Wandering around Tampa, Florida, it’s important to keep inmind you’re never more than five or six inches from the ocean. Thatis, if you start digging a hole, you won’t get too far before it starts tofill in with water. Of course, you’re never too far from a New YorkYankee, either, nor during the annual Tampa Am contest are you toofar from skateboarding. In fact, Salman Agah, Mic-E Reyes, and EdTempleton seemed to agree with Dave Metty, who yelled above theroar of the crowd, “This is what skateboarding is all about!”
Spending a few January days stuffed inside SPoT during theTampa Am international skate fest, you’re not surprised when MarkOblow says, “I’m gonna get me a bumper sticker that says, ‘I’mproud to be a Damn Am!?” If you were operating under theassumption that amateur skateboarding was gone, or didn’t exist,well, you’re mistaken. Because if you thought it was gone, or ifyou’re holding on to a misconception of the good ol’ days, well, it’sback. Amateur skateboarding is definitely back, and it’s bigger andbetter than ever before. One thing in Tampa was perfectly clear:Amateur skateboarding events are all about fun, hanging out, andthe evident upwelling of pride indicates Oblow is on to something.Proud to be a Damn Am!
All of which offers a new and seemingly valuable opportunityto skate retailers around the country. Skate-shop owners are now inthe position to guide, promote, support, and direct their own localskaters toward events that are fun, exciting, and offer theopportunity for that local skater to test the waters in a bigger pond.Evidently, the big, bad world isn’t just big and bad, it’s fun, too.
To Paul Schmitt it seems clear as he explains, “There’s a newtiered system of contests and events developing around the country.There’re events everywhere that skaters can be part of, and now,with the Damn Am and these other events, they have the chance toget to that next level, too.”
As Schmitt sees it, “Shop owners can support these new eventsin a variety of ways, but what’s really important is to make suretheir local skaters are participating in them mainly because they’refun.” Schmitt adds, “I’m still friends with the guys I met during myown am days. Those events were all about the people I got to meetand the friendships that came out of them. Basically, those contestswere about having the chance to travel and skate, and that’s what’shappening again today.”
The local hero skating onto the national stage? The local starrising higher in the sky to join a new constellation? The local legendreaching for mythical status? Maybe that’s what these events offer,but the message from this year’s Tampa Am was very clear: It’sreally about hanging out and meeting new people. It’s fun.
Which seems like a good thing, right? Seems a worthyendeavor? Having your local skaters participate in these eventscould have all sorts of repercussions: Happy customers. Moreskateboarding. Freshness. Change. Newness. Something to talkabout. Something to write home about. Strawberry Fields forever.
Because it’s not about winning. Necessarily. It can be, and it’seasy to go there, and there aren’t many that would fault thisapproach. Shop owners could mold and direct their local star rightinto these events. They could even find their local hero on thenational stage. Dylan Rieder did it. He put together a flawless run inthe street finals of the Damn Am last October, and as a result foundhimself automatically seeded in the 2002 Tampa Am finals. There hewas, thoughtfully observing 215 other ams skating throughqualifying to reach what he had already achieved: the Tampa Amfinals.
But for Dylan it doesn’t seem to be just about the winning. Heseems to understand that if he’s going to skate at the next level, andif he’s going to become a professional skater, then this might be oneway to get there. As the Damn Am national champion he seems to beon his way, but his wide eyes and appreciative smile seemed toindicate he was happy just to be there. It seemed that he trulyappreciates just having the opportunity.
As 2002 unfolds, there will be more amateur skateboardingevents than ever before: Beast of the East, Burning South Series, BestOf The West, Southwest Sizzler, Next Cup, Warped Tour Am, andamateur skaters will again be able to enter the National AmateurSkateboarding Championships-the Damn Am series. The fun andenergy awaits them at every level, and leads to the national stage asthe Damn Am will again offer its street and vert champions thatcoveted “golden ticket” to the Tampa Am finals.
Life is about moments. Moment to moment. As the 2002 finalsunfolded in Tampa, with the oxygen slowly sucked out of SPoT bythose anxiety-filled finalists, it came down to a series of thosemoments. In that place, at that time, could that one skater pull thattrick? And that one make that run? The energy, the emotion, and theunderlying current of pride all seemed to indicate that it didn’tmatter who won. It did, but it didn’t, either.
Does it? Because with all of the emotion and all of the energynow developing in amateur events, there doesn’t seem to be anylosers, and the biggest winner of them all is skateboarding. So, ifyou’re not supporting amateur skateboarding, if you’re not directingyour customers to the damnam.com Web site, then you’re missingout on the opportunity to share in the pride and the glory of whatskateboarding is all about. Is there anything wrong with having fun?Meeting new people? Seeing the sights and enjoying life moment tomoment? Here’s to winning without losing. Here’s to being proud tobe a Damn Am!