At one point in the day, while the hoards of anxious spectators stared in awe at high-flying motocross, gnarly grinds, and the aerial prowess of seasoned BMX talent, the temperature hit its peak at +40 degrees. They don’t capitalize on being Canada’s hottest beach festival based on the bikini competition alone. This is the 7th year that the Center of Gravity festival has been hosted in Kelowna, B.C. and with it creating a hotspot of extreme sports and big music names such as Calvin Harris, Chromeo, Tegan & Sara, and Matt & Kim in the heart of the Okanagan.
With humble beginnings as an annual Volleyball tournament put on by creator and former professional athlete Scott Emslie, the festival rapidly gained a fan base and began incorporating extreme sports as well as electronic and hip hop names to its mix. Today the festival justifies itself as being one of the biggest sports and music festivals in the Okanagan, matched only by Boonstock festival in Penticton and Kehola Music and Arts festival, which like Center of Gravity, is also put on through Wet Ape Productions.
“It’s very pop and trance music driven as well as some hip hop mixed in. Couple this with all the extreme sports including beach volleyball and wakeboarding and you get this awesome beach party vibe.” Peter Haley, who works with Wet Ape’s marketing and promotions team explained, “What really separates it from previous events is the community aspect involved. We have a variety of athletes and musicians ranging from young amateurs to world class professionals all here to showcase their skills.”
KBAAD, or K-Billie Artist and Athlete Development is an Okanagan based nonprofit organization that centers on the support and growth of local artists and athletes. Through affiliation and close ties with Wet Ape, KBAAD proudly sponsors many local talents in terms of entry to many of the extreme sports competitions and the promotion of young and coming musicians. Their role in the festivals put on by Wet Ape really defines the community aspect of the events and allow them to brand it as locally driven, which sets them apart from other big name festivals.
While making your way through the grounds, one quickly comes to the realization that young and hungry talent is not in short supply. One group that is defying age conventions all together while stunning audiences into a state of awe is the Edmonton based EDM duo Swede Dreams. Presenting their electric mix of energizing and rich electronic dance music to crowds during Center of Gravity’s second day, most spectators could comprehend how young these two actually were. Dejan Zoric, 16, and Nick Ditkun, 18, preformed on the SunFM main stage of Center of Gravity, attracting crowds of eager spectators and dancers even in the beating sun. “I don’t even think I knew what EDM was when I was sixteen,” said a viewer, “Its nuts that these two have such a comprehension of the style. And their sounds are unreal!”
Athletes in the Urban Zone showed off their refined skills during the best trick competitions. Some to look out for were Darcy Peters and Andrew Schubert, who both came to the event from Calgary and brought a whole mix of aerial stunts, back flips and tricks to the competition. Local skaters included Kevin Ramsey, who won last year’s competition, and Kevin Russell.Wanderers would then find their way to the beach stage to enjoy some cold drinks and rock steady to the beats of DJs like Chris Lake and Morgan Page, while the inviting waters of Lake Okanagan was a side step away. As the sun ducked behind the surrounding hills the main stages lit up and a contagious excitement ran and pulsed through the crowd. Calvin Harris, J Cole, Adventure Club, Chromeo, and Odesza were just a handful of headliners that filled the night air with their well-known beats.
This year locals welcomed the influx of tourists attending the festival and stated that this year was one of the best in terms of cleanliness and behavior in general. Center of Gravity and Keloha embrace the community on a yearly basis allowing for a full rounded festival experience. Although the line up for their 8th year in 2015 has yet to be released one can be sure that it will once again top this year’s and bring to the forefront some fresh new talent with it.