The second-annual Skate Street Contest, as it’s better known, was a skateboarding bash unlike any since the Etnies Adventures In Plywood Paradise I–which is to say that it was a lot like last year’s, except that it was even better.

Skate Street is one of the country’s premier skateparks, and despite some objections to the “street” course’s liberal inclusion of vertical terrain, it is what it is, everyone’s skated it at one time or another, and one has to take it or leave it. If transitions aren’t your ball of wax, then this contest isn’t for you.

But the hefty competitor and spectator turnout attested to the fact that most skaters don’t object to such a varied course, and almost overwhelming the competitive aspect of this event was the sheer fun evident in the eyes of the pros speeding around the course looking for the winning–or funnest–line.

After Friday’s street qualifyier, 80 skaters competed Saturday for the 4,000-dollar top spot. Some of last year’s favorites, like Eric Dressen and Chris Senn, exploited the speed factor of the Skate Street course with ballistic lines that saw them flying over more ramps than they actually rode on. Right on their tails were some young ripping newcomers to the pro scene, like NorCal’s Tony Trujillo, whose huge transfers and ballsy tech moves, like a backside 180 flip over an eleven-foot vertical drop, were almost believable.

But the calculator kids had their day, too. American favorites Jaya Bonderov, Jim Gagne, Brian Patch, and am Kerry Getz made impressive showings, but the event was clearly taken by foreign agents who brought a technical edge honed abroad and a strict consistency that has yet to wash up on our shores. Canada’s Rick McCrank shamed all three of the Skate Street course’s rails, and Finland’s Arto Saari brought to this contest the same formula that amazed visiting Americans who saw him in Europe this past summer. He and McCrank employ a level of creativity that many Cali veterans have lost. They have also–somehow–adapted rather quickly to the pressure surrounding big contests. If America is to remain skateboarding’s hub, we’ll have to do something about these two.

One of the most remarkable revelations illuminated by this event is the caliber of today’s amateurs. Entering the contest as ams, winner Arto Saari and third-place finisher Kerry Getz walked away with checks and straight into controversy. In most sports, the term “amateur” applies to athletes who compete for prestige and trophies, while “professionals” compete for those and prize money. Pro athletes also earn money from product endorsements. Okay, so skateboarding is different, and amateurs can win 4,000 dollars at a contest and still call themsleves “am.” Back to the event.

Sunday hosted the vert event and a few less spectators, although the couple-hundred in attendance were enthusiastic and witnessed a display more colorful than the Fourth Of July. While the Skate Street vert ramp is a little smaller than the contest ramps these guys are used to, and even though it’s not been resurfaced since the park opened two years ago, the vert event was as good as any. With the absence of Tony Hawk and Bucky Lasek, the field of pros saw a wide-open opportunity to place in the money.

Again, the vert event threatened the U.S.’ claim to skateboarding’s throne by the Brazilian contingent. Bob Burnquist, Lincoln Ueda, Sandro Dias, and Cristiano Mateus hit hard, but we mustered the strength to hold them–actually Bob–back to third place. After what seems like a lifetime of injuries, Danny Way dropped in to perform some of the best runs of his career. He pulled everything out of his bag except the helicopter (it wouldn’t fit inside the park) to tie Andy Macdonald for first. But Danny had fallen (hard) on a couple of his last runs, so Andy’s consistency paid off as their second-best scores broke the tie.

Each skater took three untimed runs in the vert finals, which means that they could skate as long as theey stayed on their boards. This unique format allowed skaters to go for broke, but killed their chances if they fell early.

Having learned a little about crowd control last year, Skate Street, World Cup Skateboarding, and Etnies managed to put together a great contest that ran ontime, was fun to watch, and which displayed some of the best skateboarding–and skateboarders–to date. Etnies Marketing Manager Don Brown said that he prefers to sponsor home-grown events like this that aren’t compromised by the commercialism so dominant at last summer’s events. It was a great closing event to the U.S.’ most hectic contest year to date (except for those pros heading to Brazil for the contest next weekend).

The Etnies Adventures In Plywood Paradise II, at times, seemed more like a session than a contest. At least it did to this spectator, and probably to many of the contestants themselves. It was hard to just watch. But that’s what contests should be like. They should encourage us to try that at home and hurt ourselves.

Oh, the pain.

–Miki Vuckovich

For more results from the Etnies Adventures In Plywood Paradise and other contests, see the World Cup Skateboarding Web site at href=”http://www.wcsk8.com”>www.wcsk8.com.