Zumiez Best Foot Forward national skateboarding finals will be held inside the Michigan Theatre Building
The 37 winning regional amateur skateboarders from the Zumiez summer-long Best Foot Forward tour will compete at a free event in Detroit on August 9. A skate park will be built inside the old Michigan Theatre Building (which now operates as a parking garage) for the occasion. Michigan’s representative in the competition is Dustin Blauvelt, who won the Detroit stop of the Best Foot Forward qualifying tour.
Co-organizers Garret Koehler and Derrick Dykas say that Zumiez reached out to them following the hype they built during the X Games bid. Though that bid was ultimately unsuccessful, it spawned a viral video that got many excited about Detroit and extreme sports and put Detroit on the map for a lot of people.
“A failure is when that you don’t put everything into it,” Dykas says of the original X Games bid. “I think we were offering a better product than Austin at the end of the day.”
Koehler agrees, and notes that the X Games bid mobilized young people around Detroit. “It wasn’t a failure because so much of the community rallied behind it. I met people who had moved back to Detroit from Boston, from Chicago and said that seeing the X Games bid, the way that it exploded nationally, got me interested in moving back to Detroit.”
Koehler is from Chicago and has backgrounds working in project management and for Groupon, and Dykas is from Howell and has backgrounds in skateboarding and construction. The organizers have been busy since the X Games project, creating the group ASSEMBLE to keep the momentum going and engage youth in other ways.
“[Zumiez Best Foot Forward Finals is] more in line with ASSEMBLE’s mission, and honestly, it’s a more interesting skate contest,” says Dykas. “These are kids that are potentially the future of skateboarding and just haven’t had their breakout moment. This is that moment for them. I think it’s cool that that moment also happens to occur in the same space that Henry Ford built the earliest versions of the automobile,” he says, referring to the fact that Henry Ford built his first car in a garage that was once located on the site.
“The space, the bands, the storyline, it’s all just more compelling to us,” Dykas says.
Dykas says the entire skate park at the Michigan Theatre Building has to be built — and dismantled — within a 48 hour window. The contest itself will occupy only a 12 hour window in the middle, and the organizers anticipate the event will draw thousands. The group hopes to be able to reclaim the structures used in the temporary skate park in a more permanent location elsewhere in the city, though they are still searching for a location. Detroit currently does not have a skate park.
Traditionally, the Best Foot Forward Tour is a breakout moment for its athletes. Its winners go on to become household names in skateboarding, and win sponsorships.
Koehler would like to see skateboard culture take off in Detroit, and hopes the event will help popularize it. “There’s a really low barrier of entry to get into skateboarding in terms of cost,” Koehler says.”It was and should be a great thing for inner city kids to do. And it shouldn’t be criminalized. It should just be kids having something to do in a city that doesn’t have many things for kids to do.”
“Skateboarding is bigger in Detroit than it’s ever been,” Dykas says. “Detroit is finally a destination. I’ve been skating since 1996. Back when I was growing up, you couldn’t pay teams enough money to bring them to Detroit on tour. Now it’s finally been exposed. This is really a dreamland for skateboarding, and people are just now realizing it.”
In addition to the skateboarding contest, the event will feature musical performances from Death and Trash Talk. The Michigan Theatre Building hasn’t hosted music since its days as the Michigan Palace in the ‘70s (if you don’t count that scene in 8 Mile, that is).
“We saw Sly and the Family Stone there. MC5, Iggy,” says Death’s Bobby Hackney. “It’s so real for us to be coming back to play there. It’s an honor. The shows we saw there were epic. We will give it the best we got because when you talk about the Michigan Palace, we get really sentimental about that because that brings back a lot of wonderful wonderful memories.”
The Zumiez Best Foot Forward finals will be held August 9, 2014 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Michigan Theatre Building; 220 Bagley St. Death and Trash Talk will perform. Admission is free. View the event on Facebook here.
There will also be an official Assemble after-party at 441 W. Canfield (warehouse behind Shinola) from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. There will be a half-pipe, an open skate jam (no bikes), performances by Black Noi$e, Rough Francis, and ZelooperZ. Admission is $5. View the Facebook event here.