By Keenan Cawley
Goon Jam Tour
Kingvale, CA - Feb. 10th, 2022
Been awhile since the rope spun for us boarders at good ol’ Kingvale sledding hill. What this little nook offered at the cusp of the 2010s was a getaway from the hullabaloo of the greater Tahoe area. A place to escape liftlines and save your bank account. A hole-in-the-wall to hone in on West Coast snowboarding’s timeline and the style it birthed. No more than a slight slope in the Sierra sunshine. A slushy oasis—the first stop for Sac and San Francisco migrants traveling eastbound on I-80. Not what you might expect from the world-renowned surrounding mountains, Kingvale existed as the face of duality; it was in-between nature and the city, in-between snowboarding and skateboarding, in-between history and the present.
And then the rope stopped spinning somewhere in-between. Unfortunately, I should add; despite some local mountains’ attempts at carrying on tradition, eventually the assimilation towards a family-friendly (not to mention financially lucrative) resort cancels out the true rebellious nature of snowboarding. The defining attitude gets softened. The roots are acknowledged but buried in layers of fanfare that tend to ride your edges down round. It’s not to say things were grim—truth be told, the outlaws need rules in order to fulfill their role—but something was clearly missing from the Nor-Cal boarder world.
That something was lying dormant for the better part of the last decade. Until Thursday. Actually, earlier. Because Day Franzen had been preparing for the big day months prior. Dates were secured. A Tow Pro lift was installed. For Real Dough pizzeria started firing up their ovens. The week leading up to the tour finale and Lucas’ birthday saw heads pulling out of the woodworks to run cats, shovels, and rakes to ensure nothing short of a substantial re-opening. And when we pulled into the lot the morning of, it was evident that the work had paid off. Kingvale, and with it the original spunk and punk attitude of early western snowboarding, was back in action.
Everything we’d encountered along the tour was amplified tenfold. The largest course led to the largest turn out which led to the most camaraderie and most calamity. In attendance were more shredders—more groms, more crews, more OGs, more girls—and an even grander number of onlookers. Fans, families, filmers, all alike, all present and pepped up for the show. The mass gathering also led to mass confusion. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if the contest had already started, or if it was a real contest, or how the contest worked, I could’ve bought a day ticket. That’s right: 700 people asked me one of those questions. And they were all fundamentally the wrong question because, as was covered in my first recap, this was not a contest. With that being said, this was definitely the loosest run jam of the whole tour. I suppose that only added to the magic.
Once people figured out the lay of the land, the hip started going off and it didn’t really stop until the end of the session. Tim Humphreys, Matt Shaffer, and Andrew Brewer collectively pushed the drop-in up higher in pursuit of seeing who would be the first one to clear the whole thing. In a bit of odd luck, no one did, which proved to be better for the crowd because none of them wanted to stop trying to clear it, which meant we got to watch them go as big as they could all day. This did prove to be somewhat of a distraction, though. Our guest judges, Max Weinberger and Mikey Burton, had their hands full. It would’ve been impossible to see every drop. It wasn’t entirely unlike the Trollhaugen stop in that riders were playing cat-and-mouse with each other all day. But instead of the game being played on one feature at a time, Kingvale’s broad trail had that going on through every option on the course for the entirety of the five hour session. A subconscious decision was agreed upon that it was probably best if we all just rode too.
In the midst of sliding through the scorching 60 degree day, I had to pause every so often to appreciate some of what I was seeing. 14 year old Graydon Ross was casually launching 360s onto the tubes. The Freedawgers ran amok on the downrail at the bottom for hours. Irie Jefferson was spinning and slapping up a storm. Payton Nagy, Michelle Schlanger, Lauren Derminio, and Colleen Terra all made the jibs and tanks look effortless. And we had travelers, too! I stopped one ripper, Jake Reed, to get his info and he told me he works park staff at Big Bear and took the day off, rented a car, and made the nine hour drive just to ride for the day. I was tripping on that until I met Tom Dewy and Dylan Collette who were not only riding their buns off but had driven all the way from British Columbia. Hearing that, among many others who trekked to get to the finale, was an affirmation that the Magoon’s have been doing the right thing: fighting the good fight. Not that there was any fighting. The love on hill was palpable. And the dog shit on the in-run was pungent. Whoever ran through it (and I’m guessing by the stretch of it, there were multiple victims) is definitely still whiffing that. Hopefully they’re running extruded…
Regardless, that was the cue. Terry had long cut the music and the whole Goon Squad was already setting up the last ceremony in the parking lot. As was the day’s custom, a grip of the participants hit the pizza shop because they thought the superlatives were being announced there. In that group was about half of the “podium.” But the show went on. In what was surely our most difficult field to judge, the results came out like this:
1st. Basia Sedukewicz
2nd. Janah Bermudas
3rd. Gela Malekpour
1st. Jesse Gomez
2nd. Tommy Olivas
3rd. Matt Shaffer
Before the flock fluttered off we all sang Happy Birthday to the man behind the glorious event. His smile took up his whole face. And I thought about how much he and his family, together, worked for that smile. How our little team—Eastwood, Parsons, Tommy, Pat and Joey, Max and Mikey and all the other guest judges, Day and his crew and every park crew and mountain-marketer we encountered, every photographer and boarder and fan that showed up—how everyone who showed face along the tour was a part of that same family. The tour was over, for now. I felt relief and energized at the same time. Physically exhausted and simultaneously stuffed with a full soul. It’s people like Lucas and Tonya who are actively breathing life into snowboarding. Remember that the next time you catch yourself day-dreaming about strapping in. Laying turns. Flying. Laughing. It’s not for nothing. Don’t be ashamed of that love; that’s just life pumping ‘round your precious body. Don’t be afraid to work for it. The rope’s turning at Kingvale, once again. Grab on and see where it takes you ;)
Once again we’d like to extend our most earnest gratitude to our sponsors of the tour: Sims, Slush, Liquid Death, Baker Street, Tall Truck, Nothing Limited, Dang Shades, Stinky, Union, Splinters, Hah Feelz, Sticky Brand, Vans, The Bomb Hole, Prosser’s, Third Eye Co., Snow White, Wild Mike’s Pizza, Rad Gloves, VermontLocs, Bauer’s Brew, Pseudo Corp., Park Party, CND, Dank Donuts, Always Boardshop, Moodmats, GoPro, MDiSpagna Jewelry, and Gama Printing Co.