"The best part of this experience has been the look on people's faces as we pass by," says Benji Meyer, the brainchild behind Red Bull's massive floating skatepark, Mississippi Grind
. "Everyone just slows down and stares. You can just imagine their minds trying to make sense of what they're seeing. 'What the hell is that?? People skateboarding down the Mississippi?!"
Meyer, a 35-year-old filmmaker from Minnesota, came up with the idea of sending a floating skatepark down the river a few years back. "We were making a skate film in Minneapolis
, and in one of the scene we had this homemade, floating ramp in the Mississippi River. Somebody asked, 'So, what's the next project?' And I jokingly said we'd build a skatepark on a barge and float it all the way to New Orleans."
He later presented his idea to Red Bull. Meyer says he didn't hear anything back for months and months. Then came a call from the energy-drink company: "Hey, about that floating skatepark idea..."
Mississippi Grind is slated to arrive in downtown St. Louis by Saturday and will anchor here through the weekend. Pro skaters will give a demo aboard the barge Saturday at 7 p.m. followed by amateur and pro sessions from noon through 7 p.m. on Sunday. (See full schedule here
From St. Louis, it's on to the Mississippi delta where Red Bull will donate the skatepark to the city of New Orleans.
Yep, it's a real Sam Clemens sort of tale. Speaking of which, what would the author's famous characters Huck and Jim say if the skatepark barge passed by their humble raft on its way down south?
"I imagine they'd be pretty psyched," says Meyer.
At this very moment (9:09 a.m. on September 15) a 195-foot-long barge is making its way south on the Mississippi River toward St. Louis. Plugging along at around 10 mph, the vessel has drawn more than a few blank stares during its journey from the headwaters in Minnesota.