At the start of their third road trip, the Unplanned America boys - Gonzo, Nick and Parv – dive headfirst into two thriving, tightknit sporting communities. First stop is Las Vegas for the drunken antics of Beer Pong and then the remote Appalachian Mountains of Ohio to visit Skatopia, a settlement of skater anarchists.
Here a few things we learnt…
Turns out there actually is a World Series of Beer Pong.
Beer Pong isn’t just the domain of wasted American college kids. Last year at the 10th annual championship, 600 young men descended upon Las Vegas in an attempt to drink and pong their way to glory. And as our guides found out, it’s a fiercely fought competition between the 160 teams. There’s a lot of drunken intimidation, chest-bumping and, surprisingly, only the odd arrest in a contest that sees the winners pocket $50,000.
Beer Pong isn’t just drunken table tennis. It’s a way of life.
Some play it multiple times a week and treat it as a genuine sport. Lasting friendships have been made bonding over it, with one contestant estimating he’s made 200 friends. According to founder and CEO Billy Gaines the championship isn’t currently profitable, more a labour of love run by dedicated volunteers, a community fuelled by passion (and beer) as reflected in the tears of emotion he sheds during his pre-final speech.
All skaters do go to Heaven.
In fact, it’s called Skatopia and it sits on 88 hectares of farmland in the bucolic Appalachian Mountains of Ohio. A suitably grungy settlement of anarchist skaters founded by “unhinged skate Svengali” Brewce Martin 20 years ago, it has five world-class skate bowls and ramps and The Pink Palace is the stage of a great deal of debauchery. At Brewce’s birthday party, antics include buttock branding and gun play.
There’s more to these anarchists than mayhem and partying.
Brewce’s girlfriend Jill casually admits that people have been known to “blow parts of their legs off” at Skatopia, but when the boys visit (at least during daylight) there’s an unexpectedly placid vibe. It doesn’t appear to be the confronting, riotous place they’d been warned about, but a thriving community, a sanctuary from the world being maintained by a group of young skater volunteers.
Brewce’s son Brandon who now oversees Skatopia believes the term ‘anarchy’ - at least when it comes to the collective’s credo - has been misunderstood. It’s not about chaos and violence but self-sufficiency and breaking free of consumerism.
Sure, they’re anarchists – but they have rules, dammit.
A home for itinerant skater youth, Skatopia and its founder are well respected and everyone appears to enthusiastically play their part. As one resident puts it, “Freedom comes at a cost”, so there’s hard work that goes along with the play. In fact, there’s a status quo at Skatopia of peace and respect and if you breach it, you’re out on your ear.
Watch Unplanned America series 3 on Tuesdays at 9.20pm on SBS 2. And watch episodes after they air on SBS On Demand.