Martin Ramos is the owner of Kona Skatepark and host of the 2016 King of Kona Contest.
Martin: The King of Kona morphed from the original National Longboard Skateboard Championships that were held at Kona starting in 1999. By 2002 competitors started using that phrase due to the format of the event. It required skaters to be skilled in both racing and transition skating. It included Street, Pool, banked slalom and a park race. I saw some of the best skateboarding in my life during those events.
By 2005, the event had run its course and as long boarding grew there was more of an emphasis on racing that park riding. Fast forward to 2012 and the event was revived by Cameron Frazier as an alternative to the King of Claremont when the Florida hill became unavailable for a scheduled event.
There was a little skepticism at first with the notion of bringing a bunch of professional racers into the skatepark environment. Many had never been in a skatepark before, but the camaraderie and uniqueness of Kona combined to make it more memorable than ever.
For those who’ve never visited Kona – what are some of the unique things about the park?
Kona was constructed at the end of the 70’s skateboarding boom. It’s built on a hill and makes unique use of the change in elevation in a manner that has yet to be duplicated anywhere.
The Snake Run is infamous for being the most fun and accessible downhill run in skateboarding. It wraps around the deepest bowl in any skatepark and is crowned with a six foot vertical tombstone. If you haven’t gotten the impression yet of how big everything at Kona is . . . then let it be known . . . Konia’s big, it’s gnarly, and encompasses most every aspect of skateboarding.
As skateboarding has grown and changed so has Kona. It is listed in Guinness World Book of Records as the Worlds Oldest Skatepark and is easily one of the largest too. Here is a list of features: Pro Bowl, Freestyle Area, Snake Run, J-Run, Kidney Pool, 11’ Concrete Vert Ramp, 13’ tall / 80’ wide skatelite vert ramp, 17,000 square foot street course, mini-spine ramp, beginners mini-ramp, Pro-Shop, Observation decks and two story lookout over the park. We plan on adding more areas in 2016.
What is the contest atmosphere like?
Looooose!!!! This is easily one of the most laid back contests in skateboarding. One of the cool features of the event is the camping and the camaraderie that comes from that. Skaters travel into Florida from around the world and never have to leave the skatepark.
With so much to skate there is plenty to do in between events and your contest runs. That’s what makes it so unique. Not only is there the contest area, but much, much more. It takes linking up with your friends at a skate event to a whole new level. You can get an entire years worth of riding over one weekend at Kona.
I know the contest draws people from California, but are there folks coming from further afield?
Kona events freak me out by how many people show up from outside of the USA. It’s like Kona is way more famous abroad than it is own hometown. The Canadians seem to rule the foreigner card at KOK. But crews from Texas, California, Virginia and of course from across Florida come together each year for good times and great skateboarding.
How many people are you expecting to be competing this year? Who do you think might win? What is the last day to register?
Typically there is anywhere from 70-100 competitors. But what makes it even more interesting is all of the non-competing skaters that come for the weekend as well. Not only are your fellow competitors cheering you on, but a few hundred rabid skateboarding enthusiasts are there keeping the stoke factor very high.
The event is growing in popularity so we had to cap it at 100 competitors in order to guarantee we can get the events done in a reasonable amount of time. As long as there is space you can register up to the last minute. Check the official KOK website for details and registration info.
Who are some of the key sponsors of this year’s event? Any special shout outs?
Without sponsors, skateboarding events are pretty tough to put together. This year we have some returning support and some new faces as well. Omen Longboards stepped up to handle title sponsorship duties and a couple new faces like Gravity and Pro-Tec have jumped on board.
This biggest addition is the media exposure. With both Skate Slate and Concrete Wave covering the event, competitors have a great opportunity to get some heavily valued coverage, and bgp’s for the spectators too!
I am looking forward to seeing you in Jacksonville Martin! I assume it’s going to be HOT!
North Florida manages to get a small amount of winter weather so be sure to pack a hoodie along with those baggies. The ocean is only about fifteen minutes away and surf temperature rarely goes below 70 degrees. Hopefully you can fit in a beach adventure somewhere along the way! Remember . . . it was surfing before skateboarding. Ha ha, let the good times roll and see ya in a couple weeks.
Legendary 1970’s vert skater Cindy Whitehead has been named Kryptonics First Female Brand Ambassador. Whitehead is a skateboarder, Sports Stylist and the founder and owner of the skateboard brand “Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word”
Cindy was a pioneer skater in the male dominated profession of professional vert skateboarding during the 70’s, and became one of the top ranked professional female pool and half-pipe skateboarders.
She still holds the distinction of being the only female to be featured in the centerfold and a two-page article in a skateboarding magazine. Cindy was also the first female skateboarder to be sponsored by Puma.
