Vans Skate Park hosts the world.

Two months after opening its doors in Orange, California, the behemoth Vans Skate Park hosted its first international skateboard contest. The Vans Amateur World Championships Of Skateboarding on January 15 – 17 brought the 66 international winners of the Vans Warped Tour contests together to crown the 1998 street and vert world champions.

Skaters from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Sweden, England, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, France, Spain, and New Zealand demonstrated that good skateboarding abounds on every continent. Caz Helmstetter of Portland, Oregon and David Bodnar of Melbourne, Australia took home the street and vert titles respectively. Each winner is awarded a one-year pro contract from Vans, a place as a demo skater on the 1999 Vans Warped tour, and financial support on the pro circuit, allowing them their first opportunity to tour as professional skaters.

“It was the competition of a lifetime,” said Helmstetter after winning the street contest. “I like the skatepark and the competition, but it’s a definite change from Burnside, my hometown skatepark.” Helmstetter smashed the street course with huge ollie flips over the flat-bank gap, and ollies over the vert-ramp handrail onto the street course.

In the vert competition, Bodnar landed tall 540s and Indy heelflips to clinch first place. “It’s unbelievable that Vans pays to send all these athletes here for this contest,” he said. “I’m pleased that Vans makes money from the sport and then puts it right back in. I can’t wait to start the 1999 Warped Tour and pro circuit in order to skate with other pros.”

For the third year in a row, Vans has spanned the globe hosting qualification rounds in search of the best amateur vert and street skateboarders in the world. Each skater who qualified then competed in the semifinal rounds held at select stops of the Vans Warped Tour ’98. The first-place winners from each semifinal contest then received an all-expense-paid trip to California to compete in the 1998 Vans Amateur World Championships of Skateboarding.

“The Vans Amateur World Championships held this weekend was the first event at the new Vans Skate Park and it couldn’t have gone any better,” said Steve Van Doren, Vans’ vice president of promotions. “We’ve had a tremendous response from the Vans Amateur Series, and the interest continues to grow. The amateurs who came here are the skateboarding pros of tomorrow.”

Over 3,000 spectators and members of the media witnessed all the action throughout the course of the weekend. Along with Vans, tour sponsors G-Shock and Mountain Dew were on hand to give away posters and stickers to the crowd. In addition, spectators were treated to demonstrations by Vans pro skaters such as Omar Hassan, Peter Hewitt, and previous Vans Amateur World Champion Pierre-Luc Gagnon.