Photo courtesy of Dan Mathieu
JACKALOPE, an action sports event, made its inaugural appearance in Virginia Beach (following several years as a fixture in Canada). Premier athletes included skateboard pros Tony Hawk, Mitchie Brusko, Collin Graham, Reese Nelson, Tom Schaar, Elliot Sloan and Bucky Lasek, and others.
The festival, which was open to the public, included demonstrations and competitions by world-renowned skateboarders and boulderers, plus BASE jumpers leaping from atop the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront hotel. Additionally, there were competitions in skimboarding, freestyle motocross and beach volleyball featuring hundreds of athletes of all ages.
Sports Destination Management sat down with Micah Desforges, Event Producer, to learn more.
Sports Destination Management: This is the first time JACKALOPE has appeared in the USA. How long have you been planning to bring it here?
Micah Desforges: Well, to make a long story short, I have been looking for a city and a destination in the USA for multiple years. We wanted to bring it here sooner, but the pandemic made us reshuffle the cards.
I was at a trade show and met the folks from Virginia Beach and we started talking; it became obvious very quickly that this was a perfect fit. They host the East Coast Surfing Championship every year and they have a huge action sports community. And as a Canadian, I used to come here on vacation every year on vacation when I was a kid, so I knew about the area. It was really a matter of good luck and good timing.
SDM: What sports did you host?
Desforges: We were going for a beach vibe. We had beach volleyball running in 24 courts, skimboarding with more than 100 athletes, we built a concrete skateboard park at the beach for the weekend, along with a vert ramp where Tony Hawk did his demonstrations, skydiving and a BASE jumping demo from the Hilton Hotel. We had more than 50 vendors, as well as food trucks.
SDM: Was there an admission charge?
Desforges: No, everything was free. We wanted to celebrate the action sports culture and to have as many people there as possible. We started in Canada, then went to a ticketed model and now we’re going back to our roots as a free event. Our thought is that action sports need to be accessible because they bring people together. We represent the new Olympic sports: bouldering, skateboarding and surfing, all of which are now becoming much more mainstream.
SDM: Was there television coverage?
Desforges: Not of the full event. We’re focusing on the social media aspect of it; maybe down the road, we will work with television stations. At the moment, though, I don’t consider us a marketing company; we’re an event company that puts the emphasis on the guest experience, and that really changes the dynamics of where we put our dollars. We’ve found that on social media, we can celebrate action sports athletes from the past, the present and the future.
SDM: Who comes to the event?
Desforges: We have been around for 10 years and in that time, we’ve built in a following in Europe, Asia, North America – and a lot of other places. Americans have come to Canada for the event, and there are plenty of Canadians who want to come south to the beach.
SDM: What makes JACKALOPE unique among other action sports events?
Desforges: Something pretty unique about us is that we give access to the general public who want to actually try the sports, or to compete. They can buy a Shredder Pass for $20 and be able to skate or try out a real world class infrastructure. In other places where you go to watch pro sports, like tennis and baseball, you sit in the bleachers but you don’t get to try the sport and you don’t get to meet the athletes.
SDM: Have you ever had a random person show up, try something and get started as a rising pro in the sport?
Desforges: We have! We have our groms contest for kids who are 13 and under and this 10-year-old girl, Reese Nelson, showed up last year and absolutely stole the show. She became Tony Hawk’s protégé. And that’s what JACKALOPE is all about – it’s where legends are born.
SDM: You have a multi-year contract with Virginia Beach, but do you see the event expanding to other cities?
Desforges: We’ll be running what we call JACKALOPE Block Parties starting next year; those will be hosted across the USA to find the next up-and-coming stars in action sports. There is information on our website about those.
SDM: If a destination wants to contact you about hosting a JACKALOPE Block Party or other event, how do they get in touch with you?
Desforges: There is a contact section on our website and we encourage them to use that.