local’s word of mouth and social media we were set up for chaos and destruction. I was worried if this was anything like Puerto Rico’s Guajataka than we were in for the ride of our lives. We wouldn’t have been ready for that amount of people and it scared me to just to wait and watch what unfolds. Taj gave me faith. “This isn’t Canada man this is St Lucia it’s different here everything’s going to be all right” I couldn’t argue with that and went with it after that.

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To my surprise we didn’t get that almost uncontrollable crowd of Puerto Rico and by having the plan of moving everyone down to the finish line area with the help of the Police if things got dicey made for good sleeping material. I could sleep on that, it was a plan that would work, keep the public safe from crashes and flying boards by keeping them off the upper part of the track and down at the safe finish line. With more protection of the track we will be able to open up the course for spectators with confidence.

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I pulled Jody aside and I was uneasy about the racers going 110% for the cash and wrecking themselves on a course where we didn’t have hay bales or any protection. We posted up $2000 podium so some racers were spending rent money to travel and win this race. If they won the race they could pay rent and maybe get to the next race.

St Lucia was different though and the feeling changed for me after getting they’re meeting the people and doing these interviews talking about the event. We needed a race but we needed to put on a show and the show needed to be safe for everyone but how can that be done when there is money on the line. Races will go hard and skate to the death for this cash.

To me this race is not all about the cash it was a fresh opportunity to showcase us as Coast longboarders to the island and longboarders around the world. We needed to still have the race but we needed to convince the racers that whoever wins should really go all out and just give the money back to the island, give back to the kids. So we do our part to build from the ground up a healthy positive skate scene in all areas of skating and build them a park.

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Looking at it from the safety side of things by doing this maybe all the racers won’t take the race as serious and that could result in a safer race for the racers including spectators. This is very important to me. The other thing is we’re showing the local scene this is how we do shit. This is how we kick ass!! This fire should change your life.

Race day!! What a weird feeling to be one of the organizers and waking up on an island in December worried about pulling off a race. I’m almost starting to feel like I don’t get any breaks! And they say, “longboarding is dead” it’s as dead as you make it! I’ve been going hard since well I was going to say 2015 but really I should just say 1999. It’s been full on non-stop experience it’s really unreal, Create and skate.

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Jody was walking around cracking beers,  I myself had one eye open and gave him the nod this was it, the event was today. We got to the hill early but it was island time. We waited around as fencing showed up and a huge thick rope for the corner towards the finish line. Course workers showed up so they got rounded up one by one then distributed up and down the track. The police came and helped close the road so all we needed was the walkie-talkies and when we got them it was “Show Time”

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Shnitzel ran a couple practice runs and loves to set things up with a few surprises. There was a no wrenching rule so race your board as is no changing wheels etc! He ran a fresh wild race format basically started as head to head then staggered with the same two people. Then after the second round of first heat both first place ranking would go head to head and same with both second places then staggered then add four more people to make it “eight” till “twelve” then “sixteen” if that makes any sense at all

Hollywood Wes Sampson introduced himself to the crowd with some nice big crashes. This wasn’t the easiest course for the old feller but that never stopped him from smashing into concrete barriers and eating the pavement his show was on point!

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I didn’t get to walk the track to get some sick shots of the race for you all because I was stuck on the microphone but mountain woman got one up around the corner of Team Green Raggie ripping!! Raggie was riding fast and consistent this day I loved it he was a whole different rider he was in his element in his green Abec11 t-shirt, shorts and rippin green helmet!

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The road would dry out then rain a bit leaving the track patchy so it was anyone’s game I’ve never seen so much foot breaking in years I loved that too!! I thought the art of the foot brake was lost years ago.

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When picking the finish line I wanted to make sure it was near the corner to give us a bit more action and crashes but schnitzel wanted it near the end of the bridge so we met in the middle and still got some crashes.

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Raggie from Team green and Bones from Team Irene had some battles together race day. Wes was showing “The Rockin Rookie” how to do some slam dancing

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When it rained on the island it rained with a tropical vengeance

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Local rider Nuzz was use to the island rain but not use to racing downhill in it. The locals got noticeably better on their boards by the end of the race ripping this difficult fast course all day will ship you into shape or break you.

