SkatePark of Tampa, Florida
March 17 – 19
It’s amazing what sheer will can accomplish. Throughout history human beings have been overcoming obstacles to survival and success, and within skateboarding we have some glaring examples of perseverance against all odds.
Tampa, Florida is no paradise. Even the locals will tell you that (especially the locals). But people live there, and lots of them skate. There’s a really old and really bad public skatepark, kind of a banked dish thing, and a pretty modern downtown and college area. The rest of Tampa is pretty plain, industrial, and seemingly unskateable. And the weather is typically Floridian, which is to say that it’s usually hot and humid, or raining, or all three at once. Not exactly an environment conducive to skateboarding.
But then, how do you explain Andrew Reynolds, Elissa Steamer, Mike Frazier, or any of the other Tampa locals who’ve developed such skills that the rest of us had no choice but to notice? Three words: SkatePark of Tampa.
When Brian Schaefer opened the park in a dusty old warehouse in January 1993, he hoped to provide local skaters with a good indoor facility to keep them out of the rain (or the rain off of them), and a base around which to build a strong scene in Tampa. He managed to do a lot more than that.
SkatePark of Tampa is world-famous, partly for the amazing skateboarders it’s produced over the years, but also for its dedication to skateboarding. Schaefer and staff have developed a reputation for catering to skateboarders, and for putting everything they have into the events that the park hosts.
Every year the park holds an amateur contest in January and a pro event in March. The am contest is a mecca for raw talent, and winners generally turn pro in time to return in March. The pro contest is known as a sort of anti-spectacle, contrasting most of today’s glittery media events with its austere venue and chaotic protocol. At SPoT events, the lines between spectator, staff, and skater are blurred to the point that everyone tends to have a great time, and yet everyone is responsible for the event’s success. Go ahead and sit on the ramp, just jump the hell out of the way if someone decides to skate it.
The 2000 Tampa Pro contest was supposed to be held in a new SPoT location, but Schaefer and staff haven’t yet found a suitable replacement, and so did their best to transform the modest park into a world-class contest arena. The park itself is great–a little worn in places, but a well-designed and -constructed course. The vert ramp is notoriously small (11.5 feet, with 9.5-foot trannies), but a low ceiling prevents its expansion. The only real concern about having a contest at SPoT is where to put the people.
They were everywhere: on the few benches above the pro shop, on top of all the ramps, crowded around the open loading-bay doors, and even up in the rafters. The park was packed to the hilt, and for good reason. Everyone knows what goes down at SPoT contests (for those of you who don’t, here’s a clue: everything).
Much of the revelry was confined to the hotels and parties each night after the day’s skateboarding events–the St. Patrick’s Day parade down Seventh Avenue, the CKY2K and Tampa Am video premieres, and the balcony dives into the La Quinta Inn pool. But the vast majority of the mayhem was generated by the action at the park.
Just about every competitor will tell you that it’s not the money that draws them to Tampa to sweat and skate in that little warehouse. What brings them is the aura of the place, and the excitement generated by the contest; they come to skate with their friends, and to be in a pure skateboarding environment for a few days. They don’t have television cameras and network executives cueing their runs; they just skate, show what they’ve got, earn some respect, and a few even take some money home. Whatever their personal motivations are, few seem to hold back, and almost anything proves possible at Tampa contests.
One curious result of this unique environment is that many skaters who don’t usually excel in contest environments manage to place well at Tampa. Maybe that’s because it feels more like a session than a competition. Schaefer and staff manage to keep things moving, and over the last six years that they’ve hosted the contests, they’ve become masters at disguising their efficiency. Running 150 skaters through three events in three days is no easy task, and to play tour guide during the evenings in between must be daunting. But the SPoT crew are gracious hosts, and their efforts don’t go unnoticed.
The focus at SPoT is always skateboarding, and never more so than during one of its events. This year’s pro contest saw some of the most flawless runs ever, and in the end the results in street and vert could easily have flip-flopped among the top few spots. Bucky Lasek held on to a few more tricks than his technical rival Bob Burnquist, and Rick McCrank was the weekend’s street favorite, but was nudged out of the top spot by Kerry Getz, who attacked the pyramid with an inspired marathon of double flips. Other standouts include Floridians Anthony Furlong and Mike Peterson, who tore across the vert ramp and street course, respectively, with the speed and confidence that only a local could have. Danny Way and Max Schaaf were favorites among their peers on the ramp, and Jason Adams and Rob Dyrdek made lasting impressions on their comrades on the street course.
The street best-trick contest was a perfect finale to the weekend’s festivities. With the crowd allowing just enough room to take off and land something over the pyramid, a handful of skaters raced back and forth, usually colliding, but occasionally landing a gem. It was a tough call, but in the end the prize went to Rick McCrank, who continued skating long after the contest was concluded.
Maybe he was just amped to skate. But after a week of practice and competition, the fact that he could pile on a switch hardflip over the pyramid (all the way over), then get up to try it five or ten more times suggests the resilience of his kind.
Which is funny because Rick’s not from Tampa.
Check out the SkatePark of Tampa’s Web site at www.skateparkoftampa.com.
1. Kerry Getz (USA)
2. Rick McCrank (Canada)
3. Rodrigo Teixeira (Brazil)
4. Carlos de Andrade (Brazil)
5. Andrew Reynolds (USA)
6. Eric Koston (USA)
7. Mike Peterson (USA)
8. Bam Margera (USA)
9. Dave Duren (USA)
10. J.R. Neves (USA)
11. Scott Johnston (USA)
12. Jason Adams (USA)
13. Rob Dyrdek (USA)
14. Chris Senn (USA)
15. Paul Macnau (Canada)
1. Bucky Lasek (USA)
2. Bob Burnquist (Brazil)
3. Anthony Furlong (USA)
4. Max Schaaf (USA)
5. Omar Hassan (USA)
6. Danny Way (USA)
7. Renton Miller (Australia)
8. Buster Halterman (USA)
9. Neal Hendrix (USA)
10. Mike Frazier (USA)
11. Adil Diyani (Norway)
12. Lincoln Ueda (Brazil)
13. Max Dufour (Canada)
14. Phil Hajal (USA)
15. Darren Navarrette (USA)
Street Best Trick
1. Rick McCrank (Nollie Flip to lipslide, and ollie over pyramid to nosegrind.)
2. Avi Luzia (260 flip over pyramid to flat.)
3. Dan Pageau (Switch Rick flip, nollie 360 heelflip.)
4. Kerry Getz (Double backside 180 flip.)
5. Brian Anderson (360 flip to lipslide.)
6. Feliz Arguelles (Fakie shove-it lipslide.)
7. Ivan Brito (Switch frontside flip revert.)