New England Flatland

A Brief History of New England Flatland

by Kieran Chapman

In The Beginning... (mid-80s)

When I started riding in 1984, the group of riders in our town (and I imagine in most towns) rode quite a bit. It wasn't just flatland; we jumped, rode ramps (small quarterpipes and wedge ramps) and "street", even raced. There weren't the hard lines drawn between flatlanders, dirt jumpers and ramp riders like there are today. Most contests were a mix back then: you rode flatland and ramps during your run.

King Of The Flatland: The Strong Years (1987-1991)

Chris Lashua
Chris Lashua at an early KOF
(view full image)
The New England scene really started coming together in 1987 with the start of the King of the Flatland (KOF) series. These contests, organized by the Cote family, were held at New Hampshire College in Manchester, NH. They were held several times over the course of the year — almost every month at the peak — and the indoor gym had the best floor for riding: it was made of rubberized-like compound that didn't slip. It was completely flat and dust-free.

It was at these contests that the New England flatland scene grew. Every month you'd get together with everyone from around New England — and there were a lot of flatland riders back then. At one KOF contest, I remember over 40 guys entered the 14-15 Intermediate class alone!

Chris Lashua
Adam Murphy at a later KOF (view full image)

The comps were always fun while being competitive. They helped push the level of riding in the northeast very high. Some of the more well-known flatlanders to come out of New England included Chris Lashua, Darren Pelio, Glen Gollrad, Rich Upjohn, Adam Murphy, Steve Kiander, and Gregg Macomber. And while these riders occasionally found themselves in the pages of Freestylin' and GO, the northeast was pretty much invisible as far as BMX magazines went. By looking at the magazines, you wouldn't know that there was a thriving scene here.

As a result, the northeast enjoyed quite a strong underground scene. There were countless `zines being published on a regular (sometimes monthly) basis, including Radazine (later Wire, now eWire), Trick, Hype, GPF, Welfare, and many others. Inspired by the first Dorkin' in York videos, many New England-based riding videos were produced by guys like Sean Maher, Rich Slezak and Kieran Chapman.

The King of Flatland series continued over the years, peaking in 1988-1990. In the early 90's, the downturn of freestyle's popularity starting showing. People stopped riding, not a whole lot of new guys were starting. The KOF contests moved to an outdoor location, and eventually dwindled down to a few over the summer.

Brian Chapman
Brian Chapman in Pepperell, 1995
(view full image)

Riding Dies: The Quiet Years (1992-1997)

When riding's popularity took a nosedive, it affected riders everywhere. New England was no different. There were a lot fewer riders. `Zines disappeared. Contests were nonexistent. There wasn't anything major to tie the scene together like the KOF contests did.

But that's not to say the scene was dead. There were still some `zines around (though not printed as often as before), and the occasional New England video was released — Sean Maher, David Muggleston and Jared Souney produced several issues of Low Fat videozine. Mark Florek and Kieran also released a video during this time. Jesse Hicks and Muggleston helped the contest scene by holding small contests in Pepperell, MA. But overall the flatland scene in New England was pretty quiet.

Rebirth: Today (1998-2005)

Which brings us to the recent past/present. Over the past couple years, riding has enjoyed a growth in popularity, as ESPN and other companies get involved in our "extreme sport". Flatland, as usual, sort of gets the shaft, which has helped spawn a grassroots flatland community of videos and websites — including this one.

On the contest front, until its untimely demise Impact skatepark contests continued to include flatland (thanks in part to organizers like Geoff Carlton). And now Chris Poulos has been working hard over the past couple years to bring flatland contests back to New England.

Today, while dirt, street and ramp riders are quite numerous, the New England flatland scene is still pretty small. A good amount of the riders are from the KOF days who have not stopped riding all these years. Some are "old" (late 20s-early 30s) and not as competitive as before — a lot of us are just riding for fun. But now there are new riders, which is encouraging — especially these days when flatland has progressed to such a level as to frighten off many riders. Riders like Gabe Kadmiri and Brian Chapman continue to progress and inspire future flatlanders in the northeast.

(Unfortunately, I stopped updating this site in 2005...but flatland in New England goes on!)

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