Let me tell you a little bit about this small town called South Haven in middle America Kansas.
Local economy driven by agriculture.
Best meal in town can be found at Bodacious Meats.
Home to one of the United States best mountainboard facilities.
The first time I made the trip to South Haven was in 2008, we drove 10 hours from the rocky mountains to one of the flatest states in the country to mountainboard. Of course i had seen pictures so i knew there were some jumps and a boarder cross course but seeing all these flat lands and endless fields with no hills just didn’t seem right. Eventually we pulled up to this gate with a 2×2 MBS sign on hanging on it, this was the place. We roll through this field, past some grazing cattle and some mean looking cow patties and then I see the two roll-ins and some dirt. The course turned out to be one of the best tracks i had ridden since the days in Canton, PA and the jump an FMX jump with an ultra smooth transition serving some lofty airs. That was 2008, times have changed. After Zak Heberly and the DirtMonk boys spent two months moving dirt, building rails, rollins and quarter pipes, South Haven now has the most expansive mountainboard parks in the country and an epic venue for a world class mountainboard event.
This year i didn’t have the luxury of taking time off from work and making a 10 hour road trip to Kansas with the rest of the crew. Instead i hopped a quick 1 hour United Express flight to Wichita, where I was met by some of Zak’s friends who were kind enough to drive 45 minutes to pick me up (thanks again guys). I began to see a glow on the horizon when we pulled onto route 81 in South Haven. In a town like this glowing lights at night are not the norm. The glow got brighter as we flew down the gravel roads nearing the Zak’s property and soon i saw a group of tall light towers illuminating the boarder cross course. I felt as if i was about to emerge from the rows of corn and onto a baseball diamond, and as the famous quote goes “If you build it they will come”. And that they did, mountainboarders from around the United States showed up for two epic days on the dirt.
Boarder cross kicked off the weekend under the light but with high winds and 90 degree heat at 8:30 a night it was adding a whole new element to the contest. The new extended course gave riders had more time and space to make passes which made for some heated races across all divisions, notably we saw some great wins by Mason Moore in the AM division and Mellisa Ponts De Leon for the Women.
The pro men were all over the map but a few upsets and a few jumped gates and the occasional tire rubs made for a entertaining division. The Godfather Jason Lee lost a few races early which is rare, forcing him to fight his way back through the bottom of the bracket to make it to the finals, in typical J Lee fashion he did just that.
Brandon Johanns who has been historically been dominate in freestyle, nabbed a few wins and was able to secure himself a spot in the finals as well. But it was no surprise to see the comeback kid Jereme Leafe and Kody Stewart back to there old antics and crushing there competition. The final pro heat went as followed Kody Stewart, Jereme Leafe, Jason Lee and Brandon Johanns, check out the video below to see how the race went down.
The evening wound down around 3am after some post race course sessions and a few cans of the ol’ sauce. The majority of the weekends riding would be done under lights so there was no need to sweat a late evening. We casually woke up around 11am just in time to scrape the dirt crust from our eyes and jump in the rental car and cruise to Bodacious Meats. If you like smoked meats, beans and want to meet the locals stop by Bodacious. We feasted on an all you can eat buffet of smoked goodness, watched the boardercross winners collect their loot and escaped the 100 degrees heat with some air conditioning & Hot Action on the big screen. With our appetites satisfied we found ourselves motivated to make something of the day and riding wasn’t going to be a part of it.
The water park in Wellington was calling and 10 mountainboarders answered the call ready to break all the rules, diving into the shallow end of the pool, face first down the water slide, gainers off the high dive and peeing all over the pool. This was the best $3 you could spend in Kansas on this August day, fun was had by all.
Soon enough we ended up back at the Heberly ranch where riders were starting to pad up for some warm up runs in the park. Despite the heat riders pushed through a 2 hours warm up session to dial in a few last minute lines through the park. The beauty of the park is you literally had over 10 possible lines you could take through this park, rail lines, jump lines, north shore drops and quarter pipes. This park was able to please any rider as there was a little something for everyone. “The slopestyle event allowed for a new group of riders to break through, we came from a big air background and this park forces us to diversify” say Ground Industries & Kicker Audio rider Kody Stewart. Riders pushed the level of riding with switch drops, large airs and some tech rail slides, which we haven’t seen for a few years. Some stand out were Ali Kano with a one foot air while kicking the hanging cow bell, Mason Moore’s endless style (welcome to the pro’s Mason) and Brandon Johanns frontboard on the flat-down. In the end riders putting together the clean, consistent runs were on the podium.
