RECALL | Step Right Up: The Return Of The Carnival
PB warming up… (photo: Maloy)
In 1999, the First Carnival brought a bit of fresh air to the existing competition scene. It acted as a turning point; a way to prove that change was necessary in the contests in our sport, and at the same time it pushed creativity. Back then we were just starting to realize that wakeboarding was about more than simply hitting the wake or going big off the double up. The first Carnival helped solidify that. After that Carnival, the Pro Tour wanted rails in their competitions for the following year, and Wakestock Canada immediately put rails in their event, most of which were The Carnival’s rails shipped north. The motivation behind putting on a second Carnival was that we felt that we had only skimmed the surface the first time.
Coincidentally, the second contest fell just a few days after September 11, 2001. We put up a 13-foot quarter pipe for the riders to hit at the end of their run (thank you, Team Pain), and Parks Bonifay raised the level of rail riding to something no one had ever seen or imagined just two years earlier. After that we had to put The Carnival to rest. Five and a half years went by and every year I had to listen to all my coaches and friends say how we should bring back The Carnival. But in my mind, The Carnival was a statement aimed at our industry and the message had already been delivered. The Projects camp, which was spawned out of the first Carnival, pushed the rail scene by bringing rails into a camp/park atmosphere and being at the forefront of rail design and construction. If the riders wanted a rail comp, well … go to Wakestock, we do it right up there. It was Fox Riders Co. and Alliance Wakeboard Magazine, with the help of Sean Dishman, who resurrected The Carnival in 2007. The riders kept asking for it, Dishman said he could do it, and so it began … the 3rd Carnival was put together and the contest that changed all contests came back. – Pat Panakos
Robby Jacques pressing (photo: Cortese)
When I first read the e-mail informing me that I was cordially invited to the third Carnival ever, I was stoked … but then I found out that everyone who was on the list was invited, so the feeling faded slightly. Regardless, I knew I would be riding against the best rail riders in the world, so it was time to get back in tune with my rail riding. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that plan. The week prior to the event, pretty much every rider entered in the contest was at the Projects hanging out and fine-tuning their skills. The few days leading up to the event were almost as cool as the event itself.
One of the first things that became obvious when I showed up at the third Carnival was the drastic change in rail design over the years. The first Carnival was made up almost entirely of floating rails, all painted red (which reminds me of clowns and red and white striped tents). Then there was the second Carnival, in which the danger factor was huge … metal rails and quarter pipes, stray 2 x 4’s and the works. I think a few people got totally broken off at this event (Randall Harris broke his wrist dropping all the way down to the tranny on the quarter pipe.) However, this year The Carnival was very different. The rails were all flawlessly constructed and longer than ever before. One of the biggest challenges, in my opinion, was simply making it to the end of them. I think the GB rail was 120 feet, or something crazy like that. If you could slide 100% of this rail then you were doing pretty damn well. The Fox rail was also pretty challenging. The ollie was close to four feet at one end, defeating the confidence of several competitors, but thankfully, produced no serious injuries. I decided that I wasn’t going to attempt the ollie until the qualifying round of the contest so that way if I did get broken off, at least I could have a chance to be remembered for the best crash. I survived, but wasn’t able to break through the qualifying round. Ooops. There were actually a lot of surprises in this tournament. Several of the top Tour riders found themselves cheering from the sidelines as guys like Shawn Watson, Rob Jacques, Anthony Hollick and Keith Lidberg battled one another.
I think if I could have re-named The Carnival, it would have been called “Welcome back Parks, don’t worry, in the 18 months you were off the water, no one came close to topping your skills.” Keith Lidberg came in second place, which was actually first place among the rest of the competitors. Keith worked his ass off all day eliminating riders left and right, and had ridden four times that day before he was awarded the chance to compete against Parks. Lidberg put up a hell of a run, but the wear and tear of his four previous runs was starting to slow him down. Last up was Parks, and I don’t know whether it was the incredible intro put together by Dan-O and sound guy Erik Ruck, (Music: Alan Parsons Project “Serious,” listen to it and you’ll get that special feeling) or Parks’ incredible skills, but every rider standing on the shore was in awe of the master. It was such an incredible feeling to see Parks back on the water, as if he had never left at all. The riders and fans were cheering at the water’s edge, and some happy tears may or may not have been shed. It was at this point that every rider in attendance was 100% content with the idea that they only have a shot at being the 2nd best rider out there. I would like to personally congratulate Parks and Keith on their inspiring performances. Two shakas up boys …
– Jeff McKee
Daniel Watkins eyeing down the Gator Boards rail (photo: Cortese)
Lidberg vs. Harrington (photo: Cortese)
Crowd vibes (photo: Cortese)
Bikinis & boarders (photo: Cortese)
PB on top! (photo: Cortese)