Birds of Stoke

Anyone who’s led a group ride knows how difficult it is to get three or more onewheelers all wheeling in the same direction. Now try three hundred. That’s how many people showed up to the first Stokebird event, Feb. 3-6, 2022—an event that organizer Cory Boehne (Armor-Dilloz) thought would attract 75 to 100 riders looking to exchange the colder climes for the mild beach temps and jungle trails of sunny south Florida.

Stokebird featured rides across a varied landscape with a little something for everyone, from early morning boardwalks to late night jungle trails. Riders visited nearby mountain bike trails and two different skate parks.

Urban routes were selected and optimized based on years of local group rides. Organizers weeded out options that may have been unsafe, inefficient, or simply not as much fun.

There were plenty of bars and breweries to stop and charge at, including day one home base Wynwood Brewing where riders set up ramps, curbs, and bonk blocks in a vacant side lot.

Float Gang sponsored a photo scavenger hunt in the Wynwood arts district, where riders were tasked with finding and photographing themselves in front of iconic street art. The winner was a group submission by the official Drift Sisters cohort.

One of the main things that made Stokebird different from other onewheel events was its focus on group rides over competition. At any hour of any day of the weekend, groups could be found rolling Miami’s streets, beaches and trails.

“We designed Stokebird to be more about group rides and community, about loving the board and the technology,” Boehne said. “We like racing. It gives people a way to compete and have fun. But it can introduce interpersonal challenges and certain types of behavior. For this event, we wanted to make sure the racing was not the focus, and have it structured so that the focus of the racing was the fun and not the winning.”

Of course, that didn’t prevent hardcore riders from making the occasional detour to sesh a Strava segment on the local underground race circuit, the SoFlow Series, which kicked off its season that weekend.

Stokebird: A Timeline

It started in 2017, when Cory Boehne joined the local riding group, SOFLOW. Boehne recalls that SOFLOW group rides were frequent and fun but lacked consistency, so he began working to bring more organization to the calendar for this fast-growing community. By 2018, his efforts had earned him the moniker “Dad” among the local riders.

Floatlife Fest 2: Boehne says the iconic community event inspired him and fellow Miami-area rider Lukas Pawlowski to create a similar event to take place in Miami in the winter, when many riders find themselves cooped up indoors due to weather.

Floatlife Fest 3.5: Boehne and others were in discussions about making Stokebird a reality, but with Covid-19 restrictions in full swing, their dream had to take the backseat for a while longer.

Floatlife Fest 4: Boehne started making commitments. “Once you’ve invited people, you have to follow through,” he said. And so the logistics planning began!

Late 2021: Boehne worked with Erick and Edgar Comellas (Float Gang Co.) and others to coordinate plans for 75-100 riders to visit in late January or early February. City infrastructure would be sufficient to support charging needs for a group of that size, with a couple of generators lined up as a fallback plan.

But when Boehne listed 150 free tickets on Eventbrite, just to get a read on interest, they sold out in a matter of days. He knew it was time to go back to the drawing board.

“You know some people are waiting until the last minute to get tickets, and more will show up who didn’t buy tickets,” Boehne said. “We had to figure out how to make it enjoyable for everybody and keep it from turning into Fyre Fest 2.0. People expect to be able to charge and ride more than 5 miles a day, and we had a responsibility to deliver that.”

January 2022: Flying under the radar would no longer be possible with a group so large, but it was too late to do anything about permitting; this was going to have to be an “ask forgiveness, not permission” situation. Harder to solve was the need for more charging… a LOT more charging.

Boehne soon learned that different types of generators have different restrictions about who can rent them and how they can be transported, but they all had one thing in common: They cost a lot of money. One option demanded a hired security guard and mayoral blessing, which takes 30 days to process. There were no longer 30 days left before the event.

Out of time and out of legitimate options, “I decided to do it the way 16-year-old me would’ve done it,” said Boehne: Straight-up guerilla style. The question of charging was answered on the first day of the event, as guests were starting to arrive.

February 2022: With the guerilla charging solution in place, everything else went smoothly, Boehne reported. It was no easy task adapting event logistics for a much larger turnout than expected, but like his legendary military-grade tire sealant, Boehne weathered each challenge with grit and determination, and his plans held air.

Of course, that was not without a little (or a lot) of help from friends and sponsors who gave generously of their time and money to help bring it all together--for which Boehne could not express his gratitude enough.

“It ended up being this wonderful underground event,” Boehne said, “and we’re going to do our best to maintain that vibe in the future.” Fortunately, they’ve got more than 30 days this time to secure that mayoral blessing.

Photos by Cory Boehne (Armor-Dilloz) and Torrey Schenewerk, used with permission.

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