The Carnival is the name and absolute shredding is the game. Back for it’s fourth year this weekend at The Projects, The Carnival is the one-and-only true rail-riding contest of it’s kind. While the event might be a bit smaller in terms of crowds, it means a lot to the top pros. Being a Carnival champion takes a lot, and this weekend featured a lot of guys going after it with everything they had, and then some. Pat Panakos, the original mastermind behind the first Carnival back in ’99, had several new surprises for the riders at this year’s event, which included a huge Red Bull step-up rail, a Fox banked transfer rail, and a 100-foot flatbar. The riders could now choose different lines to hit, rather than always hitting the same rails in the same order every time they went up and down the lake.

On the first day, eight guys made it through qualifying (out of about 23 riders) and advanced to meet up against the eight pre-qualified riders from last year’s contest. All 16 riders rode in head-to-head battles yesterday, which narrowed it down to eight. Those eight duked it out and four were left standing for the finals, which went down today. Those four were Kevin Henshaw, Shawn Watson, Keith Lidberg and Aaron Rathy. The winner of those four would then have a chance to go up against 2-time defending champ Parks Bonifay in a final round title bout and try to take the Carnival belt away from him.

The riding all weekend long was insane. Being a judge must have sucked. I’m glad I was just there taking pictures and watching it all go down. It was really cool to see the guys push themselves, cheer each other on, and really show a lot of different skills and techniques on the various rails. The most consistent rider of the whole weekend, though, was Shawn Watson. He killed it in the first two rounds and used that consistency to carry him all the way to the final round against PB.

The pressure was on for the final heat against the two long-time friends and Pointless bros. Parks, just getting back on the water from his knee surgery, was intent on defending his title and holding onto the champions’ belt. Watson had his eyes set on taking it away. Magic wasn’t in the air this year the way it was for Parks last year, and Watson came out victorious. It was a well-deserved win and on the podium Parks said there wasn’t a guy out there who deserved it more than Watson. Watson was stoked, got soaked in celebratory beers courtesy of Henshaw, Tino, Watkins and some others, and everybody cheered. It was a good weekend with some sick riding, and you can be sure it will be even bigger, better and more shredtastic next year.

The Carnival ’08 Results (heat winners in bold)

Round One:

Raphael Derome vs. Collin Harrington

Adam Errington vs. Shawn Watson

Didier Godbout vs. JD Webb

Kevin Henshaw vs. Robby Jacques

Olivier Derome vs. Aaron Rathy

Daniel Watkins vs. Danny Harf

Yannick Thibault vs. Shane Bonifay

Jeff Weatherall vs. Keith Lidberg

Round Two:

Collin Harrington vs. Shawn Watson

JD Webb vs. Kevin Henshaw

Aaron Rathy vs. Daniel Watkins

Yannick Thibault vs. Keith Lidberg

Round Three:

Shawn Watson vs. Kevin Henshaw

Aaron Rathy vs. Keith Lidberg

Round Four:

Shawn Watson vs. Aaron Rathy

Round Five:

Shawn Watson vs. Parks Bonifay