There was a time after the AFA and Ramp-Ateria, before A.S.S., STAFF, Incline, Hackettstown, Shields, public ramp parks and all the new school stuff when BMX freestyle was not in the best of health, it needed someone who had the right idea at the right time…that man was Steve Wisbeski….”Hippie” as we know him now. His Jump For Joy kontest series revitalized the local NJ scene and established a new set of pros and media makers. This is just a little take on what went down at the 16th Jump For Joy, the 15 year reunion. (for all of BMXNJ’s web shots from the weekend click on this har link son . More stuff in BMXNJ Magazine ish 2,this summer.)
Wow. Where do you start with something like this. I mean I’ve been covering events in NJ for this website and magazine for 5 years now and I’ve been to quite a few. This time however was a bit different. This was much like that line from John Belushi in The Blues Brothers where Jake gets the epiphany in church to “get the band back together” to accomplish their mission. Jump For Joy ended its run at Steve’s home in South Bound Brook in 1997, the same year that I would begin to drift from BMX. Jump For Joy drifted to a few venues over the years, from A.S.S. to Hackettstown always attracting good times and crazy riding. There was something missing though. That down home feel, the underground, this is something that “only riders” would understand sensation. It needed it’s roots back.
Well over the years in SBB, Steve had actually turned the town around from pushing for him to shut down his ramps to embracing his now not completely unorthodox way of keeping kids off the streets and involved in something that can keep them active and healthy, working on and riding the ramp in his yard. Only difference is now there was no longer just a jump box at 122 Edgewood Terrace, there was a bike park. A bike park with a small set of trails for the young guns to play on. This was the place we dreamed of as kids. A place to have fun on our BMX bikes. Steve and his crew with head builder McSkinny and long time friend Dave made childhood impossibility possible. This spring, The Compound at Hippie Steve’s, came to life. Steve realized that now was the time to “get the band back together.
From the initial photos that Steve sent me, to the interview that I did with him this past spring, it was apparent that something was happening that was different this time. Steve’s Jump For Joy was evolving into an event that hadn’t been seen before. 2 days of BMX, a relaxed atmosphere, contests that were PICKED by the riders, everything done by and for the riders in a riders backyard. The riders backyard that helped to kick start BMX back into gear in the late 90’s, Steve Wisbeski. The plan was made and Hippie dubbed #16, The Family Reunion. He couldn’t have picked a better name.
Some of the biggest names in NJ BMX showed up to show respect to a guy who made huge strides in the BMX scene during it’s lean years and kept the spark kicking. Just wandering around were local legends, Grimaldo Duran, Brad Gethard, Van Homan, Frank Lam (who has 872 shots from the day right here .), Dave Carter, Chris Hall, Mike Wilson, Rodney Morweiser, Scott Demarco, Rob Dolecki and countless others. New guys like “Big Daddy” Pat McLaughlin, Gary Nillson, Mike Brennan, Sonny, Postell, Herbison, too many to name. The “reunion” is what it truly was. Saturday was spent with Steve Crandall and the FBM team coming down and ripping up the Compound. Steve has a bunch of shots from the day right on here . He even got a shot of yours truly doing an OS squeeker. He was good enough to introduce himself to me, “My name is Steve by the way”, I sorta laughed and smile and told him, “I know who you are man, I remember when you were a kid selling t-shirts out of your car!”….Crandall’s reply? “I still do”. (This from a guy who runs one of the biggest BMX companies in this era.) Humble to the end. Having Crandall take my pic in ’10 would have been like having Haro draw a pic of me in ’84.
As I guess you can tell by now, the weekend was set up to be, in a word. Epic.
Saturday was an all day party. 3 bands played through the entire day with the clean up act being Chainsaw Trio who brought down the ramps. Food, beverage? Way more than you can imagine. Hell, Steve has so many bros that the local Chinese restaurant brought over a big dish for the hungry BMX troops. The day was out of hand. Sean Ricany was all over the park with fast lines. He was also able to put down his vader no-hander on the 9′ 1/4. Dean Watson was his usual flowey self lofting mellow airs while hitting the comedy button to keep the crowd entertained. Shreadhead, Ed Herbison, had his unique style of no brakes and no hands out on the compound and was keeping the intoxicated spectators happy and yelling all day long. Brad Gethard came up from The Factory in Toms River to throw down and show the younguns how the master builder of Area 51 gets busy. Fat 360’s and high…no HIGH airs on the quarter were his all day long. Mike Kuhn finally took 5 from busting out the camera equipment to put down some smooth moves on the freshly painted transitions. The turquoise scoot he was busting loose on was super reminiscent of the old school rides of the bygone days. Van Homan slipped in for some fat airs on the same ramp that he ripped apart for the first time 15 years ago. BIG no foot can cans and snarky one handed table transfers showed all the locals were Van’s roots lay.Little Nick…who’s now big Nick was blasting, Mike Almodavar killed it. All the guys who have been around Steve and his comps were out and just having a good time riding, eating, drinking and reminiscing. Geoff Mead was out there giving the Chewbacca chant for all the craziness that was going on as well as busting his own version of lunacy with decade airs and manuals to decades.
The FBM crew with main head boss man, Steve Crandall dropped into Hippie’s pad to use…the facilities. Crandall got some great shots of everyone and has ’em posted up on leastmost.com . FBM rolled in Friday evening with their main biodiesel machine and slept the night away at the land of Hippiness.
