Photos and article by Qin Chen
This year’s “Cold Man Jam” might’ve had a word with the weather gods. The annual event snuck in between two raining days, was blessed with sunshine in the bowl section of Chelsea Piers 62 this past Saturday. The longest running grassroots skateboarding event in New York City, thirteen years and counting, “Cold Man Jam” is also a skate event anomaly. No rules, no prizes, no winners, not even a boom box. But a tradition and a ritual nonetheless.
“We don’t like contests, we’re not good skaters, we’ll just have a jam. A non-test. For all dudes,”
This year, 30 or so skaters showed up, including Pier 62 regulars and out-of-towners such as Tommie Wagstaff, a Buffalo ripper, who took an 8-hour overnight bus trip to attend.
To understand its charm and draw, you have to consult JJ, the brainchild behind “Cold Man Jam”. He’s also the illustrator for the beaten-up skeleton dudes with crutches on the event flyers. It started thirteen years ago, when JJ went to Owl’s Head park to skate, but arrived to the Mountain Dew Tour already in progress. He decided to enter the contest just so he could skate the park. At this point he hit another wall, the maximum age to register at the time was 25. JJ needed to be five years younger.
JJ and his friends (Jeff, Anthony, and Big Chris) figured they could organize something for skaters alike. “We don’t like contests, we’re not good skaters, we’ll just have a jam. A non-test. For all dudes, ” JJ said, “We were total kooks. I’m a redneck from mountains of North Carolina, Jeff is a medical examiner from Jersey, Anthony a black muslin long-boarder[Anthony], and Big Chris is this correction officer from Ghana, who sometimes skate in his bike shorts.”
The event is nonjudgmental. It cares not about your age, apparel, coolness, or skill level. As long as you’re enjoying skateboarding and care to show up, you’re in. Started as a place for older skaters who were excluded by the scene, the event has now morphed into a welcoming universe that embrace all skaters, letting a free-form jam session speak for skateboarding itself. It’s simple, pure, and a lot of fun.