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22 Jun 2018

"More people do cool shit, and BMX gets more fun." Crandall On The DIY World Championships

DIY in every sense of the acronym...

Words and photos by Rob Dolecki

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There’s been a number of dope DIY events going down in the U.S. this year, like Swamp Fest and the Uncovered series. All of them have been pretty awesome. One man who has been behind countless jams over the past few decades, including the notorious Ghetto Street Jams of the early 2000s, is Cran-man, AKA Steve Crandall. His latest community effort, the tongue-in-cheek "DIY World Championships", takes a road less traveled by holding a series at established private DIY spots throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and in the process intentionally keeping them more low-key. C-Did gave us a some insight into why this series is so damn cool.

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A little foreshadowing- Van Homan downside whips prior to taking ownership of Stop 3's Golden Cinder Block.

Why did you decide to put on the DIY World Championships?  

We wanted to celebrate the spirit of DIY where people are building their own fun, and go to your not-so-typical public spots. We wanted to get people to understand that you can throw your own jam, and make it happen. You don’t need a corporate sponsor, you don’t need a big skatepark or dirt jumping spot. You can do whatever you want.  

The mid-Atlantic U.S. region seems to have quite a few DIY spots.  

Gnarrboro, the Lost Bowl, and The Slab are all spots that are built and maintained by dudes from our generation. Until recent years, there weren’t skateparks in a lot of communities. These kinds of spots popped up out of necessity; there were no other options to ride. This is a product of that kind of scenario. There are regions that are famous for their public spaces for riding or skating. Where these spots are, they are in the cut, and riders and skaters took it upon themselves to make their own fun.  

Why did you choose those three spots?  

Because we either helped work on them, or our friends, the people who we ride with when traveling, made them. I think this is the first BMX event at The Slab. 

I think there is a lot of separation between skaters and riders. BMXers have a long history building their own jumps, and skaters have a long history with building concrete. Wooden ramps were the norm back in the day. On the East Coast, winter destroys them. Skaters kind of took the ball and ran with doing concrete. For us, we were lucky to get involved with some skaters that were building some stuff; we actually helped build parts of the Lost Bowl. As a result, it opened up access for us to be able to ride there, where in a lot of cases BMXers aren’t involved with some of the projects, be it their local parks or people building DIY spots, and they wonder why bikes aren’t welcome. If you’re not involved in the process, then you’re not going to be involved in the sessions. Making shit from the ground up is awesome; that’s the essence of BMX for me and the riders I hang out with, whether it’s building the bikes at FBM or the spots that we’ve ridden our whole lives. The Slab dudes would come to the Lost Bowl to camp out at Pat’s house and skate. We ended up becoming friends, and coming here on FBM tours. Having something cool, and sharing something is cool. We ended up meeting the dudes at Back Alley Bikes in Carrboro, North Carolina, and the built something that looks like we would have made, and we instantly became friends. On FBM tours, we meet people, and we’re all like-minded on how we approach things. The real-time interactions enriches the whole community. More people do cool shit, and BMX gets more fun.

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Latané Coghill, property owner-approved bar to disaster on some fresh pool coping.

"If you’re not involved in the process, then you’re not going to be involved in the sessions."

- Steve Crandall

You’ve done countless jams over the years, like the Ghetto Street jams, which were probably the most notorious. These are more low-key, especially since two stops were at someone’s home. How would you compare?  

I don’t know how we pulled off those big events in the 2000s. There weren’t any corporate title sponsors footing the bill, and they ended up being huge events. The events we were doing on courses of garbage had more BMXers than the X-Games, Gravity Games, or Dew Tours. We did all that shit, and it was really cool. A few things happened, like we forgot we were a bike company (most bike companies usually just work to promote their product or team). We were promoting BMX, not just FBM. The guys and me were building ramps in a parking lot, and not just building bikes or doing regular work related duties in the warehouse. It outgrew our means to keep going with it, so we would just start over with a different one. Our budgets nowadays are even tighter- there’s less money, but there are more places to do cool shit than ever before. We do grassroots stuff more often. It’s got everyone participating; it’s not a spectator event. It’s very less-is-more. We’re not trying to create an event that is bringing a huge crowd. If you’re there, you are stoked; it’s not so much a media spectacle but it’s real, and it’s fun. Everyone can ride at these events. There’s no separation with the stars of the events, and the locals or Average Joe BMXers; it’s more valuable than having a giant crowd or some kind of concern of return on investment.   

Do you see a difference in longevity with the people who go to these kinds of events as opposed to someone who may just go to other events as a spectator?  

I think people are impacted more when they can hang out and ride with the people who they look up to. Dudes are actually printing the t-shirts here, the dudes who actually built the spot are hanging out and sharing a beer with them, they are riding with the people they see in the media. That kind of interaction and experience carries more weight. For the next week they’re buzzing; that’s sick.

Why a golden cinder block as the prize?

I feel like the cinder block represents the foundation building materials, the fundamentals of the whole DIY notion, from the brick and board concept to building concrete park. We worked with a jeweler who helped create 69 karat gold brick to award the winner of each event. Seamus is actually using his in building a DIY spot called the "Goat Pen". 

Now that this was the final one of the series, what’s next?  

This is the third stop of the first part of the series. It’s an anything-goes series. We didn’t really have a plan. It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, the whole idea of a "world series". The next one might be an Olympic qualifier, for all I know.  

Any ideal spots in the future?  

There has never been a plan or outline. You can’t plan this stuff; it’s too organic.  We’re going to check out some cool spots we heard about; the same way we ended up at The Slab. Since the series has started, people have reached out and offered up their spots for events. Pretty awesome...

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This crowd knows fun.

"Riders and skaters took it upon themselves to make their own fun."

- Steve Crandall

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