The Tampa Hop held at the Florida State Fairgrounds this past March featured 17 competitors coming out to do battle in the hopping pit. With a new season came new rule changes, including the addition of the latest rule stating that competitors had to place at two shows in order to qualify for the grand finale Super Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Spectators at the indoor event in Tampa enjoyed a great hop, partly because people came in from all over to try to qualify early for Vegas.

There were a few locals in the mix, but the two main players battling it out were Shorty's Hydraulics and Team CCE (Cool Cars). Both crews put in some travel time, with Shorty's rolling in from Houston, Texas, and CCE coming down from Louisville, Kentucky.

Getting things started, however, was local Kristopher Salyards, who hopped 21 inches with his '96 Ford Explorer to top the Street Hop class. This new class is intended for amateurs and/or vehicles that may not fit into the other hop categories. The goal of this class is to give street riders and amateurs who normally might not attend Lowrider Magazine shows a category to compete against one another. With only basic safety rules enforced, we know that the Street Hop is going to grow throughout the year as street riders finally have an outlet to show off their talents.

The Single-Pump Hop was next up and it began with Kevin Karle hopping his '95 Lincoln Town Car to 28 inches, ensuring third place. Matt Crabtree rolled in his mint green '68 Chevy Impala fastback to the center of the floor and began hopping the full-size Impala to 43 inches, good enough to lock up second place. Last up was a '64 Impala belonging to Shorty's Hydraulics, which wowed the crowd by maxing out at 68 inches.

There were only two competitors in the Double-Pump Hop, but that didn't stop them from battling it out for first place. First up was Kevin Herman, who managed to hit 46 inches with his '83 Olds Cutlass. Given that mark to beat, Texan Rogelio Loera hit 74 inches with his '87 Chevy Monte Carlo to take class honors.

Kicking off the Truck Hop was Donnie Abbott from Kentucky, who set the pace with an impressive score of 61 inches with his '85 Chevy S-10. Also out of Kentucky was Team CCE's '91 Mazda, a truck that put the heat on the competition by hopping 90 inches. Last up was Shorty's Hydraulics out of Texas, trying to claim the Truck Hop crown. "Shorty" Villareal and his crew have always done well in this class and once the dust had settled, Shorty came out victorious once again. At 93 inches, Shorty's '95 Ford Ranger killed the competition as well as its tailgate.

Rumor had it that the radical cars were hitting 100-plus inches and four competitors came out to prove that rumor true. First up in the Radical Hop was local Daniel Davis whose '85 Buick Regal reached 64 inches. Next up was Rob Robertson and his '90 Toyota. Rob was able to hit 82 inches before getting stuck and ending his round. Team CCE did well with its radical '89 Mazda, hitting 90 inches to turn up the heat. Last up again was Shorty's Hydraulics, who proved that 100-inch rumor true when the shop's '87 Mazda truck made it up to 103 inches, winning the class.

A field of four came out to shake it in the Street Dance. Rodney Christenson got things started with his '87 Cutlass, ringing up 14 points after 75 seconds of dancing. Rob Robertson was next up with his '93 Isuzu Amigo. Rob had the moves to score 19 points and sneak into third place. T&D Customs started off well with its '87 S-10 and when the truck had finished its routine, the East Coast shop scored 20 points, enough for second place. Spanking the competition in the Street Dance was Shorty's Hydraulics' '84 Chevy Blazer, which displayed the strongest and best controlled moves of the day, earning first with 27 points.

Five guys did their thing in the Radical Dance class. Leading things off was young Keith Christenson, on the switch of his '87 S-10. Keith set the pace by doing all of the required moves and stunning the competition by scoring 25 points. Following young Keith was Kentucky's Cool Cars with its CCE-equipped '87 Cutlass. The G-body fell a little short on this day, scoring 23 points for its performance. Rogelio Loera returned with his '85 Cutlass and squeezed into the lead at 27 points.

With only two competitors left in the Radical Dance, the pressure was on. They had to produce good scores to be in the running. Rob Robertson rang up 26 points with his '90 Blazer. Last up was T&D Customs. This shop adopted a take no prisoners attitude and it paid off. T&D's '94 S-10 performed all of the moves with ease and ended up in the winners circle by scoring 28 points.

Show season is just getting started, but nobody's holding back. They all want to qualify early for Vegas, which makes the spectators the winners. Like the action at the kickoff event in Phoenix, Arizona, a few weeks prior, the Tampa hoppers and dancers put on a great show. What a way to start off the year. We'll catch you at the next show.