Photo by Ashley Hazelwood.
This year it seems you took a more pivotal role in the organization of JoMoPro. Obviously you no longer work for Transworld now and are freelance with time to do what you love… Your passion for flatland shined bright this weekend in my opinion. Tell me about the JoMoPro contest and why you personally got involved with it?
Yeah, now that I don’t work for Ride I definitely have more free time to get involved with contests and stuff like this. That’s part of the reason I left my full-time job—so I could free myself to work on other projects that I was passionate about and continue to give back to BMX in other ways. I tried to get involved with JoMoPro more in previous years, but I just didn’t have the time while putting forth so much effort at Transworld.
When JoMoPro had a skatepark contest, Ride was always a media partner and big supporter of the event, so I’ve been in pretty close contact with the people who run the contest and venue for several years. About five years ago during Interbike while having lunch with Jeremiah Anderson from The Bridge (the contest venue) he said they were interested in bringing in flatland, so I ended up working with him to help with the logistics of getting flatland into the mix the first year…
So I’ve had a pretty strong tie to the contest from the very beginning and it was a natural progression for me to help with organizing things this year. Pat Schoolen from Flatland Fuel had been the main organizer the past few years and he reached out to me this this year to see if I was down to help out. He handled all the sponsorships and coordinated the on-site logistics, and did all the online marketing and promoting with the Web site, press releases, videos, and Facebook page.
Basically there was a need and I was available to (and capable of) helping out, so I was happy to step up to the plate. I’ve voiced my opinions on forum boards and stuff about how flatland contests sometimes lack professionalism when it comes to how they promote and market themselves, so I kind of wanted to try to make a case study of how a contest could come across to a global audience if you put forth that kind of effort. I feel like we were really successful with that, and I’m stoked on how things turned out.
What were the highlights of the weekend for you?
Well, I love announcing, so that was super fun. Also, my girlfriend Ashley was with me helping out…it was her first BMX contest, so having her there was really cool. The fact that so many riders showed up (59 competed), and so many pros entered (18) was really great, too. But I think the biggest highlight for me, and probably everyone else in the building, was the Best Trick contest. The energy was insane, the riders were pumped, and everyone was throwing down so hard!
How did you see the two-run format go compared to the battle format?
The battle format, by nature, is designed for an audience, not the actual riders. It’s really just for spectators, ya know… It’s super exciting and gets the crowd into the event, and it’s awesome for people who aren’t too familiar with flatland. However, we knew going into things this year that we wouldn’t have a huge crowd on site. Neither Pat nor I live near Joplin to promote locally, and it wasn’t a big priority for The Bridge to promote it for us. So instead of trying to cater to a crowd that wouldn’t be there anyway, we reverted back to a two-run format for the pro finals to be fairer to the riders. It’s definitely a much more accurate way of judging and figuring out a top ten, and the riders seemed really into it. Basically, we took a side step this year and figured out ways we could cater to the riders and the progression of the sport as much as possible. I think we did a good job of putting on an event that truly felt like it was done for riders, by riders.
The Best Trick contest seems to be the way to go…it seemed to inspire the riders a lot more. What is your feeling about that?
Yeah, the Best Trick contest was sick! It was Pat’s idea from the beginning… He wanted to add in something exciting to the event since we were getting rid of the battle format finals. He kept saying that it was an “experiment,” and luckily for everyone the experiment worked perfectly! The whole concept was to have a fast-paced jam that really focused on the originality and progression of tricks where the riders could feed off each other and really get into it. We felt if we could achieve that we’d be doing our part in helping push the sport in a positive direction.
Best Trick overview, photo by Green G.
