Kickflippin’ it old school

By in Sports & Health

Dorian Geiger
Sports Editor

Heelflips, kickflips, 50-50 grinds, nollies, ollies and a few bone-deep wounds and concrete collisions comprised the fun day of skateboarding at the first annual Nine Times Super Serious Skateboard Competition on Sept. 6.

Over 100 skaters from across Saskatchewan took part in the skating competition organized by Saskatoon-based skateboarding, snowboarding, clothing and accessories outlet Nine Times. Taking place at Saskatoon’s Lions Skatepark along Spadina Crescent, not even some precipitation from the cloudy skies above could stop the core of Saskatoon’s skating scene from doing their thing.

It is the first time Nine Times owner Jason Gordon has put on the event and judging by the success of his efforts this year, it likely won’t be the last. The competition doled out $500 in cash and plenty of free merchandise to participants unafraid to get a little airborne.

“There’s no fee, there’s no helmets needed. It’s just ”˜show up and try your best.’ The kids who stand out in attitude or skill, or if someone takes a really huge slam, then they’ll get a prize. It’s all random,” Gordon said.

The Nine Times owner intended the event to be as inclusive as possible

“All skill levels are welcome to enter the competitions. There will be prizes for almost everyone who participates and cash for the winners. I don’t know how we will award the rest of the money. Perhaps a secret surprise competition? Best trick? I just don’t know.”

Aside from cash prizes, the Nine Times event featured free clothing and skateboard decks from popular brand name skate companies. The contest consisted of time trial races, highest ollie, longest grind on the Lion’s Skatepark quarterpipe and most importantly, according to Gordon, a game of flatground SKATE.

Similar to its basketball cousin, HORSE, competitors attempt tricks and manoeuvres on their board that, if completed, competing skaters must also accomplish or they gain a letter. When unsuccessful participants manage to get enough letters to spell out “skate,” they must exit the contest. Skaters are allowed five chances before being eliminated, and it is this seemingly simple challenge that best showcased Saskatoon’s most gnarly riders.

Though skaters of all ages and skill levels were in attendance to rip it up at Sunday’s event, skater Garrett McNevin stood out with his creative and captivating style throughout the day.

Winner of the halfpipe competition at last summer’s famous Vans Warped Tour, the Saskatoon skater has been skating the prairies his whole life and witnessed the skateboarding revolution in one of Canada’s flattest centres.

One side of skateboarding that police, merchants and the general public often refuse to recognize is that not only is the sport a means of transportation, but the activity which so frequently has a negative and destructive stigma attached to it is also a way of getting pre-adolescent teens off the streets and out of mischief.

In Saskatoon’s impoverished downtown westside, where the Lions Skatepark is located, McNevin has noticed a definite decline of theft-related offenses in the area since teens’ involvement in skateboarding.

One youngster, known affectionately at the skatepark as Rattail, who McNevin has been aware of for some time, is an admirable example of how something as simple as a board on wheels can prevent social deviation among Saskatoon’s poor youth.

“He used to roll up here with stolen bikes all the time and now he’s skating every day since we’ve been giving him boards,” McNevin said. “He’s nine or 10 and getting really good for his age, man. There’s lots of kids like that trying to get off that kind of scene here. They’re here every day instead of on the streets.”

Inevitably, there are bad apples associated with every sport: those who like to wield their stick as a weapon in hockey, steroid users in baseball or those certain professional football players who choose to engage in vicious dog fights in their backyard. However, that doesn’t stop millions of fans around the world from enjoying their favourite sport and adoring athletes involved. And it shouldn’t stop skateboarding’s growing following in Saskatoon either.

So next time you see an elderly man cynically shaking his fist at a group of skaters or a sign outlawing skating, think twice before dismissing the sport as purely damaging, as many people are misled to believe.

Though optimal skateboarding weather will quickly disappear in weeks to come, look out for the Nine Times Super Serious competition next summer.