Florida Cracker Tour – Two Days in Jacksonville

Posted on Monday, March 21, 2005 by Ryan

"Florida Cracker" Tour - Two Days in Jacksonville
Words by Ryan Clements, Photos and Captions by Rob Meronek

Here's the breakdown on the crew and their Florida Cracker authenticity:

Chris Lehman: Florida Cracker all the way. I bet both of his parents were born here, too.

Matt Giles: Matt is such a redneck that he was not only born in Florida, but he popped out-the-womb with a shovel in hand.

Allen Russell: Yep, Big Al was born in The Sunshine State, too.

Rob Meronek: Rob is half Phlip/half Pollock and was actually born in the Phillipines. But he makes fun of Asians more than anyone, which means his Polish side is shining brightly.

Scotty Conley: Scotty was born in Rhode Island or somewhere up there in the northeast, but he could definitely pass for a Florida Cracker.

Ryan Clements: I was born a Yankee, but no one in the north really cares about that, so I claim, "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God!"

We left Skatepark on Saturday morning at 10:30am, but not before we taught Lessons to the kiddies. The traffic to Jax was nearly unbearable. I-4 is completely out of control. The four hour drive took 5.5 hours due to the roads, so we made it to the parking lot of Skatelab at around 4pm, but we immediately went to the local pool.

Dave Swade's Pool
Joe Marrara backside 50-50's over the stairs
I was told about this pool by Beau Crumb, Jacksonville area filmer. I didn't really know what to expect, but it sounded like a great idea. The pool is literally down the street from Skatelab, but I highly recommend that you just don't show up and skate it. I would definitely wait for a personal invite.

We pulled up, grabbed our sticks, and were messing around out front on the street. I remember Allen saying, "You'd better stop skating flatground before you get made fun of. Good luck in there." I was thinking, "What do I care? I feel comfortable anywhere, so how is this any different?"

Lehman, Giles, and I made our way through the gate, past the dog, and into the pool area. It was one of those pretty uncomfortable moments that every one of us experiences at some point in our lives. There were about 40 people back there, obviously all friends, and then just us. No one really said anything to us…they just looked us up and down as we made our way in.

Matt Giles got a little heckling while trying to make this carve over the stairs, but any vibe he got I'm sure pales in comparison to what he's dished

I spent the entire time in the back of the truck with Allen Russell and Scotty Conley. The rough bumpy ride led to the invention of the shoe-cuzzi as showcased here by Scotty
The pool is super-gnar, but totally perfect to skate. Apparently, Dave personally built it for skateboarding in the winter and swimming for his family in the summer. It's fully functional and really rad, with skateable trannies in the shallow and about 2'+ vert in the 9' deep end. We stood by the shallow end of the pool, where about 15 other guys were standing with their boards. I looked over the coping, which hid the 2' of tranny and 2' of vert. Everyone was dropping in like it was no big deal, but I'll be honest…it was pretty intimidating. Then some drunk guy comes up to us, who I'll call Drunk Josh, and slurs, "I know you guys…you guys are famous…from that Skatepark." That's when I really started to feel the vibes. It's pretty rare that I get straight up get made fun of by people I don't know. It was working-class Florida Crackerville at its finest. The loudest guys were about 225lbs.+ and didn't hesitate to tell you to, "Stay on!" or yell, "What's the problem?" when you fell. And if you didn't skate enough they barked, "Drop in!"

It seemed like anyone that was skating was open game to anyone that was drinking beer on the sidelines. Giles noticed that pretty much everyone was wearing helmets except for us and said, "Maybe there is a helmet rule or something. Should we get helmets?" I was thinking, "There is no way that there are ANY rules at this place," and right at that point, I finally saw someone I knew, Kevin Graver, who happened to be skating without a helmet. Kevin saw me and said hello, and at that point a couple guys started being friendly.

The next couple of hours was spent skating (and I'll speak for myself), looking pretty much like a complete fool in that pool compared to the crew in attendance. To make my situation worse, of all things that I could have done, I shot my board out on a frontside grind attempt and hit the damn dog in the mouth as he was barking at me. At that point I figured that I was going to get lynched, but I apologized and everything was cool.

Those guys absolutely destroyed that pit, with Buck Smith sticking out as my favorite. I hadn't seen Buck skate in person ever in a real pool, and damn, but there's no reason that he should be swinging a hammer for a living. He's definitely one of the best pool riders there is.

