Garden Skate Dollars and Sense

With September arrives the crisp air of fall, fat budgets, and freshly inked checks. It’s also the time of year when the ASR Trade Expo invades the sand-bottomed, casino-infested shores of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Once a year the Garden State plays host to droves of consumers and vendors hell bent on discovering the newest products in skateboarding at the Action Sports Retailer Trade Expo. In their search for what’s hot and what’s not, reps and buyers alike play the sales game and strive to find common ground. Amid this maniacal display of calculator crunching you’ll see companies pushing the stress envelope. Although the tension reached a feverish pitch in the sales trenches this year, group therapy saved the day. All trade-show attendees took a much-needed break from their business dealings and strode over to the Ramptech halfpipe. At the base of this towering masonite monster, a packed crowd assembled and paid homage to skaters that deftly defied gravity.

For once the spotlight wasn’t focused on pros, but involved unknown amateurs competing in the First Annual Skateshop Challenge. Sponsored by ASR and the United Skateboarding Association, this event drew the finest vert aficionados from Massachusetts to Florida. If the free contest fee didn’t get these riders amped, the perfect halfpipe definitely did. Burly slides, grinds, and grabs were the norm thrown down by all, and each contestant’s athletic prowess was duly noted.

However, one Rhode Islander stood out with a smooth run that caught the judges’ attention and the crowd’s admiration. Water Brothers’ teamrider Jonathan O’Donnell skated away with first place, tons of flow, and a paid trip to California. The Skateshop Challenge was a rousing success that turned heads in a big way. By uncovering the hottest amateur talent in the East, there’s no doubt that vert skating is once again on the rise.

-Eddie Starke