Place: Austin, Texas.
BMX Plus! september 1988: Looking around the Austin City Coliseum on the first day of the AFA Masters Series contest in Austin, Texas, it was hard to know what to make of the current state of freestyle. The turnout was good, just over 160 riders, but it looked like a lot of them had lost their sponsors. Pro points leader Dennis McCoy was in his standard Adidas garb (no change there), but other riders of factory status no longer looked the part. Almost the entire Haro team appeared to have given up their uniforms in favor of loose-fitting, skatestyle clothing. Was this the future of freestyle ?
|BMX Plus! september 1988: Freestyle fashion trends aside, the sport seemed to be progressing. The judges were busy running through the groups of younger flatland riders to select the five riders from each class that would make the finals at seven o'clock that night. It was the usual pressure-filled preliminaries. Cassette tapes were handed to the sound man, AFA president Bob Morales, and the riders went out onto the floor to rock and spin to their favorite song. If there was a new direction in musical tastes, we couldn't detect it. Rap was still big, but so was rock. It seemed like there was less top-40 stuff than usual, or maybe we just don't listen to enough top-40 music to recognize it anymore.
There weren't as many new tricks at this contest as we've seen at some, but there were a few. One hot one was a surfer-nose-wheelie that Larry Mabie did briefly while turning from a surfer position. He hooked his back foot under the seat and lifted the back end off the ground while surfing. The crowd screamed.
Jay Jones of Kuwahara debuted another trick we'd never seen before. He did a no-handed wheelie while standing up on the rear peg of his bike on one foot. That could be the trick of the year. John Huddleston had another trick that got a lot of attention: a combination elephantglide/pinky squeak that has to be seen to be understood.
The eliminations lasted until around four in the afternoon. The floor area was a bit small, but otherwise not too bad. Half of it was smooth concrete; the other half was wood. The transition from one half to the other was just noticeable enough to make riders want to avoid doing their hardest tricks across it. Other than that, the place was cool, comfortably air-conditioned, too, which was nice considering the fact that it was about 90 degrees outside and humid.
BMX Plus! september 1988: After the long break the gang reassembled for the finals at 7 p.m. The top five guys in each class met for the final showdown. Eric Evans and Gregg Macomber battled to a tie in the 13 & Under Experts, but Eric took the tiebreaker with moves like surfers-to-barrides and other tricks that most people only expect of the hottest pros and older experts.
A couple of relative newcomers to the top ranks snatched the next two classes. P. James West and Jeff Rugg took the 14s and 15s.
The 16 Expert class belonged to Dyno's Ruben Castillo, who had the hometown advantage in a sport where that doesn't matter that much, as far as we can tell.
Schwinn's Jim Johnson and Ozone's Gerry Smith tied for the top spot in 17 Expert, but Jim edged past Gerry in the tiebreaker. Haro's Joe Gruttola ended up with third in this, one of the sport's toughest classes.
Darren Polio put together the performance of the day to seal the win in the 18 Expert class. The newest star of the Hutch freestyle effort looks like he could be one of the sport's top pros some day thanks to a variety of new and unusual tricks. Karl Rothe and Brett Hernandez took second and third behind Pelio.
It was last year in Austin that Kevin Jones made his contest debut and blew minds with the most innovative assemblage of new tricks seen in some time. He's now the top dog in the 19 & Over Expert class and the star of the Skyway team, but he's not without challengers. Kuwahara's new hottie, Kris Ketchum of Michigan, beat Kevin at their last matchup in Arizona. This time Kevin ruled supreme. He topped off his run with his death truck. The crowd freaked when he pulled the bike up and put his leg over the bars while rolling across the floor.
The pros drew for starting order and McCoy came first. McCoy has been really hot this year, winning Pro Flatland almost every time he enters it and doing almost as well in Pro Ramps. He shredded here. His run was a showpiece of high-speed rolling moves. He'd circle around behind the ramps to get going as fast as he could, then pull off electrifying multiple whiplashes as he ripped across the floor. His confidence level must be incredibly high. One of his hottest combos was a double backwards whiplash into a funky chicken. He whipped, spun and danced on his tires. He jammed.
The reigning Pro Flatland king of 1987, Martin Aparijo, wasn't here for this event. Woody Itson told us Martin had hurt his leg dirt jumping at home. That left Moliterno and R.L. Osborn as McCoy's main threats.
Moliterno's run bore some strong similarities to Dennis's. Rick also circled behind the ramps to build speed for his rolling tricks and whiplashes, but he lost his edge near the end of his run with too many touches.
Dave Nourie got a good reception from the crowd for his run, which included a mix of old and new stuff, including a Vander roll at the end, but it wasn't a winner.
Rick Allison's run was good, but the most memorable part about it was his home-made soundtrack featuring his own voice-over narration.
Woody Itson rode well, but he didn't look like he'd take this one either.
