Behind The NORA Cup

Garrett Reynolds, number one street rider of the year. Nike 6.0

The 2009 NORA Cup awards have come and gone. There were some triumphs, and there were some upsets. But what most people don't realize is that the NORA Cup process is ultra-complicated, from tallying votes to organizing one of the largest BMX parties of the year. I'll be honest, I've been to a lot of NORA Cup awards, and it always amazes me how much time and effort the editorial staff at Ride BMX put into the entire affair. With that said, I called Ride associate editor/photographer/go-to NORA Cup guy Ryan Fudger and asked him some questions about the until-now mystical process behind the NORA Cup awards. Just for the record, it's not the Ride staff sitting in a room and picking names out of a hat; there's a lot of grueling work that goes into making the NORA Cup as comprehensive as possible. And I'll be the first to say that the Ride BMX staff certainly deserves some props for the hard work they do year in and year out. Here's the good word from Fudger.

How many years has Ride been doing the NORA Cup?

Many people don't realize that the ABA used to do the NORA Cup back in the day, and then they stopped. I believe Ride started it back up in 1995, kinda just used the name. For example, Pete Loncarevich who presented race this year, won a NORA Cup in 1984 or something. But that had nothing to do with Ride. In short, Ride's been doing it for 13 or 14 years, but I'll have to get back to you on an exact number. (Editor's note: I'm about to head out of the country and Fudger still hasn't gotten back to me. If his exact number is wrong, don't shoot us.)

Who does what for the NORA Cup?

It's a joint effort between Jeff Zielenski, Keith Mulligan and I. Obviously, Fat Tony does the Web postings and stuff like that too. Working from the beginning, I was always the lackey that got the short end of the stick, counting all the votes and stuff. All the busy work. I've been compiling votes and contacting people that vote, but it really does get split between all of us. I'm sort of in charge, but at a certain point, when I have 120 people to call, the work spreads out. For example, I don't know Dennis McCoy that well, so Keith called Dennis because Dennis wasn't responding to e-mails. And Jeff will call Butcher, stuff like that. It really gets divvied up, but all the votes come to me and I tally them up and keep track. Then, as far as the party, being part of Transworld, we have our own event coordinators and marketing people. Holli Koriath kills it with getting the venue setup, and anything from handling sponsorships to what should be on the flyers to lighting. We usually have a dedicated video editor for presentations, but we had an in-house guy this year. So that was a lot of me sitting down with him, and me breaking out the old Final Cut, which I hadn't done in a long time. It's really like a seven-man team that comes together and gets NORA Cup finished and dialed in.

2009 NORA Cup Awards

Ramp: Chase Hawk
Dirt: Mike Aitken
Flatland: Matthias Dandois
Race: Maris Strombergs
Video: Nike 6.0 Writing On The Wall
Video Part: Garrett Reynolds in Nike 6.0 Writing On The Wall

Who picks the presenters? And how do you get Nate Hanson to come to Las Vegas for a BMX party?

It's crazy how it all works out. It's usually Keith, Jeff and I sitting around in the office, really just going over names and looking at lists of people, going to 23mag.com and looking up the history of certain riders. Lots of brain storming. It's random at times how it works out. Last year with Cru Jones, Flip from Albe's happened to be talking to him, and Keith asked Flip if he could do NORA Cup, and all of a sudden, Cru Jones is flying to Vegas to present at NORA Cup. The way it works out is kinda surreal at times. This year, Nate was one of the first dudes we asked. We had asked him a year or two ago, but he was so busy with his off-road business that he couldn't do it. But he was down right away this year. There's one particular person, who I won't name, and in years past, we've actually bought him a plane ticket and booked him a hotel room, and he said he was going to be there, but he didn't show up. We've asked him for probably four years in a row, and this year, he said he fell off a crane at work and couldn't make it. Usually though, it's one of those things, where you offer somebody an amazing time, and not to throw anyone under a bus, but it's a chance for them to relive their good years. And it's pretty awesome to have 2,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs when you walk up there.

Not to kiss butt, but it's always a pretty awesome party. It seems like you guys work really hard on what's supposed to be a "party night" in a party town and don't ever get credit for the job.

It does irk me when people are complaining online about NORA Cup. But some people don't really know how NORA Cup comes together and how much effort we all really put into this. And when you have control over something that goes down in history of sorts, you always try to make it as best as possible. When I'm cold calling people and sending pros message on Facebook and MySpace, hassling them for votes, it's because I want it to be the most accurate thing possible.

Why is there no vert category, just NORA Cup ramp rider of the year?

The way we look at it is, vert is so small. The amount of bike riders that are competitive in vert these days is such a small group of people, that it never feels like it's going to be a diverse category. After eight years of Jamie Bestwick getting on stage and saying, "Thanks, I appreciate it, now vote for somebody else," it would be a tired category. And at the same time, if you want to deviate even further and complicate the process, we could do best mini ramp rider of the year or best sub rail rider of the year. It's something that we've always talked about, and we've always thought that maybe people weren't looking at vert riding in the ramp category, but two years ago, Jamie ended up winning. And that's good; it means people are at least paying attention to the vert guys in the ramp category. Jamie definitely deserved it, and Jamie was in there this year, and again, it was close. But Jamie's very humble, and he's not afraid to say that someone else deserved to win.

Were there any unexpected winners this year?

Probably to the people watching, the Nike video winning was pretty unexpected. But I knew the winner going into it. Obviously, the whole deal going into it, a lot of people judged that as the best video based on a couple of the parts in it. I have my own opinions on things, but they don't really matter. It's not us in the office deciding who wins. The fact was, the Nike video got the most votes for video of the year. It's funny, when Spinner got on stage, what he said was pretty legit. He said, "Garrett and Dennis are two of the best bike riders this year, and they had two of the best video parts." And then he said that they carried this video. I think he said, "Go suck it" afterwards, which didn't really bode too well, but it was pretty legit that Spinner at least got up there with his opinion. But everyone else that was booing in the crowd, they also had their own opinion about the whole thing. Who knows? Bottom line is that, of the people that voted, they felt that the Nike video was the best video of the year.

Since people don't read anymore, is there anyone you need to thank? Sponsors?

Fit, Odyssey, Lotek for throwing an amazing video premiere before NORA Cup. DC, Red Bull, Jack's Links. All the nominees, Keith Mulligan, Jeff Zielinski for all their amazing work. Holli Koriath, all the presenters that came out, and everyone else that came out to drink for free and doesn't remember. (Editor's note: This list is supposed to be a lot longer, but I'm under deadline pressure and trying to get on an international flight today, so don't hate Fudger if he accidentally left your name out of this.)