The way it worked out kind of came together at the last minute, but it worked out awesome! We decided to add in a “live judging” aspect so the riders and crowd would always know which rider was in the lead. Each time someone one-upped the last person who was in the lead the judges raised flags and I was able to announce who the new leader was. To keep things organized and moving quickly we had the riders in a line on the parameter of the floor, and that helped give a cool visual and vibe that added to the jam as well. There were 17 riders, so within the 30-minute jam each person probably got about 8 or 9 chances to pull their trick. During the last round, instead of just one and done, we gave everyone two chances to try their tricks back to back, which worked out really well. Like I said, it was all kind of figured out and put together on the fly, but somehow we pulled it off, and I think everyone was really stoked on how it turned out—especially Terry Adams, haha! The fact that Terry (who won JoMoPro last year) was the last rider to go and ended up stealing the win from Takahiro at the last possible second was just icing on the cake. You couldn’t have written a better story, and it was a perfect way to end the night.
After any contest there is always plenty of talk… From your point of view, were there any lessons learnt this past weekend?
I have to call you out here, Effraim… I honestly think that by you mentioning the haters or whatever on the site you are calling attention to things and actually feeding into negativity. You posted the finals video, and instead of just saying how dope the riding was, you immediately opened the doors to controversy or speculation about the results. When you are speaking to a large audience like the readers of Flatmatters, I just don’t feel it’s really good to call attention to stuff like that. It just starts the comments and conversation in the wrong direction I think…
Anyway, I’m sure there will be some talking here and there, but that’s to be expected, and it’s not really a big deal. I don’t think many people can or will argue the judges decisions though this time around. We had a very fair judging system that we tried out at JoMoPro. We came up with the system on a private Facebook page where a lot of industry heads and pros from around the world went back and forth putting in their input. Difficulty and originality were weighted heavier than consistency, so again, we were trying to push the riders and the sport…we didn’t see a bunch of “safe runs” at this contest. I haven’t talked to many of the riders or judges yet to get their feedback, but from what I could tell it all went really smoothly.
There are always lessons to be learned, and there are always things you can improve on, but it may be a little too early to tell right now. We’re definitely going to look to the future, but we also want to take some time to enjoy the success of the event right now and let it all sink in!
As a contest organizer myself, I know how draining it can be…how are you feeling right now after the contest?
Haha, I’m pretty beat man! I got up at 7am the day of the event to tie up loose ends, got to the venue at 9am to shoot a photo with Ucchie for the Flatland Calendar, ran and announced the event until 10pm, went to the after party until about 1am, then woke up the next day and worked in the hotel until about midnight on the follow up work—press releases, photos, and the highlights video. So yeah, I’m pretty tired as I type this interview out on a 7am flight back home, but with no full-time job, there’s plenty of time to rest and ride when I get back to Long Beach!
Last but not least, I would like to personally thank you, Fat, for taking the time to step up and help organize JoMoPro. It is one of the most respected events on the calendar. Who would you like to give thanks to?
Thanks man, I really appreciate that! I definitely want to thank Pat Schoolen who did so much behind the scenes. He doesn’t really like to put himself out there or be in the limelight, but he did a ton for the event over the past few years. Also, Jeremiah Anderson and everyone at The Bridge… They provided us with the venue along with food and drinks in the hospitality room for four years now. Thanks to all the sponsors who stepped up this year and threw down cash and prizes for the riders. Green-G and Hiroshi Uehara came out the past two years on their own dime all the way from Japan just to help out, which is amazing—that truly shows their dedication to the sport. Thanks to everyone who helped run things the day of the event…too many people to name! Thanks to my homie Eric Favot for filming the finals for me. And of course, huge thanks to all the riders who showed up and killed it! Joplin isn’t the most fun city to hang out it, and it’s definitely not the easiest or cheapest to get to, so the fact that so many people came from so many places to ride is incredible! See you at Voodoo Jam!
Fat on Twitter: twitter.com/fattonybmx
Fat on Facebook: facebook.com/fattonybmx
ESPN Article by Fat: http://espn.go.com/action/bmx/blog/_/post/7845777/japan-uchino-wins-2012-jomopro