Battle in Seattle Recap, by Colin Sander.
Any time a trip is being planned where the word ‘Van’ is included always gets my ears perked up. When Alex mentioned during our Japan trip that the awesome pacific-northwest shredfest known as ‘Battle in Seattle’ (organized by the always gracious Gus Carstens) could be, and should be followed up by the Canadian national yoyo contest the next day at Vancouver’s science center, where we would perform a live kendama exhibit of sorts. Then, that monday, It was to be Terra’s VanJam, to commemorate and spread the word about the opening of their first shop space in a super hip corner of Vancouver (Mount Pleasant) near Main and Broadway, . That was two Van’s in one proposal. The epic Canadian masterpiece of a modern city known as Vancouver (van, vancoo, vancoodidy the coo ((the coup)), Van), the timeless skyline surrounded by it’s towering coastal ranges, AND the Van that would quite literally retrieve us from south of the Canadian border and bring us to the promise land, after what would turn out to be an epic contest in Seattle. A van didn’t end up being part of the equation, but we were more like a care-a-VAN that was to haul some of the more veteran jammers of the kendama scene tup to celebrate Alex and Kristin’s progress with Terra.
Let’s go back, but not too far. Alex Smith is the rare-wood turning lathe-master behind an entire era of epic customs, personally schemed, pressed, shaped, and built to order, who also happens to have invented a completely new juggling device- the pill, out of a mixture of boredom, experience, and chance inspiration. Besides that, he won the 2nd annual ‘find the next Kendama USA pro’ contest, with a killer style, promising ability, and a classy trick vocab. He was new on the scene, but had been organizing sessions in his hometown of Edmonton and putting out crew-edits with them for a while. We all laughed about the swag-factor of having a potential Canadian resident-pro on Kendama U-S-A but everyone already knew than that kendama USA was for the world, not just our states.
a room packed with enough grub, homies, and n64 games to survive a BiS weekend.
anyway, we digress. I left Los Angeles on a friday, one day before BiS. This was to be BiS volume three. I went to both of the last two, as stops at the end of the vintage ‘KG ROOTS TOUR’ and it was a blast both times. The level of play was always high and that was a nice part about it. The epic vistas of the sound and the peaceful atmosphere made it almost like a zen gathering, a display of community and friendship and real dama-love, not just a Jam session. The previous two years also had seen hilarious hotel nights that one only need look at the opening clip of Kendama USA’s dama-fest video on youtube to understand… All those shredders under one roof is a recipe for, well, shredding.
Wyatt Bray shooting Chris June for Mario Bros 2. Cops arrived later stunned to see only dew cans
Crews made it from all over to the obscure little hotel. Some of us gathered and walked on a nature-loop to scout potential film and session spots, wanting to get off of the hotel grounds, as we were starting to already ruffle the feathers of management with our drum-circle like shred stance and constant stoking, “OOhhs” and “Whaaaats”, and laughter. Tamotsu Kubota, Nic Stodd, Wyatt Bray, Rick (Erick ) and Rod (rodney ansel) and the rest of the COTK crew, all rolled to an ash-grey dock, in a wetlands, where i saw some of the illest head-to-head ken games being played, as nick stood dropped bombs like only someone who had just released two edits mere weeks apart could.
The 3am grind is standard
The rest of the night is a blur. Snacks, trick grind, cops, session migrations, mountain dew, laceage, and the likes went down. I brought lights so we could film all night. Stay tuned for the footage.
We all awoke to a heavy, rainy mist blanketing the Seattle sky. It was almost a kind rain, the day still shining brightly, but the volume of water fairly severe… It kept everyone sleeping late and really relaxed. This was the first year that BiS was moved to a new park, and the new location was quaint, low key, and really classic feeling. Waverly Park, in Kirkland. I liked the stone stairs that descended into the water where the contest’s head-to-head portion would be going off… Last year’s BiS had seen the birth of a now-legendary Bonz, who beat out Sweet’s brandon Meyer for the victory, in a heated, dead-silent head to head battle where the tide was coming in, crowding them closer and closer to the audience. The sun had set a good 15 minutes prior, and they both nursed the last orange glow above the horizon to light their ridiculously consistent tricks. It was a battle to remember. I had high hopes for this one.