Well into the early evening, the idea of a am jam was abandoned in favor of a highest jump contest. Now normally in the 80’s we would have just brought out about 15 tires and kept stacking till someone…had to be carried off but Steve decided we should roll a little more technical and built a whole 8′ tall set of height poles with a rod (no not that Rod) to judge the height. I guess at this point I should mention that Pat Laughling, Big Daddy was in the house all day long doing it for the kids, ladies and his sponsor, OS BMX company and Todd Lyon’s pride, SE Bikes. He was taking the course apart 2×4 by 2×4. When the time came for the high air comp, he spent half the comp tossing out 360’s and whips over heights that some of the other dudes were just making. B.D. eventually put everyone else to bed in the height department. That wasn’t enough for Dadayous Biggus and he told ’em to put the pole all the way on top. 98″. 3 tries later and he had shown that 15 year old jump box who was deh man and as usual, it was Big Daddy. Crandall kept the crowd laughing with enough jokes and non-sequiturs to earn him a gig appearing at the Laugh Factory. The locals loved it and after the high pole was made Pat’s bitch, everyone kicked back to go over the day’s nuttiness. Sunday was to be a pro-am jam and best rail trick session along with continuing the already gnarly BBQ session. Unfortunately FBM and Big Daddy along with most of the TR locals would not be back but more guys would be coming that would keep the festivities rocking.
Skavenger’s Mike Brennan rolled in to have a session on the big rail that would be bolted to the jump box later in the day. Most of the Efinger’s team showed up. Dean Watson, Eric Marion were in the house. Mid school legend Grimaldo Duran was there with his son. Anthony Villani, Andre Postell, there was a lot of BMX tricking going on. Even OM Scott Demarco returned on Sunday and busted out a few times with a “all the lip tricks that an old dude can do” session. It was a damn good time.
The rail session went down with tons of crazy stuff. Grimaldo was jumping over to double peg, Mike was Lu-E grinding it. The crowd was eating up the session. It came down though to two guys. Gary Nillson and Mike Brennan. Gary was going super tech with a transfer to fufanu jumping over to the rail and double pegging down it, while Mike was throwing down the burliness by coming at the rail backwards from the wall ride, hopping up and toothpicking to 180 off. It took a shiteload of tries from both of these guys to get the tricks pulled but the job eventually got done and the judges gave it to Mike B with Gary in second. It was almost too much watching those guys totally destroy that rail.
By the time it rolled around to the early evening and the park comp got going the guys were totally in control of the course and it was showing. All 12 dudes were ready to throw down and get busy. Postell, Gallop, Osso, Nillson, Watson, Villani, Brasil, Meade, Spooner, “Bowlavitch”, Herbison and Kuhn were the lucky rippers who would get down for the late evening spectators at Hippie’s Compound. I’d get into the particulars but that will be left for issue 2 of BMXNJ Magazine. Right here though let’s just say that Nillson made GT happy, Andre was flipping out, Watson was flowing like water, Meade took a decade to complete his run, “Bowlavitch” was smoking, Herbison was clapping for everyone, Gallop whipped the course, Osso made the crowd go oh woa!, Villani gave the ramp some lip, Brasil was everywhere, Spooner spun and Kuhn was flashing…without a camera. The crowd loved it, the guys all had their own style and showed just what the f*** FREESTYLE BMX is all about…doing your own thing. When it was all over ’twas Gary Nillson that took home the most swag, with Andre and Dean capturing their fare share of the booty as well, not to mention the prizes that Hip gave out… Yea…it was that kind of a good time.
For me personally, it was truly sort of a turnaround moment for me back in the BMX world. When Jump For Joy left Steve’s house in 1997, for all intents and purposes, so did I. A lot of the kids I saw there in 1996 and 1997 went on to become huge names in BMX, Byrnes, Van Homan, Wizmerski, Sinisi, Hoernig, Grimaldo, Rodriguez, Dolecki. It was truly amazing to see all these guys in one place, together again, just to have a good time. The highlight of the whole weekend for me had to be when Steve grabbed me and hugged the s**t out of me and Rob Dolecki at the same time and thanked us for everything we did for him. To think that Steve held me in as high regard as a legend like Dolecki, the editor of DIG BMX Magazine (check out Rob’s flipbook he made of JFJ 16 here .) really made me realize how amazing this BMX thing is.
BMX freestyle…it’s not all about egos and how bad ass you think you are, it’s about the friends you make over the years, and the good times you have. The memories of crazy moments, triumphs, defeats, and your bro’s good times and bad times as well. It’s sharing that bond of just going down the street and seeing a curb and blasting a foot off of it, seeing another dude on a BMX bike and knowing right off that you can talk to and hang with this person ’cause they have that same passion you do. That’s what Jump For Joy is really all about. That’s why it had to come back to 122 Edgewood Terrace in South Bound Brook, NJ. It was time to bring everyone who brought BMX to this level in NJ together and get us all to kick back with each other, party, laugh and say…what’s next.
‘course we all know what’s next, the same thing that is always next in BMX…progression. I have a feeling that Hippie Steve and Jump For Joy will always be at the forefront of that, along with his merry band of BMX cohorts.
One thing is for sure, I will be at the next Hippie Steve event…hope to see you there.
Brett “brittles” Middaugh and BMXNJ