Who would have thought that what began as a simple Isla Vista alternative to sloshball would have turned into this?
Former UCSB student Harry Nipple, the creator of the Keg-n-Board Olympics, could not imagine the successful sport that sprouted from his mind.
“I was just sitting around, smokin’ a doobie one afternoon when I was a sophomore, trying to figure out how to combine my two favorite activities, drinking beer and skating,” Mr. Nipple, now 37, said. “Somehow it just came to me – why not put a keg at the top of the ramp, and have the skaters pound a beer in between turning tricks?'”
It is from such humble beginnings that the K-n-B originated, right here in Isla Vista, starting with Mr. Nipple and his friends.
“Man, we would just get wasted and skate all day long,” Mr. Nipple said. “Eventually more people started showing up. Most people just wanted to watch, but some of our buddies wanted to skate, so we were like, ‘OK.’ I guess that was about 1982, but don’t quote me on that.”
Word quickly spread around campus and I.V. that a new sporting sensation was taking place, one that would provide an alternative to those students who preferred to shy away from the baseball diamond. Eventually skaters from all over the Southern and Central Coast were showing up to compete, and at that point it was obvious that Mr. Nipple and his friends had stumbled onto something even bigger than they could have imagined.
“When all those other dudes from who-knows-where started coming to our house to skate, we were like, ‘Maybe we could make some money off this shit,'” Mr. Nipple’s former best friend Hugh Johnson said.
And just like that, the K-n-B Olympics were created. The large number of available competitors allowed Mr. Nipple and Mr. Johnson to easily secure sponsorship for the event and even helped them to negotiate a lucrative television deal with the then fledgling station MTV.
But when the first games were televised in 1984, the public reaction was not what the games’ creators had hoped for.
“People were bitching all over the place, talking about how kids in I.V. were drinking underage and getting paid for it,” said former neighbor and current wife to Mr. Nipple, Ivona Nipple. “I still don’t know what their problem was. I mean, it wasn’t like anybody died out there.”
Except that someone did. It was 1990 and the Keg-n-Skate Olympics were gaining national popularity, with nothing seemingly standing in the way. But one fateful run by then UCSB junior Keith van Horney would change the booming sport.
“We told him he was too drunk to skate, but he just wouldn’t listen,” Mr. Johnson said, fighting back tears. “He just went up there, drank a beer and started to skate. But somehow he lost his balance, fell and hit his head, and before you knew it, Mr. Horney was no more.”
The death on national TV created a national outrage and brought attention to the alarming number of injuries suffered in the past. Beginning in January 1991, Mr. Johnson and the Nipples were forced to add extra safety measures, such as forcing all competitors to wear a helmet and making sure all skaters could stand unassisted before beginning their run.
“We really cleaned up our act after that,” Harry Nipple said. “We realized that life wasn’t all fun and games, and that sometimes, when you get drunk and start doing crazy shit, people can get hurt.”
Though it took the untimely death to start it, the revamping of the K-n-B rules has been a complete success. In the past 10 years, the Olympics have averaged only seven concussions a year, all while drinking almost 10 kegs at each competition.
This year now marks the Olympics’ 20th anniversary, and the games have never been better. Skaters and fans alike will flock from all over the country to just be a part of the K-n-B and be a part of history.
“I never thought it would get this big,” Mr. Johnson said. “We just wanted to get drunk and have some fun, but I guess that’s what a lot of people like to do. Now it’s time to get trashed and try not to get killed.”
And with that, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Nipple and Mrs. Nipple skate off into the sunset, trying not to lose their balance, or their lives.