At a time in skateboarding when most people seem to be more frenzied about how our beloved lifestyle might be stripped from its counter-culture roots to become an Olympic spectacle, I took a two hour drive from North Jersey to South Philadelphia.
And on a crisp Saturday morning, I walked into a scene of people who seemed not to have a care in the world as to how the Olympic committee might interpret a kickflip differently from a 360 flip.
Instead, a couple dozen skaters all of ages and backgrounds were already warming up and rehearsing runs they’d practiced well in advance for the day’s event. Here, there were no national anthems, no ten stairs and no sportscasters detailing what was going down. Instead, Philly’s own AJ Kohn was behind the mic, warning the participants that they had only 10 minutes left before the 7th Annual Philly Freestyle Championships kicked off.
As I grabbed a seat to watch the action unfold, I must admit that even with my board in hand, I felt like a bit of an outsider to this scene. As a street skater who rarely even looks at spots unless there’s at least a curb or a parking block, and as an Instagram user who’s become familiar with the coverage from today’s modern skateboarding contents, I was completely unprepared to the level of skill I was seeing before me.
Some skaters had their songs planned out while others focused on setting up multiple boards for Daffy Manuals in their runs. While some chose the more stationary approach for their hand plants and rail flips, some skaters made use of the whole basketball court we were on to blast into some screeching powerslides. For the next several hours, I watched skaters from novices to pros, who travelled in from Colorado, California and even from Sweden to skate the flatground at Rizzo Rink. A bunch of talented, dedicated individuals in their own world, doing their own thing. And killing it.
A personal favorite skater of mine was Tim Morris. A teacher by day who has been working his way back from a knee injury took the 40+ Masters division by storm. After an impressive display of sweeping manuals and caspers, Morris landed himself on top of the podium of the Masters with a couple of impressive runs. I spoke to him briefly afterwards and he expressed concern over his knee holding up before the contest’s 360 spin competition was set to take place. Evidently, the injury was a non-issue as Morris ended up the victor of that phase of the competition too.
I drove back to New Jersey later that weekend but kept my outsider’s take on this contest as a beacon of hope. A beacon of hope for the potential that skateboarding’s core shralpers can still provide to a world dominated by “9-Club” scores and Olympic hysteria.
Check out the video below: