McGazza’s incandescent spirit shone as bright as the sun yesterday when a perfectly cloudless sky and no wind greeted the thousands of bike fans who had gathered at the Crankworx Gravity Park to watch an emotional and monumental slopestyle tribute to the late, great man. One of the biggest crowds ever seen at an action sports event on NZ soil were treated to an historic showdown.
Hot sunny skies and not a breath of wind set the stage for an emotional shred train comprised of Kelly’s friends and fellow riders who had travelled from far and wide to honour a mentor, role model and friend. Kelly was both designer and builder of the Rotorua Slopestyle course, and it was only fitting that Tom Hey, build partner and close friend, was the leader of the 18 man train that absolutely sent it in front of a roaring crowd and lit the jump line alight. Tom reflected that a train like that was the best way they could think of honouring a guy who’s life could best be described as a “party on bikes.”
Backflip can in memory of a legend. Photo: Quentin Kenning
Do a front flip and a backflip cancel each other out to become a straight air? Photo: Quentin Kenning
Two of McGazza’s best mates from Queenstown Tom Hey (left) and Reon Boe. Photo: Quentin Kenning
After a moment of silence and reflection, the Crankworx Rotorua Slopestyle in Memory of McGazza proceeded to rewrite the book on slopestyle competition. In the end it came down to a battle between clinical precision and game-changing progression, with Semenuk being given the nod by the judges for his perfectly executed run by the narrowest of margins over Nicholi Rogatkin and the now infamous “Twister” that capped off his mind-bendingly technical run. The 2nd ever landed 1080 sent the crowd to their feet and blew up the internets, but despite riding away with a popped tire, the slightly underrotated landing was enough to keep Rogatkin from the top spot.
“One guy had absolutely perfect execution, but one had some trick difficulty—being Rogatkin—with a little inconsistency. Tough, tough fight between the judges, between first and second, but once it came down to it, trick for trick, it was Semenuk,” said Paul Rak, head judge.
Rogatkin throws the horns after making slopestyle history. Photo: Quentin Kenning
Frothing winners: Photo: Quentin Kenning
It was a monumental showdown and the punters filtered back out through the event village sunburned and happy. Wyn Masters decided that the floors of the Mons tent needed some polishing and indoor burnouts on Mr Scoopy the scooter were going down as competitors starting filing through and the afterparty pre-prep started to kick into gear. Chief Frother and Mons CEO Hamish Acland couldn’t let an empty pump-track go to waste, and made the call that the first ever Unofficial Mons Royale Pedaltrack Challenge was in order. The best we could scrape together at that hour was Conor Macfarlane’s DJ bike, a Trek 29er, a Scott Fattie plus bike, and 2 helmets. Matchups were uneven at best and downright comical at worst. A small and confused crowd gathered to watch the bunch of giggling idiots cheering each other on, and after multiple spills interspersed with lukewarm thrills Conor Macfarlane emerged as the obvious winner.
Head of Brand & Marketing and Chief Bike Frother Rich Birkby in the start gate. Photo: Quentin Kenning
Rich and Graphic Designer Koen Arbow go elbow to elbow. Photo: Quentin Kenning
CEO Hamish Acland defends his line. Photo: Quentin Kenning
Part-Time Blogger and Instagram double-tapper Tori Beattie with eyes on the (nonexistant) prize. Photo: Quentin Kenning
Aus/NZ Sales Rep Tom Brownlee gets distracted mid-race. Photo: Quentin Kenning
The Deep Summer Photo challenge slideshows were presented to the core crew who had stayed on to watch and hours after the sun had dipped the last cars filtered out of the carpark.
It was a day of celebration of biking and all things fun and a reinforcement of what a strong community the biking world is and what a special event Crankworx has become for New Zealand. No other action sport would pull a crowd that big to an event on NZ soil and it is awesome to see what the future will bring.