Tampa Pro Contest

The room at the La Quinta Inn on Melbourne Boulevard in Tampa had a repulsively immaculate cleanliness to it that could never possibly perpetuate itself in a residence anyone actually lived in, even if only temporarily. Ryan Gee’s two mangled cigarette butts, spent matches, and clumps of ash looked like they, too, had been impossibly arranged. The still-glossy painted stucco had that welcome-to-your-new-home glow to it, the furniture showed no signs of wear, and on the walls were paintings no sane human would ever display in a room of relaxation.

But the cleanliness was only a facade. Outside the door was a city of strip malls and strip clubs, a town with as many pawn shops as gun stores, where two-bit transvestite crack whores line the avenues and lurk in fringe hotel lobbies. Empty grocery bags¿white-trash tumbleweeds¿lazily somersault across rugged two-lane asphalt highways signaling the infiltration of urban decay into the city’s more rural areas. You could believe in the cleanliness if you traveled with blinders on and chose to ignore the nightly fights in Ybor City, but why lie to yourself? Tampa is, for many, a nice place to visit, but there are better places to call home.

Besides, it wasn’t so much the influx of people into the city that weekend that bothered the locals (they are, after all, used to it), so much as the type of people whose numbers constantly increased there; it was those damn skateboarders. And like the relationship between El Niño and the rain-beaten West Coast, one could sense a storm brewing on the horizon¿the ranks amassed for the Fourth Annual Tampa Pro Skate Contest at the SkatePark of Tampa. Citywide security was on alert.

There’d be no bullshit this year. Not like last year. No sir, no kids skating on their property, no parties in their rooms, none of that ballyhoo. But what security didn’t know (or perhaps what they did know and wisely chose to ignore and live blissfully as a result of) is that they’re dealing with skateboarders, and skateboarders are creatures who have spent their lives thinking up ways of getting around The Law.

Thus, the inescapable cycle began. And a few minimum-wage security guards thought they could put an end to this? To be polite, not bloody likely. That weekend would see wild parties, various drugs ingested in various manners, fifteen-person teams sleeping in one room, teenage girls exercising their own free will. In short, life’s lessons would be learned. For a skateboarder, nothing unusual¿life in the only lane they know. This is why society hates them.

But society was not hosting this contest. The host was Brian Schaefer, a 24-year-old skateboarder, who, like all his brethren, is living his dream (in Brian’s case, running the SkatePark of Tampa and his own skateboard company, Far East). And in the process he gave something back to the sport that means everything to those involved in it. He would make sure everything worked right. He would keep out the riffraff, break up the fights, and make sure tomfoolery went on out of sight. The warehouse that guarded his assortment of ramps became his temple, and he vowed to ensure no blasphemy was preached there. Spectators would see why skateboarding takes a stranglehold on the lives of those who are lured to the power, the freedom of the four-wheeled plank.

Activity at the park was rampant, yet sporadic. As the week preceding the contest drew to a close, several heavyweights were still absent from the practice sessions, and the vert ramp looked lonelier than the president of the chess club on prom night. It must be nice to have that assurance, that self-confidence that lets you sleep in late day after day and say: “Maybe tomorrow I’ll fly out to Tampa. Contest doesn’t start until noon anyway.” One of those people (as I would learn late Friday afternoon) was Tony Hawk, who flew out from California on Saturday to skate and qualify first in Sunday’s practice, and then walked awawith the top prize later that afternoon. espn2 didn’t dub Tony “the Michael Jordan of skateboarding” for nothing, because in addition to his physical ability, Tony has a winning personality. Quiet, polite, and amiable, he learned early on that life wasn’t all parties and mayhem, and young skateboarders’ parents love him for it.

Tony’s win was well deserved, as he upped the ante with 720s, ollie 540s, and a grab bag of signature moves that makes him the one to beat at every contest he enters. Brazilian Bob Burnquist skated fiercely¿trying to nail backflips even with a broken wrist¿making the most of each of his runs until the eventual switch-stance bail ended his turn. Depending on how you look at it, Rune Glifberg got robbed either by 1.) the bail-and-you’re-out rule, or 2.) the low SPoT ceiling he kept smashing his nose against. But the real victory this weekend belonged to Paul Zitzer, who finally broke his long-running contest curse and wowed the crowd with a searing run, finishing sixth. It was the first time he’d placed in the top ten in recent or distant memory. Did it have to do with the fact that he recently “flew the Birdhouse coop” for the more Zitzer-friendly confines of Far East? Regardless, congratulations are in order.

Meanwhile, over on the street course, Danny Gonzales and Kerry Getz were displaying the consistency, creativity, and coolness under pressure it takes to be one of today’s top pros; and Kerry is still an amateur. How’s that? Isn’t it time someone enacted selective genocide? Post-natal abortions? Needn’t we trim the fat from the bloated ranks of professionals before they start earning less than minimum wage? But I digress. During practice, Danny was doing noseblunt transfers from the wave- to flat-bank, 360 flip melons over the pyramid, double kickflips over the pyramid, and wallrides over the doorway channel before kickflipping out. And all while, Deluxe Distribution Team Manager Micke Reyes blissfully barked out orders like a newly empowered drill sergeant. But that was okay with Danny¿he was having fun, and to him that’s all that matters.

Kerry Getz, meanwhile, landed kickflip late shove-its over the hip like it was something he was born to do (which, in its own right, proves it is), kickflipping into a fifteen-foot boardslide coming out regular or fakie, frontside Caballerials over the pyramid, all with an uncalculated smoothness and precision that made his flawless performance even more enviable.