R.L. came out last and jammed. R.L. invents most of the tricks he does in his routines, and he does them almost flawlessly. He didn't touch much, maybe even less than McCoy's four or five times. It was a tough one to call, but the judges saw it McCoy's way, giving Dennis an 85.2 and R.L. an 85.
McCoy had been tied with Moliterno for the lead in the Pro Flatland points chase in the AFA. With Rick getting third here, Dennis took the lead for the year by himself.
Pro flatland: 1.Dennis McCoy 2.R.L. Osborn 3.Rick Moliterno 4.Woody Itson 5.Rick Allison 6.Dave Nourie
19 and over expert flatland: 1.Kevin Jones 2.Kris Ketchum 3.Robert Castillo 4.Derek Oriee 5.Guy Horsey
18 expert flatland: 1.Darren Pelio 2.Karl Rothe 3.Brett Hernandez 4.Roland Garza 5.Bill Freeman
17 expert flatland: 1.Jim Johnson 2.Gerry Smith 3.Joe Gruttola 4.Steve Goates 5.John Huddleston
16 expert flatland: 1.Ruben Castillo 2.Chris Lawrence 3.Derrick Cottrel 4.Scotty Freeman 5.Park Carter
15 expert flatland: 1.Jeff Rugg 2.Tommy Simpson 3.Brandon Morgan 4.Danny Lupold 5.Trevor Hernandez
14 expert flatland: 1.James West 2.Carl Argila 3.Bill Gawrych 4.Gary Miller 5.Mark Ramirez
13 and under expert flatland: 1.Eric Evans 2.Gregg Maccomber 3.Dave Dugger 4.Armando Adams 5.Keith Walker
dennyd71, www.youtube.com: Dennis McCoy.
990Adjustments, www.vimeo.com: Kevin Jones - AFA Austin, TX 1988.
|BMX Plus! september 1988: After the contest was over around 9:20 that night, there wasn't much to do but have fun. Unfortunately, some of the fun could keep the AFA from returning to Austin next year. A bunch of riders decided to check out a symphony in a nearby building and disrupted the program so thoroughly that the orchestra actually stopped while the security guards chased the marauders from the hall. It sounded pretty entertaining, but the complaints could put a serious damper on future contest activity in Texas. Anarchy has its price.|
|BMX Plus! september 1988: The ramp turnout is never as big as the flatland showing, so the starting time for Sunday was moved back to around noon. The eliminations showed, more than anything else, how much Matt Hoffman has changed the world of ramp riding. Younger kids down to 13 and 14 years old are now blasting no-footed cancans at heights approaching those of the pros. There's a whole new generation of Hoffman clones working their way up to the top of the expert ranks. It's getting to the point where Matt barely stands out next to newcomers like Eben Krackau and Joel Alamo.
Gregg Macomber swooped his way to a win over Eric Evans in the 13 & Under class.
Eben Krackau beat Ryan Lee Dunman in the tiebreaker to decide the 14 Expert class. (Keep an eye on these two in the future. They're hot and still improving.)
John Burks jammed in 15 Expert, with fellow up-and-comer Troy Tyro taking the numbertwo spot.
To give some idea of how hot the 16 Expert class was this day, let's just say that it wasn't at all a sure thing that Matt Hoffman was going to win. In fact, Matt did win, thanks to an assortment of tricks that included an incredible one-hand no-footed candybar, his barhop air, and his new candian air (a combination candybar cancan), along with some platform tricks.
However, consider this: Joel Alamo did a nothing in his run (he tried once and bailed but pulled it off the second time) and only finished fourth. Leo Chen and England's Carlo Griggs took third and second with runs that rivaled Matt's. Carlo actually went higher than Matt, by some accounts, tossing in variations like a 540, no-footer to nofooted cancan, and cancan lookback.
Ken Powers, Chris Potts and Dino DeLuca took the 17 through 19 classes, mostly with radical but familiar tricks done well at high altitudes. DeLuca had some tough comp from Chris Rothrock, though, as Chris lofted what some observers said were the highest airs of the weekend, up around the ten to 11-foot range. Dave Voelker blew his shot for a high finish with a 540 and a crash, followed by another 540 and crash at the end of his run.
THE PRO FINALE
BMX Plus! september 1988: McCoy drew first for the Pro Ramps class, and came out firing with a high nine-plus air and returned with a nofooted candybar, a topside no-footed cancan, and a one-hand no-footed cancan. Dennis was ripping! Not only was he hitting some of the toughest variations possible, he was doing them all high, high like Blyther high! He tossed in a rock-walk drop-in (the coolest lip trick of the season) and ended with a really high lookdown fakie. Except for falling on a backwards drop-in, this was one hot routine.
Moliterno was up next, and despite the fact that he's added a no-hander to his repertoire, his routine was clearly going to be outclassed by his comp. Rick is good on a ramp, but he's not yet great.
Josh White has looked invincible in the last couple of contests, and came out looking like he might win again. He launched a high one-footed invert, then a high basic air about seven or eight feet out, then one of his absolutely classic cancan lookbacks. He followed with a killer no-footed X-up, then hit a very high (maybe six-foot) fakie air and crashed on the landing, his bike skittering away from him. He nailed a high 540 five or six feet out, but landed bottom, bending his rim. Still, he rode it out. Then he fell on a fakie X-up, and he knew his chances for another win were almost gone. He did a rock-walk drop-in, then a fakie footplant (looking a bit rattled from his two falls), then went for the big finish with a cancan 540 two or three feet out. He pulled it off, but he landed hard and bent his front wheel so badly that it ended his routine with maybe 30 seconds left.
Mike Dominguez came next. It was his first AFA contest all year, and he started out strong. After a nine-foot plus warmup air, he hit a seven-foot lookdown, then came back and hit the ramp for what everyone agreed was the highest 540 ever seen. McCoy and Morales guessed its height at about eight feet. One observer got it on video and played it back two or three times before deciding it was seven feet out. After that, though, Michael started running out of steam, hitting a fakie air just out of the ramp, a so-so no-hander, a mediocre no-footer, and a couple of lesser moves. He did a switch-hander and fell, then fell again on a fakie foot plant to end his run.
Brian Blyther came out next and started lofting the highest airs of the class, up around the ten-foot level. He flew high and clean with the classic Blyther style, flapped through a high chicken air, did some 50-50 sprocket grinds against the coping, did a good lookdown and a hot cancan, then he did back-to-back 540s on the two quarterpipes (low, but still amazing), and it suddenly looked like the class was his. He ended with a couple more lip tricks to the sound of vigorous cheering.
Dennis Langlais came out next and hit some good moves, but failed to shake up the order. The crowd was hoping he'd try another 900 (he crashed while attempting one earlier this year), but a 540 was his best move this time, and he bottomed hard.
Joe Johnson came out with a cherrypicker drop-in, jammed a high one footed invert, a good lookdown, a high candybar, a rock-walk drop-in, a no footed cancan, a no-hander, some other tricks, and a 540 below coping. He looked good, especially when he added in a no-hander one footer, but he fell when rolling back from a fakie air.
Ron Wilkerson started out with a pedalpicker drop-in, did a 540 just over the coping and crashed. After that he proceeded to spend the rest of his time doing all lip tricks and fly-outs until he crashed trying to end his run with a Miami-hopper drop-in. As this photographer ran back for a fresh roll of film, Ron held up his finger to signal one more trick, even though his time was up, and did a totally rad nothing. If only he'd done that in his run.
As it was, the judges announced that Ron and Joe Johnson would run off for third and fourth. Who'd won? They weren't saying.
J.J. went first and did a hot run with lots of his best tricks. Then Ron came out for his minute and jammed, starting with a rock-walk drop-in, then hitting some of his best airs -a high fakie, a high invert, a great lookback, a classic no-hander one-footer, a candybar, and a 540. He fell on the 540 landing, but otherwise it was a killer run, and it got Ron the third-place spot.
So who won this free-for-all? The judges announced the results backwards, as usual: Rick Moliterno, eighth, then Dennis Langlais, Josh White, Mike Dominguez, Joe Johnson, Ron Wilkerson, Dennis McCoy, and the champ, Brian Blyther.
Talk about surprises! McCoy shot clear into the solo lead for the top Pro ramper of the year.
Pro ramps: 1.Brian Blyther 2.Dennis McCoy 3.Ron Wilkerson 4.Joe Johnson 5.Mike Dominguez 6.Josh White 7.Dennis Langlais 8.Rick Moliterno
19 and over expert ramps: 1.Dino DeLuca 2.Chris Rothrock 3.Marty Schlesinger 4.Dave Voelker 5.Todd Evans
18 expert ramps: 1.Chris Potts 2.Kevin Barnhart 3.Steve Swope 4.Rick Thorne 5.Davin Halford
17 expert ramps: 1.Ken Powers 2.Chris Saldivar 3.Gary Pollack 4.Bob Kohl 5.Kevin Gutierrez
16 expert ramps: 1.Matt Hoffman 2.Carlo Griggs 3.Leo Chen 4.Joel Alamo 5.Earl Smith
15 expert ramps: 1.John Burks 2.Troy Tyro 3.Chris Celis 4.Jarret Ganschow 5.(tie)Roger Sullivan 5.(tie)Beau Cobb
14 expert ramps: 1.Eben Krackau 2.ryan Dunman 3.Bill Gawrych 4.Zane Trisler
13 and under expert ramps: 1.Gregg Macomber 2.Eric Evans 3.Ben Christian 4.Casey Ethridge
Matt Hoffman riding in 16-18 Expert, 1988 AFA Masters, Austin, Texas, City Coliseum.
dennyd71, www.youtube.com: Carlo Griggs.
dennyd71, www.youtube.com: Brian Blyther.
dennyd71, www.youtube.com, december 2008: Vert legend mike dominguez and his ramp run from the afa comp in 1988. watch how high mike starts his run and how high he 540's. true skills and balls of steel.