Back To The Cave, Part VIBy Miki Vuckovich

Brian Schaefer had hoped to host this year’s contest at a new location; by March he planned to move his SkatePark of Tampa into a larger and more accommodating space. But much to his dismay, no suitable spot for the new SPoT has emerged. So this year’s am contest in January and the pro event two months later were crammed into the metal warehouse that’s been the park’s home for the last seven years, a space that’s been described as everything from a cozy clubhouse to a dark cave. Maybe it’s both.

Spartan as it is, SPoT has produced a slew of great skaters: Mike Frazier, Andrew Reynolds, Paul Zitzer, Brian Howard, Jeff Lenoce, Elissa Steamer, and many others. It just goes to show that diligence and dedication alone can sustain a nurturing environment for skateboarding.

Schaefer hosted the first SPoT pro and am contests in 1995, and the annual celebrations of skateboarding have earned a reputation for being equally fun and exciting for both competitors and spectators. It’s certainly not the cramped seating and modest prize money that attracts everyone. Nor is it the condemned buildings and industrial jungle that surrounds the park. It has more to do with what people¿skaters and spectators alike¿bring to this dingy warehouse of worn ramps and makeshift grandstands.

The SPoT contests have evolved subtly over the years, and Schaefer says that he’s mainly been improving on the format he and his staff came up with in 1995, which is to say they’ve been refining the controlled chaos that characterizes and distinguishes SPoT events. They make sure everyone has a good time, and take care that the little kids don’t get trampled. “It’s not too crazy,” says SPoT Manager Ryan Clements. “People aren’t getting too out-of-hand, but then it’s not a kid’s soccer game, either.”

After two days of street qualifying, the vert contest kicked off Sunday’s marathon of finals. With only 28 entrants, there was no need to prequalify competitors. The infamously small 11.5-foot ramp¿at least when compared to most competition vert ramps¿confines riders to its 32-foot width and a low ceiling holds airs to about eight feet. Tampa’s Anthony Furlong knows those dinky trannies well, and disappeared between the girders more than a couple times during his runs. Lincoln Ueda, of course, was scratching the hot tin roof just as often, and was a blur across the rest of the ramp. Australia’s Renton Miller made more use of the lip with some amazing kickflips, including a kickflip five-0, and SPoT-bred Mike Frazier wasn’t far behind him with blunt variations and eggplant flips. And Max Schaaf, Omar Hassan, and Danny Way muscled into the top six, each assembling at least one magical 45-second run.

Rising above the rest, though, were the masters of technical spontaneity and consistency. Bob Burnquist and Bucky Lasek are two of the most enjoyable skaters to watch, partly because they’re liable to try the most unlikely tricks, and even when it looks like they’ve gotten themselves into an uncorrectable posture, they’ll somehow twist themselves out of it. From each of their infinite repertoires, Burnquist’s backside ollie 360 to fakie pivot grinds and Lasek’s frontside 540s are worth noting. They’re probably worth pondering, too, but no time for that. By the end of the vert contest, it was already well into the afternoon, and the crowd had begun to engulf the street course.

The SPoT Pro 2000 started with 116 street competitors, who after two full days of qualifying were hacked down to 30 for Sunday’s finals. With spectators, team managers, moms, dads, girlfriends, and the other 86 pros sitting atop the ramps, in every corner, and even in the cobwebbed rafters, there was hardly any distinction between the street course and the viewing area, just a vague clearing in the middle of an energetic mob. Everyone was plugged into the action, and the skaters were clearly feeding off of it. While consirable prize money, media exposure, or a fancy obstacle course might attract them to other contests, the SPoT pro is much more about skating with your friends and for the crowd. Even the 86, who were relegated to the sidelines on Sunday, seemed to have won some personal prize for simply participating.

The release party on Saturday night, featuring Bam Margera’s CKY2K and the Tampa Am videos, and the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in nearby Ybor City put everyone in the right mood. Especially amped were Floridian finalists like Andrew Reynolds, whose huge frontside 180 flips over the entire pyramid to flat were shocking, and Mike Peterson, whose runaway-freight-train runs through the park were also rather impressive. But each seemed to get bonus props from the crowd who were proud to see their own among the world’s best.

The Brazilians were¿again¿regulating with Rodrigo Teixeira qualifying first and Carlos de Andrade fifth on Friday, and the Girl team was on throughout the weekend, with Mike Carroll qualifying third on Friday, and Rick McCrank, Eric Koston, and Rick Howard finishing in the top six on Saturday.

The street finals offered each skater three one-minute runs to put something together. Despite a few instances of spectator arms, legs, and butts getting in the way, and some absurd theatrics figuring in, the street contest brought out the best in those with the stamina to skate (and party) for four days straight. It also brought out the weirdness in those with the proclivity to be absurd¿like Sean Sheffey, who in one instance skated in place of an absent Rick Howard, and in another exposed himself to the judges (and about a thousand spectators). The Alex And Rick Show was introduced during Mr. Chalmers’ run when he dislocated a finger and summoned Dr. McCrank to wrench it into place. Chalmers then finished his routine, wasting less time than it takes a vert skater to run back up a ramp.

The street best-trick contest immediately followed an intermission featuring flame boy Steve-O and the World Industries Devilgirl, who aided his acrobatic display of bodily arson. When the fires were extinguished, the crowd pushed in to leave just a narrow corridor with the pyramid and rail at its center. Competitors were racing the clock to land something spectacular, and few managed to pull anything with bodies colliding and boards flying in every direction. In the end, McCrank won¿if not for performing the best trick, then for pulling a string of really good ones.

