Back in October 2014 Freestyle Now squad members Shaun Jarvis, Jason Parker and Paul Chamberlain traveled to Japan to compete in Flatark, one of the stops in the flatland world series of contests. The three riders travelled there with a few other Australian riders for the contest and most importantly good times. Spending a week in Japan the group visited Osaka, Kobe (the contest city) and Kyoto. Riding every day, sightseeing, experiencing new culture and making new friends. The three squad members sent in a few words about their travel experience read on and be inspired to venture outside of your city. This year Shaun Jarvis and Paul Chamberlain are again venturing off to Kobe to once again experience all things Flatark
Left to right Paul Chamberlain, Shaun Jarvis and Jason Parker at the Flatark contest site in Kobe Japan
Shaun Jarvis – I had never been out of Australia before, so I was a bit nervous on what to expect. I knew it would be a bit of a culture shock. So much happened over the ten days it’s so hard to tell everything. It was an experience I’m so glad to have been on. Meeting new people and seeing new things is what inspires me to travel. Here are some of the experiences that were the highlights of the trip.
I travelled with Jason from Perth and Paul said he would meet us at Osaka airport, well no Paul there to meet us, so only armed with the accommodation address and not able to really communicate with anyone due to language barrier it was a late night train mission to get to our accommodation. Two trains later, we finally get close and exit the train station to the street, build our bikes and ride towards were we think we need to go. Counting the streets on the map as we pass them, a left turn, another can you help us, we finally get to our accommodation about 11:30pm to see Paul standing out the front. A little surreal. After travelling for 18 hours I just wanted to shower and sleep. Not as easy as you would think. Paul had taken care of the accommodation and we were staying in a traditional Japanese capsule hotel. So the format to get to your bed was as follows, Take shoes off, take to counter, get your shoe locker key, put shoes in locker, go back to counter give shoe locker key back, get clothing locker key which is also bed number, take gear to locker, change out of cloths into sleeping cloths. To shower you headed down stairs to the bath house, take off cloths and put everything into bath locker take key with you on wrist, yeah it was a confusing system. Anyway so first night was a team bonding experience with Paul, Jason and myself experiencing the traditional Japanese bath house, being naked together with a bunch of other guest all bathing and showering, something I never thought I would be doing when I stepped on the plane in Perth.
The uniforms the people wear are awesome, it’s like a privilege, or to show the importance of their job, train drivers, nurses, police, security, rubbish men, there seemed to be a uniform for any job. It was great to see and I thought it seemed a very respectable thing. We were riding late at night in Kyoto and went down a street then down a side ally where there were these workers in well dressed in uniforms and helmets, I did not know what they were doing, pushing wheel borrows of bags, and turns out they were the rubbish men collecting the trash, in their uniforms.
The contest was awesome, so many flatlanders of all ages. In the expert class (the class I was in) there were 3 groups, a total of 45 riders, many from Japan and some from around the world. I was lucky enough to be in the first group so I got my run over with early. The call was up for practice/warm up, something like 15 riders all trying to roll on the special built stage for the contest, it was daunting, and I found that I had to not be so polite and force my way out on the floor as I was struggling to get a roll in. In the end I started to feel comfortable riding on the stage, my name was called for my turn, I was so nervous, my first international competition. Hundreds of people watching. Most of the time at the DownUnderGround flatland contests it’s mainly just riders that I know. I had a run planned out, we had a minute and a half to throw down, and I stumbled a bit at the start but then got my groove on and had a flawless last half of the run. I was pumped, as I knew that I rode my best. The best part was a lot of the other Japanese riders came up and were giving me props. I was more stoked on the mutual respect from the riders than the contest run I had just done. In the end I placed 35th out of 45 riders.
On our last night in Japan we were in Osaka. We were heading out to go ride with the locals at the university. It was a fair long ride from where we were staying. Being vegan and gluten free in Japan is a challenge and on this night we were riding to get food on the way to the riding spot. During my stay I found it hard to eat with the others as most of the eateries did not have vegan and gluten free food so it was constant visits to the convenience store to get rice, cabbage and bananas. This is what I mainly ate, and lost 2kg while in Japan. On this the last night my energy levels were low as I had not had much to eat so I was pumped to get to the eatery for a meal. To say I was greatly disappointed when we arrived to again find that they did not cater for my diet. So to not get lost I just road straight up the same street, taking a left or right turn could spell disaster by getting lost, all the streets look the same. So after a 5 minute ride I found a supermarket, yes a score. I walked out of there with a great selection of fruits and raw vegetables. Sitting on the streets of Osaka I had a feast. By the time a meet back up with the other riders and headed to the university to ride I was full of energy, this was a great example of food equals energy. When we got to the riding spot everyone had a bit of a ride and then slowly they just started talking and sitting around saying how cold they were, rugged up in big hoodies. I on the other had just wanted to ride and ride I did. One of the best sessions I had in Japan, so good I ended up going shirtless and still sweating hard. The others could not believe it, here I was riding shirtless while they are all just standing around shivering in the cold.
Shaun Jarvis on the last night of riding on the trip in Osaka, tomahawk.
