The circus has arrived in Tampa, Fla. The 17th annual Tampa Pro contest is underway and every type of skateboarder you can imagine is here to skate or show support. Today was the contest practice day but that doesn't mean there weren't amazing things to see.
Rookie pros and new faces are here at the Skatepark of Tampa, along with the staple favorites; the mix of both make this event amazing year after year. New to Tampa Pro and sure to make things interesting, Street League heavy hitter, Shane O'Neill is here and ripping. Zoo York and Emerica's Brandon Westgate was flinging massive frontside 360s over the park's pyramid. Chocolate skateboards' rookie pro Vincent Alvarez has been lighting up the course, skating fast and loose as is his style.
Creature skateboards' Taylor Bingaman was skating around with so much power, making fans out of most of his pro peers. Bingaman's Mach 10 backside nosebluntslides on the rainbow ledge were a standout. Bingaman even impressed last year's Tampa Pro champ and three-time X Games gold medalist, Paul Rodriguez. "I like Taylor Bingaman," Rodriguez said. "I'd never seen him skate in person before. He looked really tight out there."
I also asked Rodriguez how he was approaching this contest, being that he's the defending champ at Tampa Pro coming off his stellar win in 2011.
"I'm not even thinking about it," Rodriguez said. "I'm thinking of this as a separate contest. I'm not thinking about last year or anything else. I'm just treating it as another contest. I'm coming to try and do my run. I've got a run planned out. I've been practicing it, so I'm just hoping I stick it. And if I land it I feel like it might be a run that will contend for maybe a podium spot."
Rodriguez, who arrived in Tampa last Sunday, has been skating the course all week meticulously building his run and getting to know every detail of the park. His win last year insures him a spot in the semi finals and give him a buy for tomorrow's qualifier. Knowing he won't skate at all tomorrow may have been the fuel for his show of stamina today skating from the morning well into the evening, rattling off trick after trick.
Last summer's overall champion in the inaugural season of Street League, Nyjah Huston was on the course today and looking solid with his deep bag of technical bangers including a backside 270 lipslide down the park's 7-stair rail. Huston, who took second place in 2010 will be one to watch this weekend for sure.
Stay tuned tomorrow as we bring you more coverage and results from the qualifying round and we find out which 10 skaters will join previous Tampa winners (who get an automatic buy into the semi finals) on Sunday for a shot at that $20,000 first place prize.