Altitude Sickness rider Devin Garland had variety in all of his runs including a large cab 5 dropping him into 3rd place. Cole Shipp is great, one of the best attitudes and hardest working riders in the US and i was so stoked to see him riding well. His style was laid on thick in every run and he seamlessly linked his front 3’s & 5’s to the 50-50’s on the rails, landing him in the 2nd place spot. Standing on the top was our favorite pole vaulter Jereme Leafe, it appeared that all the 540’s he spun off the high dive earlier that day paid off. The two year hiatus he took didn’t seem to effect him much as his runs were real tight, the most notable was the half cab drop, into a front rodeo, to 50-50 back 180 out of the flat down box and rock to fakie on the quarter.
The newest event we saw in Kansas was the Banshee Bungee rail jam, a few select riders were invited to take on this unique step up and entertain the crowd. We walked up to the jam set up to find two fence post about 20 feet apart one post had the Urban Assault bungee attached, the other had a hook to hold the fully stretched bungee. There was one feature, a 20 foot street style down rail. Kody Stewart and Chris Jesse tested the set up earlier that day so they were both feeling pretty confident by the time the jam kicked off. The other riders were, Jereme Leafe, Devin Garland and myself (Evan Carlson). The stock tricks were thrown out in the first 5 minutes of this 20 minute jam, boardslides to reg and to fakie, some front lips. For those of you who don’t hit rails on a mountainboard or haven’t seen the trucks on a mountainboard, let it be known, mountainboard trucks are not flat and are not designed to grid round rails. Chris Jesse took on this round rail with a real long 50-50 which none of us had expected. Known as the rail slayer in the industry Kody Stewart decided to step it up and dropped a super smooth frontboard followed up by a front 270 to switch front. The jam turned out to be a blast, thanks to Banshee Bungee and the riders involved, I hope to see more of these events in the future.
The night wasn’t quite over, the last thing slated for the evening was a big air. After another day of heat and high winds and close to 7 hours of ridings many riders opted to sit back and watch the big air rather than ride it. We saw Benton Jackson, Tyler Mork, Mason Moore, Derek Howe, Chris Jesse, Devin Garland, Kody Stewart and Jereme Leafe. The riders getting the most speed and best pumps through the transitions in the rollin found themselves airing over the rest. The young blood Derek Howe had been boosting all day, locking a few real stylish front 5’s. Devin Garland’s judo air is probably one of the best i’ve ever seen and i’ve seen him stomp it in the past, but he couldn’t seem to get it together under the lights. Kody and Jereme were at it again, both deep in a pissing contest. Kody always seems to feel at home on a large jump and it showed with his double over head one-footed 360’s, front cork 5’s and 7’s. In the end Jereme showed everyone that he was back and wasn’t planning to just fade away, backflips, 5’s, front rodeo’s all stomped with authority and the closer was his misty flip, a trick which i haven’t see for easily 3 years. Excuse the poor video quality but check out Jereme’s misty and a few other clips from the best trick contest below.
We closed the event with big session on the fun box and cow bell pole, keep and eye out for video and photos of that session. The next morning, I jumped in Jason Lee’s mom’s RV and cruised back to Colorado with 1000’s black flies, little to no AC and 4 stank ass dudes and Jason Lee’s lovely girlfriend Reba, bless you for dealing with us.
That was it, great riding, great event, great people and great venue, thanks again to all the sponsors that made the Twilight Showdown possible, MBS Mountainboards, Ground Industries, Dirtmonk Productions, Outkast Sports, Trampa, Banshee Bungee, Riviera Longboards, Dirtstar Army, Altitude Sickness, Evergreen Pallet, One 5 Media, Dirtcloud Racing and Kansas Badlands.