Paul Chamberlain – What can I say about it. Even though my life is here I’m always a little bit sad to leave and a little bit too excited to set off. Whatever you do there, it’s a rewarding experience because it’s always so different from here. There are lots of great flatlanders there too. You can get a year’s motivation in just a few minutes sometimes. Japan. I’m really proud of all the boys for making the effort to attend. We’re all over 30 and have plenty going on back in Oz so it was a really precious time to just roll together. We did three cities, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. The pics will tell some of our stories, and the rest, well you can come with us next year!
Paul Chamberlain at the Osaka University on one of the late night riding sessions that went down.
Jason Parker – Where to start ? Arrived at Perth International airport at 3.00am meet Mr Jarvis. Checked in on Singapore airlines went to the lounge and had a killer breakfast. When we arrived at Singapore we checked out the Changi airport we caught a train within the complex to our next terminal and had lunch at another lounge. After hours of sleep and movies we made it to Japan. We got through custom’s hit Macas and looked for Paul Cee. Now it was like 11.30pm no Paul. So we decided to catch the train headed for Namba. We got our tickets and hauled ourselves on to the train. After 1.5hrs we got to Namba station Osaka. Then the stations were closing up for the night. Shaun and i thought sick “were going street riding”!!. We got out on the streets and built our steads up. Now we headed for our accom. Our first roll on the streets of Japan. Flatark here we come ! Sure we had no idea were to go but as bicycle freestylers this is our way of life. Any rider knows this is part of the adventure. So after 15 min we were lost. Lol but hey who cares. We found some dudes that told us we were close but didn’t know where we actually were staying. Then we headed down some more streets and Shaun says “what’s that joint” ?. Well the flatland gods were leading us straight to our main man “Beefy”. Yes we found Paul Cee. Standing in the door of “what’s that place”. Sweet 2.30am just about 24 hrs after leaving Perth we can now Party. Lol Things are starting out different to Oz.
Our bikes have to be locked up outside under a subway like 5 min from where we are staying. Our beds are “capsules” and to top it off no showers but good ol bath fun ;-). Welcome to Japan. So after a great sleep i run into a ol mate Ron who i didn’t actually recognize until the aussie accent came out. Wow what a shock well after checking star bucks talking samurai swords and seeing Osaka castle we had our first session. I was pumped i finally pulled my link for the first time since creating it in my head in August. Just need to do it on the Sunday. So we had all the crew Shaun, Paul, Shane, Chris, Matt, Ronnie and Luke. We went and had Saki with some amazing Japanese food and beer. Day 3 was heading to Kobe so we grabbed another train and 1.5hrs later we arrived. Paul led the way we got our next capsules sorted and went down to check the Flatark comp. Well wow wow wow never seen so many flatland bikes ever! And the Japanese kids were just incredible. I felt someone tap my shoulder I turned and Ag was standing behind me. He is a local Japanese legend who travels the world living and riding flatland. I was so Stoked to see him after getting to ride with him in Sydney a few years earlier. We had a brief session with the crew Bobby, Terry, Ryan, Vicki, Dez and a few others. Then it was open class Qualifiers so we headed to watch Beefy go and represent. The level of riding blew my mind the consistency was just like watching a YouTube edit. These guys meant business lol.
After the Qualifiers we got ready to head to the demo and first party of Flatark. A few more beers and some cool stories from the riders at the event then the moment everyone was waiting for to see the Flatark ark judges do this demo. They got crazy for the crowed and rode with style and grace like only all that experience of a lifelong flat rider has. Old and new school all in one. Then we headed home so we could get some r and r before the 8.00am sign up of the expert class. So the day had come feeling nervous and excited we all head back to sign up. They had 3 groups in expert Shaun group 1 Chris and myself group 2 and Matt group 3. Well me and Chris lucked out probably with the easier group. Everyone rode so well and gave it their all. The experience of the comp was the most nervous I have ever felt ever on my bike. But anyone who wants to see the best flatland in real life needs to go to Flatark as its insane level of Flatland for competition. The open class have to battle for the top 12. This is the most grueling and craziest way for a Flatland comp as it’s awesome for the crowed watching but for the riders it’s more than riding one or two sick runs. It’s a battle of the fittest and that really makes this comp challenging mentally and physically for the rider. So after realizing I had smoke coming out of my head and pinching myself I saw the podium results and then typical rider fashion P A R T Y. We got to go on this boat and hang with everyone from the comp.
It was EPIC ! Once the boat ride ended we rode the streets of Kobe and made our way to a night club hanging with everyone again. Then we got back to the capsules about 4.00am. Our accom run out at 10am so we then headed to the train station at Kobe and I departed the crew for the trip home. Was good fun travelling with no camera or phone or any electronics not even a map. Yes I did make it back home somehow. Lol. Flatark is a must for anyone who loves Flatland.
Jason Parker only went to Japan for a few days but enjoyed it so much, cross footed McCircles at Sakuranomiya. Osaka.
More photos from their epic trip can be found on Shaun’s Facebook page here
The below video is the footage from the contest runs that Paul, Shaun and Jason did at the 2014 FlatArk contest in Kobe Japan.