Jax has a really gnarly scene. These guys are a motley group of beer drinking, real-ass skateboarders looking for a fun time. That was one of the tightest scenes that I've ever experienced - I wish we had that type of solidarity in Tampa. Maybe I'll be the one to build a pool in my backyard. Many thanks and much respect to Dave Swade and the rest of the crew there that day.

Old Mil Bowl Jam at Skatelab
Tim Johnson is one of those tranny riders that spends more time in the air than on the coping - huge frontside tail grab over the hip into the super steep shallow end of the bowl
I was pretty much worn out from the pool, but Lehman and Giles were ready to rip the park. I hung in the bowl for a while, but the heckling didn't cease. One of the guys from the pool was there and yelled, "Hey, I saw you on Fuel TV!" when I was taking a run. Too funny…

The contest was actually sponsored by Old Milwaukee Beer, and they had free beer for everyone 21 and up. You got two runs and then there was a 20-minute jam. Here are the results:

21-29 Results
1st - Joe "Joehio" Marrara - I've never seen this guy before, but he totally nailed 1st with a gigantic bag of moves
2nd - Tim Johnson does higher airs on small tranny than anyone
3rd - Chris Lehman was a crowd favorite, but the bs boneless revert over the hip was the killer

30+ Results
1st - Buck Smith ruled it. He did a wallride from the deck into the vert wall…you have to go there to see how gnarly it is
2nd - Schmitty had killer lines and rad smith grinds
3rd - Carl Naegele can do ever trick that you've never seen before

Worst Slam went to Buck for his collision-shoulder-clip-somersault into the shallow end, but I think that it should have gone to the girl that actually fell into the bowl when trying to walk around it, courtesy of Old Mil.

Click here to see video footage of the chick falling into the bowl.

Kevin Graver can carve over the stairs in that pool switch. This is Kevin on a frontside melon over the hip in the bowl

I don't know how Chris Lehman pulls these big ass backside 270's over the hip with his feet nearly coming off like that
Thank you very much to Brian and Kelly from Skatelab. It's a unique park, but totally worth the trip…especially if you're into weird bowls, because that's one of the craziest bowls that I've ever skated.

Our hotel was literally right down the road, and so was Vixen's. I heard that Vixen's wasn't too hot, but since we could walk there and I didn't want to drive, that's where we ended up. The three girls dancing were entertaining, but I wouldn't say that I'm going back again.

Chris Lehman - scary looking backside boneless to backside in
As you'd expect, Carl Naegele has his own ramp dialed. This is a frontside feeble to fakie This jet ski hasn't seen water in as long as that grill hasn't seen steaks
Scotty Conley lofts one over the deck Matt Giles is trying hard to learn back smiths the right way. I think he's still a little off
Chris Lehman - back tail Is Naegele's ramp going to burn down? Smokey the Bear would not be hyped on this picture
Carl Naegele ollies the flat gap at his mini ramp
This is the accident that caused the delay on I-4 that had us making new friends on the road and skating down the highway. Hopefully the driver's ok
Carl Naegele's Ramp
The next morning came quick and we started with a sidewalk session in The Best Inn parking lot. We got an invite from a friend of mine to head off I-95 on the way home for a pit-stop at his ramp.

If you follow the site, then you know that we visited the Banana Ramp last November in Austin, Texas. I didn't know that the mini version of the Banana Ramp was a few hours from my house, just outside Jacksonville. It's built, owned, and maintained by straight-up Florida Cracker and professional skateboarder, Carl Naegele. When the directions ended with, "It's the first trailer on the right," then I knew it was going to be rad.

Amongst the broken-down cars, half-built sheds, outdated A/C units, 55-gallon drums, and shadowed by a forest of gigantic pine trees is a gnarly little slice of Floridian skateboarding heaven. This mini-ramp is one-of-a-kind, with a spine, hip, multiple bowl corners, and some of the weirdest extensions that I've ever ridden.

Carl is absolutely the most amazing skateboarder. If we gave skaters paychecks based on strictly ability, and not coolness, then Carl would be banking! I'm not saying that Carl isn't cool, but he's just not marketable as far as skateboarding business goes. Just go skate his place with him and you'll see what I mean.

Carl was born and raised on that very piece of property, and as far as I can see it, there's no reason for him to ever leave. How he discovered skateboarding with no paved roads is beyond me, but he's an inspiration.

The drive home was just as brutal as the drive there. At one point the traffic was completely stopped, so I turned off the truck and we busted out our sticks for a session on I-4. If you read this far…thanks. I could write more and give you more details, but you still wouldn't get the Florida Cracker experience for yourself. So why don't you hop in your car this weekend and go skate somewhere new?


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