Tampa Am Turns Ten

The Tampa Am-which started as a local contest in 1994 and has since become the premier amateur skateboarding contest-just celebrated its tenth birthday.

That’s right. Tampa Am turned ten this year, and the event was celebrated with a party at nearby Ybor City bar Masquerade on January 17. The contest was held from January 17-19.

Brian Schaeffer and Ryan Clements of the Skate Park of Tampa (SPoT) are the brains behind the event and skatepark. Schaeffer is content with how well the event has grown in both quality and appeal. “It’s evolved into something really strong,” he says.

The SPoT was first opened on December 29, 1992, and the decision to hold the am contest during winter was based on a practical idea. “We did it around a time when the rest of America was freezing, and people were coming down here anyway,” explains Schaeffer.

Schaeffer noticed the contest starting to change into more of a phenomenon around 1996: “We kept the contest consistent, and by the third year we noticed it had some momentum.”

Without a doubt, Tampa Am is the premier stepping-stone for today’s amateurs. “It’s a proving ground,” says Schaeffer proudly. “And most of all, it’s a place for skateboarders to meet skateboarders of the same caliber and same direction.” As a result, the event draws team managers and other industry “talent scouts” to scope out the big names of tomorrow.

Schaeffer is stoked how this year’s Tampa Am compares to that of previous years: “It gets better every year. I’m not sure how it does, but we learn from our mistakes and fine-tune it.

“The park got a major face-lift and changed almost a hundred percent, unlike previous years where it only changed about 30 percent.

“This year, our anniversary changed the rhythm of how we normally celebrate our birthday at the skatepark. This time we took our anniversary outside of our skatepark walls and took it to Ybor City!” The packed event complete with the beer sponsored by Independent featured live music by performers Andrew W.K., The Bouncing Souls, and One Man Army.

Schaeffer believes in the strong role Tampa Am has in the scheme of skateboarding’s contests. “Not to sound cocky about what our event does, but I think for skateboarding, it’s almost the only contest that matters,” he says with confidence. “I would say that contests are contests, and then there’s the Tampa Am that sits alone. It actually has real meaning.”

At this year’s Tampa Am, Thrasher’s Michael Burnett and Overboard Enterprises’ Kevin Marks organized the “Washed-Up Dudes Bowl Contest.” This interesting mix of old guys was won by none other than one of the am contest’s judges and former Zorlac rider Mike Sinclair. “We’ll definitely keep the washed-up fat-guy bowl contest as a staple of the Tampa Am,” says Schaeffer.

With Tampa Pro coming up, Schaeffer has some plans in the works, including the first-ever team manager/VIP industry people contest on the street course. “It’s the first time we’re doing it, so that the skaters there can root their team manager on. It was Stacy Lowery’s idea-and it was the perfect idea, so we decided to run with it.”

Schaeffer reflects proudly on the success of the SPoT Am contest: “I never imagined being in business ten years from the day we started, let alone having the biggest amateur skateboarding contest in the world.”

Asked if he felt Tampa Am makes a statement to the industry-including other contests out there-as a whole, Schaeffer is proud: “I don’t know if it’s a statement, but it basically puts the template in place for what other contests should be like.

“I would definitely say the same thing about the Pro (Tampa Pro contest). Even if we had all the big ‘extreme’ sponsors, it should still be a template for how other contests are run. All of the elements put together-the communication and cooperation between our staff and the skaters-without those elements, it wouldn’t be what it is today.”

The main sponsors of the SPoT contests are DVS, Quiksilver, and Shorty’s. Quiksilver and DVS are exclusive sponsors and have been for the past three years. “Shorty’s isn’t exclusive, but they obviously have more visible appearance there because they value the fact of how we do things,” says Schaeffer. “So they decide to support it as much as they possibly can-along with all the sponsors we’ve had since the beginning.”

“We choose to work with the same people year to year, and we don’t try to sell the event,” he adds. “We like to think that the event sells itself.”