The contest ended with its traditional meteor shower of products and stickers. But in an effort to steer the mayhem, emcee Greg Carroll divided the sea of bodies by ordering the big kids to his right, and the little kids to his left. It kinda worked, and everyone left with something.

In the aftermath, as a few remaining staffers swept up the rubble and the warm Florida rain puddled in the bumpy tarmac outside, Schaefer took a moment to sit in the dank warehouse to reflect on the weekend and the park’s seven-year legacy. Generally happy with the contest, his only regret was that he hasn’t found the park a new, larger, and better home. There’s a lot of history in that tin shed and on its smallish vert ramp, but there’s a lot that he wants to change, too. “It’s the masonite, it’s the old warehouse,” he says. “It’s time to move forward. I can’t wait to mark my words and have the new place so we can all be happier. Especially me.” But the contest hasn’t lacked in fun and excitement, which is what attracts competitors and spectators year after year. They come to see skateboarding in its truest form, and they come in droves. “It’s just a strong reassurance that it’s a quality event, or that it’s a fun place. They know the history, or they know Frazier, Andrew Reynolds, Zitzer, or any of the local guys. It’s something that a lot of parks don’t have, and somehow this sweat hole of a place in Tampa has produced a lot of strong skaters.”

It’s also produced a strong reputation for good contests, which this year managed to attract the support of DuFFS, Quiksilver, Shorty’s, 411VM, and Spitfire, among others. “Brian and Ryan Clements do the best job for this contest,” says DuFFS’ Rob Dotson. “It’s core, it’s to the roots, and it’s not played out. It’s back to giving it to the skateboarders only. And that’s more important to me¿that the skateboarders are getting taken care of, and not some corporate guy lining his pockets.”

Come next year, Schaefer promises that the SPoT am and pro contests will be held in the new location, wherever that will be, and that he and his staff will work to improve what most already consider a great event. “I’m 95-percent sure we’re gonna have a new place,” he says. “But I said this last year, and I was really disappointed because we had to deal with the same problems and the same issues at this contest as we did before. The new place is inevitable. It has to happen.”

Street

1. Kerry Getz (U.S.A.)2. Rick McCrank (Canada)3. Rodrigo Teixeira (Brazil)4. Carlos de Andrade (Brazil)5. Andrew Reynolds (U.S.A.) 6. Eric Koston (U.S.A.) 7. Mike Peterson (U.S.A.)8. Bam Margera (U.S.A.)9. Dave Duren (U.S.A.) 10. J.R. Neves (U.S.A.)11. Scott Johnston (U.S.A.) 12. Jason Adams (U.S.A.)13. Rob Dyrdek (U.S.A.)14. Chris Senn (U.S.A.)15. Paul Macnau (Canada)

Vert

1. Bucky Lasek (U.S.A.)2. Bob Burnquist (Brazil)3. Anthony Furlong (U.S.A.)4. Max Schaaf (U.S.A.)5. Omar Hassan (U.S.A.)6. Danny Way (U.S.A.)7. Renton Miller (Australia)8. Buster Halterman (U.S.A.)9. Neal Hendrix (U.S.A.)10. Mike Frazier (U.S.A.)11. Adil Diyani (Denmark)12. Lincoln Ueda (Brazil)13. Max Dufour (Canada)14. Phil Hajal (U.S.A.)15. Darren Navarrette (U.S.A.)

Street Best Trick

1. Rick McCrank (nollie flip to lipslide, and ollie over pyramid to nosegrind)2. Avi Luzia (360 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)

P>It’s also produced a strong reputation for good contests, which this year managed to attract the support of DuFFS, Quiksilver, Shorty’s, 411VM, and Spitfire, among others. “Brian and Ryan Clements do the best job for this contest,” says DuFFS’ Rob Dotson. “It’s core, it’s to the roots, and it’s not played out. It’s back to giving it to the skateboarders only. And that’s more important to me¿that the skateboarders are getting taken care of, and not some corporate guy lining his pockets.”

Come next year, Schaefer promises that the SPoT am and pro contests will be held in the new location, wherever that will be, and that he and his staff will work to improve what most already consider a great event. “I’m 95-percent sure we’re gonna have a new place,” he says. “But I said this last year, and I was really disappointed because we had to deal with the same problems and the same issues at this contest as we did before. The new place is inevitable. It has to happen.”

Street

1. Kerry Getz (U.S.A.)2. Rick McCrank (Canada)3. Rodrigo Teixeira (Brazil)4. Carlos de Andrade (Brazil)5. Andrew Reynolds (U.S.A.) 6. Eric Koston (U.S.A.) 7. Mike Peterson (U.S.A.)8. Bam Margera (U.S.A.)9. Dave Duren (U.S.A.) 10. J.R. Neves (U.S.A.)11. Scott Johnston (U.S.A.) 12. Jason Adams (U.S.A.)13. Rob Dyrdek (U.S.A.)14. Chris Senn (U.S.A.)15. Paul Macnau (Canada)

Vert

1. Bucky Lasek (U.S.A.)2. Bob Burnquist (Brazil)3. Anthony Furlong (U.S.A.)4. Max Schaaf (U.S.A.)5. Omar Hassan (U.S.A.)6. Danny Way (U.S.A.)7. Renton Miller (Australia)8. Buster Halterman (U.S.A.)9. Neal Hendrix (U.S.A.)10. Mike Frazier (U.S.A.)11. Adil Diyani (Denmark)12. Lincoln Ueda (Brazil)13. Max Dufour (Canada)14. Phil Hajal (U.S.A.)15. Darren Navarrette (U.S.A.)

Street Best Trick

1. Rick McCrank (nollie flip to lipslide, and ollie over pyramid to nosegrind)2. Avi Luzia (360 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)