Vert runner-up Bob Burnquist performs a stylish switch-stance one-foot tailgrab. Photo: Gee

Other notables: Balance am Corey Shepard ruled the course with switch kickflip backside five-0s on the pyramid ledge, switch heelflips over the pyramid, a variety of tricks on the wavebank, and more of his unique, smooth style. Salman Agah was jumping up, down, on, and around everything, and he was doing it all switch. His switch 50-50 across and down the big ledge was his finest achievement of the day, with undoubtedly more to come on the following morrows. Chet Childress, fresh off his win at the ASR Trade Expo mini-ramp jam, skated with a celerity and certainty that predicted he’d be among the top rankers once again.

The first day of qualifying runs proved two things: 1.) Andrew Reynolds would undoubtedly place in the top three, if not walk away as Number One. His mom, who was in attendance, must have been proud. 2.) His closest competition would be Toy Machine’s newest pro, Mike Maldonado, who, after a shaky first run, nailed every one of his tricks before his time expired on attempt number two. Following in close suit were Mike Carroll, Salman Agah, and Moses Itkonen. Javier Sarmiento, Powell’s newest pro, impressed the crowd with a fine mixture of largeness and technicality that included a hardflip over the doorway gap and a monster 360 flip over the hip.

Saturday’s practice left two words ringing in everyone’s ears: Eric Koston. With a flawless line that consisted of a nollie backside nosegrind across the pyramid ledge, switch heelflip over the pyramid, frontside boardslide across the flatbar, five-0 grind on the flat top of the Hubba ledge, backside lipslide the flat rail, nollie frontside noseslide down the Hubba ledge, and fakie ollie to fakie five-0 across the flatbox, he blew minds. During his second qualifying run, he focused solely on doing nollie 180s to switch one-footed K-grinds down the huge Hubba ledge (I’m not kidding!). Ronnie Creager, meanwhile, was honing his Best Trick skills with a switch hardflip late-flip over the pyramid. Chris Senn, of course, was killing the playing field with his aggressive grace and individual interpretations of the course, resulting in a monstrous “is he out of control or out of his mind?” run featuring a near-impossible full-speed lipslide over the doorway channel.

Although Sunday’s final runs were, for some, marred with enough bails to keep them from the money-making top ten, the day’s most interesting story belonged to Toy Machine pro Ed Templeton, who basically bribed his way into the finals. “How does one do this?” you ask. Simply by dropping $500 into the Best Trick Contest pot, Ed managed to single-handedly convince the powers that be to let the top-fifteen skaters from each practice heat (Ed qualified fifteenth on Friday) move on to the finals, instead of the top ten from each day, as originally planned. The move worked well for Ed, who ended up in second place, netting 900 dollars from the contest funds, and a 900-dollar contest-matching bonus from his boss, Tod Swank. So, kudos to Mr. Templeton, who revealed one of the secrets of investing.

Others who profited from his investment in the Best Trick Contest were Danny Gonzales for his kickflip melon out of the super-kicker and over and across the entire Hubba ledge, Kerry Getz for his backside ollie onto the top of the ledge and backside kickflip to flat, and Moses Itkonen, who K-grinded across and down the whole thing. Special mention goes out to those who kept the energy level high, even after the contest had ended: Jesse Paez for noseblunting across and down the whole ledge, Moses for frontside blunting it, and Ron Creager, who switch kickflipped to switch noseslide across the flat top, only to come into the bank regular and fakie.

a nollie backside nosegrind across the pyramid ledge, switch heelflip over the pyramid, frontside boardslide across the flatbar, five-0 grind on the flat top of the Hubba ledge, backside lipslide the flat rail, nollie frontside noseslide down the Hubba ledge, and fakie ollie to fakie five-0 across the flatbox, he blew minds. During his second qualifying run, he focused solely on doing nollie 180s to switch one-footed K-grinds down the huge Hubba ledge (I’m not kidding!). Ronnie Creager, meanwhile, was honing his Best Trick skills with a switch hardflip late-flip over the pyramid. Chris Senn, of course, was killing the playing field with his aggressive grace and individual interpretations of the course, resulting in a monstrous “is he out of control or out of his mind?” run featuring a near-impossible full-speed lipslide over the doorway channel.

Although Sunday’s final runs were, for some, marred with enough bails to keep them from the money-making top ten, the day’s most interesting story belonged to Toy Machine pro Ed Templeton, who basically bribed his way into the finals. “How does one do this?” you ask. Simply by dropping $500 into the Best Trick Contest pot, Ed managed to single-handedly convince the powers that be to let the top-fifteen skaters from each practice heat (Ed qualified fifteenth on Friday) move on to the finals, instead of the top ten from each day, as originally planned. The move worked well for Ed, who ended up in second place, netting 900 dollars from the contest funds, and a 900-dollar contest-matching bonus from his boss, Tod Swank. So, kudos to Mr. Templeton, who revealed one of the secrets of investing.

Others who profited from his investment in the Best Trick Contest were Danny Gonzales for his kickflip melon out of the super-kicker and over and across the entire Hubba ledge, Kerry Getz for his backside ollie onto the top of the ledge and backside kickflip to flat, and Moses Itkonen, who K-grinded across and down the whole thing. Special mention goes out to those who kept the energy level high, even after the contest had ended: Jesse Paez for noseblunting across and down the whole ledge, Moses for frontside blunting it, and Ron Creager, who switch kickflipped to switch noseslide across the flat top, only to come into the bank regular and fakie.

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