The Dew Tour is coming to Ocean City two months earlier than last year in hopes of catching bigger waves, and the town will be packed with extreme-sports fans paying homage to this shrine to surfing, skateboarding and BMX.
The five-day competition next weekend gives visitors a chance to see some of the most difficult tricks performed by the top professionals. It's all about their incredible balance, coordination and refusal to obey gravity. And about bringing throngs of fans to the shops and eateries at the beach: The 2012 event drew 90,000 visitors and organizers are hoping to top that number this year.
"In my opinion," said Chauncey Rhodes, owner of Chauncey's Surf Shop," being a skater or surfer, it's the coolest thing that's ever happened to this town."
The Dew Tour, which draws in about 4 million television viewers, is bringing out some big names again this year: Baltimore's Bucky Lasek, Pierre-Luc Gagnon, Pedro Barros and 13-year-old phenomenon Tom Schaar will be skating. For BMX events Scotty Cranmer, Kyle Baldock, Steven McCann and Jamie Bestwick will be competing.
When the Dew Tour arrives in Ocean City, organizers will put together a park on the beach in a matter of days. Where there used to be only sand there will be wood, metal and concrete, shaping courses for the world's top athletes.
The biggest change to the competition this year is the removal of the MegaRamp 2.0, a behemoth ramp and quarter-pipe designed to give athletes as much air as possible. Last year organizers faced some difficulties with the ramp, as strong winds forced them to postpone events. In its place this year will be skate and BMX street sessions on a best-trick course.
There will be a greater emphasis on local athletes this year, with the surf portion of the competition becoming an all-local Surf Shop Showdown. Eight athletes from five shops will compete for top honors. This is the third year the Dew Tour has come to Ocean City, and the impact on the local surfing community is tangible. Not only does the event draw business to local shops, it gets locals excited about skating and surfing.
"I think the Dew Tour wanted to pay respect to the local surf and skate community," event coordinator Brad Hoffman said, adding that they will try to create a party atmosphere, with a "sandy carpet" instead of a red carpet.
In addition to the surf competition, the Dew Tour invites local skateboarders in to skate the bowl one morning and also holds a competition on a mini-ramp for local shops.
"It's a great way for local skaters to do something they couldn't normally do, or ride a park that wouldn't normally be accessible," Lee Gerachis, owner of Malibu's Surf Shop said. The event gives Ocean City skaters an opportunity to shine.
"I think they see a reason for going out there and getting good at something. It kind of gives them a stage to show their skills," skater Lasek said.
Lasek, a Baltimore native and one of the top names in skateboarding, said he vacationed in Ocean City growing up and still visits. He said he is excited to be returning and looking forward to a warm welcome.
Last year Lasek showed his support for local skaters by wearing a shirt that said "Legalize Skateboarding," alluding to an Ocean City ordinance prohibiting skateboarding between April 1 and October 1 on all public streets. The ordinance has since been changed to allow skateboarding on the boardwalk from 2 a.m. to 11 a.m.
From a business perspective, the Dew Tour provides a big bump for shops in the area.
"If they're successful we're successful," Gerachis said.
Across the boardwalk from the Dew Tour Experience, Quiet Storm Surf Shop at North Division Street is expecting to be packed the weekend of the Dew Tour.
"It creates a lot of noise, a lot of traffic, but it's good for us because that's the kind of noise we sell to," manager L.P. Cyburt said.
Cyburt expects the week to be especially busy because the Dew Tour lines up with one of the last "senior weeks" of the season, when high school graduates visit the beach.
Last year the event was held in August and the water was so calm that athletes had to use the wake created by a boat to surf. Hoffman, the coordinator, hopes that moving the Dew Tour from August to June will mean better waves.
"The timing's a lot better because in June we typically get more swells," Hoffman said.
Surfers will still be towed into waves to get as much speed a possible so they can pull off the best tricks.
Other Dew Tour events will be similar to years past. Big events like the vert ramp (think half-pipe), bowl (think swimming pool) and BMX park are still in place. So is the Dew Tour's free admission, though premium passes are available for $80 during the weekend.
The concerts are still free, too. This year's lineup includes alt-rock group New Politics, electronic dance music group Krewella, DJ Stimulus and rapper Talib Kweli.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun