The big event just wrapped yesterday evening! Battle at the Border 2021, hosted and held virtually on the Sweets Kendamas Twitch Channel, broke not only in its own event records, but also kendama streaming records. During the Open division finals, viewership reached a new height at over one thousand, breaking the record of viewers watching a stream about kendama. This year's virtual alternative also broke registration records of previous years' physical numbers at a whopping 327 contestants!
The moment the stream began on Saturday, chat was popping, subscribing early to get access to giveaways and gifting subs to the community. One look at the scrolling line of text was enough to see that people were excited to get the event rolling; all this was happening even before the two main hosts of the event came on screen during a segment of sponsor ads. The MC's of the event had incredible chemistry on stream, Matt "Sweets" Jorgenson bringing his experience with streaming for the past three years, and Chad Covington, engaging with the audience and becoming a captivating host of a stream in no time at all. After a brief rundown of all the divisions, giveaways, and events for the weekend, the competition divisions were underway!
Aside from your typical start of an event technical difficulties, of which were thankfully minimal, the stream finished up both days with no interruptions. Thanks to Brad Schneider and Josh Grove running the competition side, the team at the Sweets Studio, and all the wonderful judges who donated their time, the first day was a flurry of competition that went smoothly. Chad and Sweets peppered giveaways in throughout the day for subscribers; viewers won kendamas, accessories, and even tote bags!
Beginners' bracket was our smallest group of players at 22 in total. The Finals match between Gavin Seusse and Michael Anthony Rowe was a well-fought battle, throwing it back at one another for 15 minutes until Gavin eventually took the top spot.
Making a healthy hop up to 79 registered players was the Intermediate division. Naturally, this division took a little longer to get through at around 2 and a half hours, but the players really showed their stuff! The finals match between Calvin Nguyen and Sam Kramer was an extremely close match at 5-4, even prompting the hosts to consider what they should do if the players prove too honed and they need to speed them up. Eventually, Sam narrowly overtook Calvin, securing the 1st place position.
With the Beginner and Intermediate divisions decided, that left the rest of the evening wide open for the largest registered division, Advanced, at 116 players. The on-screen energy from Chad and Sweets made this 3-hour segment feel like half that, hyping up competitors and chat alike. Quinntis Azali and Bruno Silerovs put on a great show for the audience to cap the end of day 1, along with an eye-popping video release, directed by the legendary Colin Sander, from Krom Kendama following the last match.
They reserved the second and final day of the event for Open division. An entire day of an event provides a lot of time, which ended with the decision by event organizers to go with a Double Elimination format. This means you are still in the competition even after you lose 1 match, continuing on to compete in the Losers' bracket.
Day 2 started big with some special prize announcements, including a one-of-one tapestry made by my wife for the winner of Open, and an unreleased Sol x Sulab collaboration as a raffle for competitors. Before Open kicked off, we received the huge breaking news that Gino Gaxha has been added to the Sol Flow team. A big hats off to him!
The Open division was wild and unexpected, predictions made by viewers soon eroding left and right. Through the thick of it, Liam Rauter and Nick Gallagher came out on top, looking for some cash with a 1st place win. At this point in the competition, Nick had to win twice against Liam to take 1st place, as he came back up from the Losers' bracket. In an epic turn of events, Nick comes back from a deficit to win the first match, but then falls victim to one of the most difficult tricks on the list, making Liam Rauter the Battle at the Border 2021 champion. This marks him a 3-time Champion of the event!
I had an absolute blast this year, and I sincerely hope every one of you did as well this weekend. A huge thank you to all the judges for taking the time to help make this event happen! The growth we saw in numbers this weekend was huge for our community, and I foresee this being the beginning of much bigger things.
Hope to see you again, and in person, next year!
Cody Booth is a kendama player of 5 years from Huntington, WV who helps with multiple organizations pushing kendama forward. Cody's Instagram.