Qualifying day is done here in Tampa and two lucky and talented skaters get to skip tomorrow's semifinals and head straight to the finals in the afternoon with what the Skatepark of Tampa crew refers to as the "Golden Tickets." Those two skaters are Torey Pudwill and Zered Bassett. Both Pudwill and Bassett had flawless runs that included amazing tricks, weaving together the entire park. Bassett, skating in the fourth heat of the day, had the run of the day as far as the crowd was concerned. Landing a perfect frontside crooked grind across the longest ledge in the park, a switch hurricane on the small park rail and a switch crooked grind down the seven-stair hubba ledge. Basett followed all that up with a Hail Mary backside flip to fakie 50-50 off the roll-in onto the park's banked quarterpipe wall. The crowd of fans and peers erupted in applause.
I asked Bassett if he'd planned out his epic run. "I just had little bits and pieces, tricks I was doing throughout the day."
Asked whether he thought that was the best run he's ever landed in a contest, Bassett replied, "For sure."
Pudwill, who qualified in first place, has always had the talent and the tricks to do amazing but doesn't always put it all together when the time comes. That was not the case today. Pudwill's run, early in the day, set the bar high for everyone who would come later. He opened things up with a massive backside 360 over the entire SPoT pyramid.
After 17 years of throwing a proper pro contest, the crew at the Skatepark of Tampa have qualifying day down to a science. Ninety skaters, two 50-second runs each split into five heats in just over five hours. That's some heavy math.
Heats were random in terms of their array of notable names and talents. Young phenom, Zoo York and Gatorade pro, Chaz Ortiz (who had a flawless first run and qualified fourth) skated alongside his peers as well as regional pros and lesser known skaters that you don't see as much in the skate media.
Two-time Tampa Am winner and last year's seventh place finisher, Flip pro Luan Oliveira also put down a flawless run, qualifying third and showing more power in his technical skating than he demonstrated in years past. Oliveira's switch 270 to 50-50 was standout.
Tomorrow the 30 semifinalists will battle it out along with previous Tampa winners including Paul Rodriguez, Eric Koston, Dennis Busenitz and Greg Lutzka (who get byes into the semi finals) before being whittled down to the final 12 to see who will take home the first place crown and $20,000. I asked Toy Machine and Vans pro Johnny Layton (who just made it into the semi-finals qualifying 30th) who he thought would be the obvious choice for tomorrow's winner.
"Zered. And Nyjah Huston did really good even though he missed a trick; he did gnarly stuff," said Layton. "Dude, Chad Bartie killed it. I'm trying to think of who else I saw. You see so many people throughout the day and everyone's killing it."
Stay tuned tomorrow for our coverage of semis and finals, results and a gallery of the entire event to follow. If you've got the time and want to watch the finals from home, you can watch the streaming webcast live on the Skatepark of Tampa's website beginning at noon Eastern standard time.