Since her retirement from competitive skateboarding, Cindy has worked as a fashion stylist for the past 25 years specializing in sports, with companies like Gatorade, Nike, the NBA, and athletes such as Tiger Woods, Michelle Kwan, Kobe Bryant, Drew Brees, Maria Sharapova, and Mia Hamm. She is also coined the term “Sports Stylist”.
Never one to shrink from a challenge, in 2012 Cindy made national headlines by skateboarding down the closed 405 freeway in Los Angeles. In June of 2013 Cindy donated a collection of her skateboarding memorabilia to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In 2015 Cindy was featured in Puma Suede’s new book; XLV Stories of The Puma Suede – she was the only female athlete profiled.
In 2013, Cindy created a brand called “Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word” in collaboration with Dusters California skateboard company (the brand responsible for bringing back Kryptonics Star tracs) she designed a skateboard specifically for the female market.
The GN4LW brand gives back to women in action sports with every collab it creates. Cindy recently signed an additional two year deal for her skateboard line. In January 2015 she joined forces for a collab project with “XS Helmets”.
David Boortz bought his first skateboard in 1996,while in the sixth grade. “I street skated everyday then on and all the way through high school and into college.” Like many kids without a lot of money to spend on ‘toys’, continually snapping decks was a problem for David. “My father has a woodworking background and presented the idea that we could make decks ourselves for less cost–but of course, that wasn’t the case!”
Whether David’s father actually believed he would save money is still debated within the family. But what is absolutely true is that father and son had some serious bonding time. They pressed their first 7-layer street deck in 1998 with a homemade skateboard press, made of welded steel and car jacks, and decided to call the project “Lekker”.
The current iteration of Lekker Skateboards was born during David’s college days at UC Santa Barbara. A friend wanted him to make him a board that he could cruise around campus, something that would be easy to carry and store while sitting in class. “With those qualities in mind, I came up with the idea to replicate a 1960’s style “sidewalk surfboard” – and that was the beginning of the company we are today.”
For those who are wondering, “Lekker” is a Dutch word literally meaning “tasty”, but has various connotations throughout the Dutch-speaking world from “sweet”, “good”, and more recently, even “sexy”. David says he enjoys the vagueness of its meaning. “I also enjoy the typographical symmetry of the word itself. The double “k” is rare in the English language, so it gives the company a standout name.”
When it comes to creating the actual decks, the manual labor of each board is spread over a few days, due to drying times of glue and polyurethane finishing. In total, it takes about 6 hours of direct labor for each skateboard they produce.
After college, Dave worked as an engineer. A former colleague just happened to be Zac Effron’s father. “He found out about my Lekker side project through the office grapevine and gifted one of my skateboards to Zac as a birthday present.” This exchange developed into Zac and his father visiting David’s workshop in December 2013, and marked an enthusiastic beginning of their partnership.
David says that Zac’s celebrity has given Lekker a lot of exposure to his fan base. “They are mostly young women, who aren’t usually targeted as a prime skateboard market. So that’s a nice opportunity for us. We’ve sold a number of boards to his fans, and through the messages and photos they’ve sent to us, know that they are excited to have a new sport in their lives.”
Lekker are currently working on their third edition of boards that will feature their first kicktail. “I would say that our primary focus for 2016 is to get our boards under the feet of new riders. We want to encourage folks to get outside and skate, to let them know that it’s absolutely something they can do and will probably love. I’ve never met anyone who tried skating and didn’t like it.”
by Dewey Weber
Based in Denver, Colorado, KOTA Longboards is accepting pre-orders for a new collection of longboards featuring authentic, vintage Surf Boards by Dewey Weber
designs. All pre-orders will ship in early January 2016.
Prices range from $229 for a board-only option to $329 for a complete setup with high-end trucks from Paris and Custom Speed Vent Wheels fro Seismic Skate Systems. Prices do not include tax or shipping charges.
You can purchase directly at kotalongboards.com, by visiting the KOTA Longboards Factory in Denver or by phone at (303) 524-0027.
“We are thrilled about this new partnership after a long history with skateboards in the 1970s and dabbling again in the late 1990s/early 2000s. We carefully chose KOTA Longboards to align with our tradition of quality. Our brands share the standard of excellent performance and craftsmanship,” said Shea Weber, CEO of Surf Boards by Dewey Weber. “Watch for future announcements of surf retailers offering this new line of longboards that give the surfer an unparalleled land surfing experience,” Weber added.
“Our partnership with Dewey Weber seamlessly aligns with the vintage look and feel of the KOTA brand. Dewey Weber has a legacy as an innovator in surf board design and manufacturing. At KOTA Longboards, we share that passion for excellence and innovation,” said KOTA CEO Mike Maloney.