Wyatt Bray pizza tossing as BiS starts
The turnout was good, with lots of vendors coming in to represent and support the scene. Kids drove from out of state, crews assembled and made road trips, old friends met up again for the first time in months and new bonds were formed. Everyone was teaching, lacing, stoke-ing, and that is what kendama is all about. The contest was fun, with Keith and I both getting knocked out first round, we just got to watch, but with the MC Chris Bosh making it deeper and deeper into the contest, I had to takeover MC duties and announce the final few battles. Yes our seeding system might have been a little rigged : ) but we wanted to make sure the best names stayed away from each other until the very end. The Advanced contest had already brought tons of excitement, with Jacob Trebil winning and Elijah Lane taking 2nd, 3rd was Bryson Lee. Sam Cannon took home the pro honors with Kris Bosch receiving runner-up honors.
Cam, Jared, Evan, Cullen, grinding out the advanced contest
After packing up and saying goodbye, we shipped off via two cars with the Terra crew to Vancouver. I got to ride with Keith, which was crucial because we have deep convos that stretch across a wide array of subjects and exist in very different styles and flows. We go deep though, and the two hour ride would prove crucial for scheming future kendama USA epicness. Back in Seattle, the night party raged probably just as hard as years prior; The Vintage Gus’s house days.
PNW feel. trees, rain, friends
We arrived at night to Vancouver, unloaded all of the bags, passing out on the soft session floor of the Terra shop. We needed to save our dama-legs for tomorrows grind, and the following day’s VanJam.
The shop front
Vancouver was a blur of perfectly hipster beer gardens, sprints through the slanted streets in pouring rain, finding cover at little awnings and overhangs along the way, vegan food, talk of music, juggling, sport, and really fun times in the Terra shop / warehouse. It was cool to see all the new product from Alex and see their operation shaping up. They had come a long way in the community and I was proud of them. So was Keith, and that’s why we wanted to be there to support them (Thanks Jero). We spent the weekend teaching and showing off our abilities, finding new players, and stoking out the immediate vicinity of shops and hangouts near the spot, which is clutch. There is an epic park out front wrapping vancouver’s skyline around you, where endless sessions took place. Alex and Kristin’s first meet-and-greet at the shop went well, and we had random passerbys coming in to learn their first big cups and spikes well into the night. All of the regulars hung out and played a little head to head game organized by Alex. I took down Sweets in the first round with a debatably hand-touched lunar-tre, (it grazed my hand in the air during the flip, not the catch…) and went on to beat Tamotsu in the semis and had a heated battle with Roddama in the finals that he should have taken. It was only fitting that I played the whole battle on a Terra kendama, the hand-turned Mun-Ebony ken that was one of Alex’s first turns of ebony wood, (he had made it for me two years earlier and presented it to me finished at the BiS pre-party on Gus’s porch, I’ll never forget seeing it for the first time…) paired with a 2013 Alex Smith Cherry tama… The thing was a tank, but consistent. And anyway I felt the dama-gods would reward me for playing a Smith-turned piece at his own event.
Alex in front of the Terra collection, free for all to jam with.
The crew stayed one more day to hang out and film in the city, with no agenda, and I headed back to LA with a few new tricks up my sleeve and a lot of scheming for the future. It’s safe to say I learned sara-grip downspike juggle downspike thanks to Wyatt’s inspiration and Kristian’s practice side-support. My tama was destroyed after that weekend. I’d like to thank all of the companies and supporters that made Battle in Seattle 3 happen. I’d like to thank everyone that put in work and filmed / supported until 5am so that Mario Bros 2 could happen. (Stodd, Caleb Jeffries, Alyjah Onishi, Wyatt, Nick Bedmonds, and the security guards and cops for keeping us motivated) BiS will always have a special place in my heart, as I’ve seen it evolve firsthand over the past three years, and hope to continue it into the future
Such a prime day out in Mt. Pleasant
Words By Colin Sander