Updated June 9, 2021 - 7:34 pm
When David Chavez was crowned the world’s best bricklayer in 2018, he got a tattoo to celebrate. Three years later, he may get inked again.
Chavez earned the title reserved for elite masonry at the World of Concrete’s Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 competition on Wednesday.
The Bricklayer 500 had 20 two-person teams of masons and their tenders working together to build the best and largest 26-foot-long brick wall with the least amount of errors. Chavez, of Houston, Texas, laid 678 bricks in an hour, winning him bragging rights — plus $5,000 and the keys to a new Ford F-250 truck.
“I still have cramps because it was a tough workday, but it was worth it,” he said through a translator when accepting his win.
The event offered $125,000 in cash and prizes for the Bricklayer 500 — known as “the Super Bowl of Masonry” — and other competitions for tenders and masonry apprentices throughout the morning. The “best craftsman,” a rank earned for the most perfect wall determined by judges, also won cash, prizes and an off-road utility vehicle, the Kubota RTV-X1140. Returning best craftsman Darian Douthit, of Miami, Oklahoma, took the title.
Craftsmen from across the U.S. were selected to compete Wednesday through 16 regional qualifiers, plus several wildcard entries and returning champions.
The competition presented a new challenge for masons this year. Usually, the convention is held in January. The desert’s summer heat put the bricklayers in a new environment.
“It was different because this is summer,” third place winner Marty Marrs, of Terre Haute, Indiana, said. “This is always in January. It was different for everybody. We use mortar and mortar is affected by the heat. So, it was a bigger challenge.”
This year’s competition was held in June at World of Concrete’s rescheduled event. It’s the first major trade show in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic’s national shutdown in 2020. Previous years have drawn as many as 60,000 masonry professionals.
The celebratory air was not just because bricklayers were feeling the energy of competition. Excitement over the return was noticeable among competitors and spectators.
“It’s good to be close to back to normal,” Marrs, who laid 615 bricks, said. “Everyone’s pretty happy. Win or lose, we’re enjoying life out here.”
World of Concrete will return to Las Vegas in about six months for its regularly held convention from Jan. 17 to Jan. 20, 2022.
McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.