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Georgie Mendoza could barely walk when he showed up to the race and Georgie Mendoza could barely walk after the race. This grandmaster is a pain warrior!

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All sixteen racers were in the finals racing with a totally soaked track, the road was unpredictable so who knows what was going to happen. Realistically you could have a racer start in sixteenth but end up winning the race it’s possible and it made things exciting just takes one crash or one mistake. William Royce came ripping around the top corner and won the first ever Party Island Downhill!!! This is the start of a new island tradition.

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Mack Wacey came flying into the last corner second place while sliding and crashing. Mack’s board crossed the line followed by jonny yardwaste. Mack ran over the finish line and jumped on his board. Meanwhile behind him Team Irene “Bones” comes crashing in at the finish line just losing out on third place podium Team Green Raggie shoots by and takes third. It was a super close finish.

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First place was William Royce, Second place was Jonny Yardwaste and Third place was Raggie!!!! Mack publicly shouted foul language at me since  he figured he made podium. There was some action on the line with a little arguing a bit of drama for the finals as the public waited for a winner!!

It was heated but if a board crosses the line without the racer and then racer runs across the finish line and jumps on his board that don’t count plain and simple. This isn’t IDF or IGSA or ASRA this is NUAC this is Coast and that’s that you don’t like the way we run this event don’t come. We will fill your spot. thumb suckers not allowed plain and simple. So on that note here is your Party Island Downhill 2016 PODIUM!!!!!!

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All eyes and ears were on us now. The media, the newspapers, the health magazines, live radio, live television, everyone with cameras!! It brought me to tears!! The night before race day we the Coast community decided as a group we were going to donate our winnings back to the kids of St Lucia island!!! The winnings will be going towards building a brand new skatepark!! The fact that the racers agreed to this idea last minute idea really shows the class we have as a downhill community!!!

This was our first impression we left St Lucia one I will be so so proud of forever!!! I thank all the racers so much that were involved in this event and special love to the Lucia!!!!!! Word spread extremely fast around the island It was all-positive. The podium stuck to the plan and donated their winnings that made everybody winner in the end. We all showed total class! I’m so proud of you guys!!! That’s representing worldwide!!!

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Before we broke the news to everyone about our intentions with the podium winnings I made sure to award Taj Weekes with a set of Coast Longboarding metals to thank him for his dedication for all the humanitarian work that he does for the kids and the communities of St Lucia.

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The kids are why we were here and this trip was extra special to me. I really felt lucky to be apart of this project in its first year and to work with Taj and Shnizel organizing this event. I awarded Taj these Coast metals because he really lit the fire in me and it felt good to be able to be apart of making a real difference on that island. I left with a new way of thinking. I wanna do more of this kind of thing I hope this opens me up to larger humanitarian projects whatever they may be.

I look up to Taj and the work he does for his community. I feel I can kind of relate on another level. I’ve put my life into downhill and the Coast skate community, I gave it everything I had like Taj he devotes his life to and passion into his island community making real impact and lots of it. In the end its gotta be that feeling after doing something extremely positive for a group of people and inspiring others, seeing how it change lives I love this stuff.

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Coast metals for Taj!!! One day Taj will run for Prime Minister of St Lucia and he will win!!!  The people of St Lucia will have a true leader they can be very proud of I’m totally confident in that.

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In the future we talked about plans for the event and other events leading up the race but the one thing we talked about was running another year of a sixteen racer brackets keep it small, unique, smart and respectable. We need racers that get what we’re doing here from all areas of the event. I want legends of the sport here, I want real showmen like Jm Durran that can blow minds and put on a show teaching riders and really contributing as an ambassador of downhill.

I want grandmasters of the sport and Party animals that charge for gold. I want characters like Raggie, Wes, Stumanchu and the Rookie.  I want it all but were only going to invite 16- 32 at the most. All racers from the first year get first dibs on the 2017 race. Were going to make a master list of skaters who we think fit this event for a number of reasons then send them personal invites. If we don’t fill those spots we will then open up the wait list and sift through the talent to see who we get to pick from. This is a very special race and I want each racer to have the best experience and to be able to give back.

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CARIBOO IS PLANTING A MILLION TREES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA & ALBERTA RIGHT NOW!!!!

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STRIKE OUT!!!!

 

 

 

 

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