Last weekend in Sin City an epic collision of masters occurred at the 2015 Las Vegas Footbag Jam. Hosted by World Champion Evan Gatesman, the event was held on UNLV campus under a warm 75 degrees sun. Top players such as multi-time US Open Champion Jim Penske, veteran legend Lon Smith, alien shredder Nick Landes, past US Champion Ken Somolinos, current US Champion Brian Sherrill, the Silencer himself Gatesman, as well as many others congregated to test their skills and will power in the tournament’s premiere event, the Circle competition.
For those who are unaware of what Circle is, imagine a break dancing competition (or break off) where competitors go head to head trying to outdo one another to be crowned champion (all of which with a footbag of course). Each player on their turn attempts to lay down their mastery of shred to gain the most points over their opponents. The event is broken up into two rounds; the first being a display of variety of tricks and concepts, the second round being focused on density of shred (how many hard tricks can be put together in a combo essentially). The footbag goes around the circle three times per round, in the end the judges must decide who won each round and ideally the player that displayed the greatest variety and density takes the top prize. There are usually four players per pool with either one or two advancing on until it comes down to the four best/remaining shredders battling it out in one final circle. This year expectations were high as many of the top shredders had not played together in a single setting as this in some time. There was much speculation on who would make it to finals and furthermore be crowned the champ. Unfortunately two top players were suffering from injuries that ultimately kept them from competing, heal up well Ceiling Fan and Brian Bear! I look forward to seeing these guys in action again soon. With Somolinos and Sherrill not competing, Circle finals came down to the four players everyone expected to see; Evan Gatesman, Jim Penske, Lon Smith, and Nick Landes. Each player has a vastly different style than the next; Evan Gatesman has a strong/balanced toe and cross body game with emphasis on newer concepts and links, Nick Landes is greatly focused on form and displays a calm/Zen-like style, powerhouse Jim Penske brings a heavy technical/numbers game with lightning fast speed and agility, and long time player Lon Smith continues to display endless creativity and energy, weaving spins and ducks with high ADD technical combinations and style.
Everyone opened strong in the variety round, as expected style master Lon Smith threw his usual hyper dynamic combos with massive variety including all manner of ducking/spinning/reverse whirling moves and flyers in his typical controlled-out-of-control game. Landes as well portrayed a solid variety of tricks and concepts with a great mastery of control and grace. Jim and Evan by nature mixed various concepts with their traditional technical game. In the end without a great deal of surprise Lon Smith would take the variety round. Even though he hasn’t been competing in recent years it’s simply tough to outshine what many people consider the styliest shredder of all time in that category.
After a short break of the judges confirming their scores it was time for the density round. Unsurprisingly Speed Racer (Jim Penske) bombed down in this category, mixing tripless and fearless combos like butter and was the only player to hit a four dex move (Nemesis), to Superfly no less. Landes also stuck some strong combos but was not able to convert every turn to his usual gold. Despite some super nasty combos Gatesman ultimately had a few shorter runs that set him back as well. Lon Smith (who was not favored to take the density round) once again exceeded expectations and delivered consistently high ADD runs every turn. In fact, Lon never once had a bad run the entire Circle finals, his lowest contact combination still ranged around 20 moves with good quality. When the dust settled the great Lon Smith once again cemented his legendary status as he took the top prize over his younger competitors. In second place was Jim Penske who crushed almost every run, followed by Evan who’s expected heinous combos gave him the edge over Nick Landes who took fourth. All in all it was an epic showdown between four masters of their game, each player in impressive top form.
If there’s a lesson to be taken away from this event it’s that one should never count out a player such as Lon Smith. He’s like the guru on the mountain (hills of Grass Valley), he’s not seen much but when he does descend back down he reminds everyone what a titan he still is. Ten years from now I expect about the same. Above of course you can see the full Circle finals videos, part 1 is Variety, part 2 is Density. You’ll notice standing in the background watching is OG legend and two time singles World Champion Rick Reese. I don’t think he was disappointed with what he witnessed. Your legacy lives on Rippin!
I’ll try to upload more tournament footage as time allows, there was also Request Competition (Lon Smith 1st place) and Battle, a new Sick 3 styled event in which Evan Gatesman won.