For skateboarders, The Skatepark of Tampa is our Disney World; the greatest place on earth. The non-descript white warehouse that sits next to Florida's Route 4 highway is our magical kingdom equipped with its own moat. And the experience and memories made there, especially during their two premiere events, the Tampa Pro and Am contests, are a type of pure fun that cannot be duplicated by any contest or skate event, no matter how big the prize purse.
Sunday wrapped up the 17th annual Tampa Pro contest and Real's Dennis Busenitz won it again with a flawless run that made everyone in skateboarding start counting the days until April 11th (The release date of the new Real DVD, "Since Day One" where most people are betting Dennis will have the final part).
The bar was set so high throughout the three heats of the finals that I felt bad for guys having to follow runs by Torey Pudwill or Eric Koston or Shane O'Neill. Everyone was killing it in different ways: going big, getting technical, flipping in, flipping out. But Busentiz won it all by skating the fastest, landing every trick perfectly and just zipping around the course using every obstacle in front of him and staying on his board. His run reminded me of Tony Trujillo's winning run in 2003; a solid foundation of basic tricks done at top speed and done right. It's a credit to the judges that SPoT uses to recognize how important style is over almost all else.
The results and footage from the weekend is all here and at S.P.O.T.'s site for you to enjoy, so I won't bog you down with particulars that are best conveyed visually.
What I do want to focus on is the feeling that one gets from being at the Tampa Pro event firsthand that doesn't come across in live web feeds or footage. The feeling of camaraderie and unity throughout skateboarding, where legends stand on the same deck as ams just about to go pro, where 12-year olds sit beside their favorite pros while they eat burgers together. There is no separation between millionaire professionals and spectators; everyone is treated with the same respect. As I mentioned there's a certain magic that everyone at the Skatepark of Tampa conjures up that can't happen at any other event because everyone involved, from the parking lot attendants to the kid cooking the hot dogs to the announcer on the mic is a skateboarder. One hundred percent skateboarder staffed and with that you get a higher level of regard shown to every fellow skater that walks in the door. I can't tell you how many times I've been vibed at other contests or even manhandled by weekend rental security guards because I didn't have the right color wrist band or my ID was a day old. Once I nearly had to fight an overzealous, unknowing guard as I tried to get Joey Brezinski into a contest so he could get to the judges booth to judge. That would never happen at a SPoT event because the "security" "guarding" the door is a 19-year-old skater that knows exactly who Joey and every other skater is.
I think that's why every pro skater, whether they're the biggest contest guy or they never enter contest, wants to skate at Tampa Pro. It's the skater's event. I mean it's the one contest clause in people's exclusivity contracts for contests. That says a lot.
I urge you, if you get the chance, if you can afford the flight or can get homies together to make a road trip out of it, get down to Tampa Pro next year. It'll be a memory you tell your kids about when you're old and gray.