Not that you care, but I drove to the finals this year. 900 miles. So when I got out of the car and stretched my legs after two days of sitting with hands at 10 and 2 staring out the windshield at non stop rain, I was understandably a little bummed to find out that I missed the park prelims. "I guess I should have checked the schedule," I thought. But before I could even let it get me all bummed out, I found out that the prelims had been rained out, or temporarily postponed until 8:30. So I made it after all. Yeah Florida! But it raises the question of why, exactly, did the Dew wait until the Orlando stop to hold the park contest out of doors? I'm not saying anything...just asking a question.
But anyway, I made it over to the park course where I found a spot in the VIP tower next to jack of all trades/master of fakie hurricanes, Neal Hendrix. One thing that impresses me about Neal every time I see him is that he knows pretty much everything. And I'm not just talking about everything about some particular subject, I'm talking about literally everything. I always try to spring something on him but he's already "been there, done that, knows all about it." Moments later, the prelims began.
The general breakdown went like this: The field was divided into heats of anywhere from three to five skaters, where they skated a four minute jam on one side of the course and then four more minutes on the other side of the course. The guys who generally do the hardest tricks and make the most tricks move on. Usually. The top three in overall points coming into Orlando didn't have to waste their time with the prelims due to their being given golden tickets right to the finals, so Cole, Decenzo, and Chaz Ortiz got to spend an extra day on vacation.
Here are the things I noticed during the prelims that may or may not be worth mentioning:
-Jack Olson, the Gatorade Free Flow Tour champ last month in SLC skated in the first heat. Unfortunately, despite making some ill moves, like a kickflip crooked grind on the flat rail, he didn't seem to come through with the same kind of magic here. That's okay though, because at 14 he's got about 5 more years before it should even matter.
-For the Cumbuya moment of the day, at one point in the first heat, all three of the dudes on the course came up the bank heading for the flat bar so close to each other they could have been holding hands. Jack Olson proceeded to do a big spin front blunt, followed by Curtis Colomonico with a kickflip backside overcrooks, followed by Christian Sereika with a heelflip backside lipslide. They might have all been on the rail at the same time for a second, but I also might be exaggerating it in my head a little bit.
-They always say it ain't the heat, it's the humidity. And that was true during the prelims, but on top of making everyone sweat like a bunch of hogs, the humidity also turned the course into one giant skatepark shaped Slip and Slide™. Case in point: I saw P-Rod slam his brains out rolling down one of the wedges...and he wasn't even going switch.
-There's a giant death trap/gap on the course this year, slightly similar to something they had last year. But in '08 it was only like a foot deep and there was a fake alligator in it. This year they replaced the alligator with like a six-foot pit. So while you don't have to worry about getting fake attacked by a stuffed carcass, you do have to worry about breaking your neck. That didn't stop Jordan Hoffart from doing a high speed 50-50 before popping out of it and OVER the gap. It's hard to explain how gnar buckles it was, but let me just say I'd rather wrestle a real gator than try anything close.
-Wagner Ramos cut off his dreads. So, now...which one of the Ramos bros is which?
-Lutzka totally killed it doing what only Lutzka can do, and just like he did in SLC ended up winning qualifying. All he needs to do now is bring some of that juice into the finals without spilling it on the dance floor first.
-Timmy Kanuth did a crail frontside bluntslide on the box. Neal H jokingly coined it a brail slide, aka the Helen Keller. Nice. Remember, Timmy was last years Free Flow champ and ended up making it all the way to the top six. He's back into the finals again this year; thanks in part to the 360 flip of the day over the suicide pit and then some.
-Even though Rodolfo won last month in SLC, he didn't quite get into the top three in points, so he still had to skate the prelims. But, thanks to tricks like a frontside 180 to switch crooks to frontside half cab out on the box he breezed his way into 4th. Wait, was that Rodolfo? It might have been Wagner but I can't tell any more.
-After recovering from his slip and slam, P-Rod came out and put it down, making it look too easy with all the signature P-Rod tricks in both stances. Every time I see P-Rod all I hear in my head is Ice Cube's "Today was a good day." And it always seems to be for him.
– It's definitely worth mentioning that of the three pre-qualified dudes, Ortiz was the only one to show his face on the course, and not only that, but he was actually skating, before, during, and after the contest itself. Due to how things played out for Chaz in SLC, I'm guessing he's coming to this stop with a "once bitten twice shy" sort of vibe, and you can bet your flea bitten Florida pit bull that he ain't going to get bitten again.
-Dave Bachinsky absolutely killed it with quarterpipe tricks like blunt kickflip frontside shifty to fakie, but somehow didn't advance to the finals. The reason you ask? I think I'm going to have a word with the judges to find out.
-Milton Martinez, in his first year on the tour, qualified for the finals again, making it four out of four. Bueno dude.
-The two guys who still had a crack at winning the Dew Cup coming into the prelims (Ramos and Rodriguez) both managed to move on to the finals, so, from here things should be getting interesting