WORDS: Andrew Nicolaus
In the past decade, we have seen a lot of changes in skateboarding. Companies, contests, and skaters have come and gone, but one constant that remains is the Skatepark of Tampa. This year’s Tampa Pro marked the 23rd year of the contest. Even with the obvious change—it is now an important stop for Street League—the vibe has not seemed to differ. Tampa is the only place where you can not only see some of the best skating, but also experience some of the most fun you’ll ever have.
From early on it looked like Ishod Wair had the whole thing won before the contest even started. He skated the entire practice day, and after five different shirts and twelve hours, it looked as though the qualifiers were going to simply be a formality. Tommy Fynn and Tiago Lemos ended up taking the top two spots, automatically advancing to the Finals, with Ishod a close third.
While the skating continues to get better as the contest moves along, the fun outside with the rest of the industry also intensifies. As a fan, you’ll walk around the yard and bump into your favorite pros, legends, and all kinds of industry heads. Saturday night provided lots of fun to behold. Best trick was some of the most tech skating I have ever seen. The course seems to have smaller and smaller props each year, which makes it perfect for the pros to really let loose on the small rails and ledges. All the tricks in the Top 6 could have easily been enders in a video part, but Shane O’Neill doing switch flip backside noseblunts with so much ease was too good for the judges to ignore.
Following that, the contest went straight to the concrete outside in the yard. Although most of the transition skaters in the world were at the Vans Park Series in Sydney, Australia, the guys who made it to Tampa were able to destroy the place. Cody Lockwood shut down the whole thing with one of the craziest backside noseblunt stalls on the Jenkem extension (a five-foot-tall plexiglass extension that had two girls twerking on the inside).
Sunday was everything you could have hoped for: Dennis Busenitz and Eric Koston in the flesh; insane skating from everyone in the Semis; and a Finals line up fitting for a proper finale to a perfect weekend, minus the All-Star of the weekend, Ishod, missing the finals by three spots. Felipe Gustavo (who is recently back from an injury) started things off by flipping into everything in sight. It would be safe to say that he has the fastest flip tricks in skateboarding. Next up was Chris Cole, who during his reign of the 2000s was somehow unable to win a Tampa Pro. He looked like this could have been his year, but was unable to put together a full run throughout the finals. Torey Pudwill and Dave Bachinsky each had impossibly technical runs but were unable to finish them after all was said and done. Dave was the non-Street League skater with the highest finish at Tampa, therefore making him the newest SLS pro. Milton Martinez flew through the course, being the strongest transition skater left in the contest, but was unable to link all of his high-speed maneuvers. Tiago Lemos and Tommy Fynn each were unable to put together the runs to get golden tickets and were unable to crack the top five.
Nyjah Huston had an uncharacteristic weekend and was never able to become the focal point of the contest like he usually is. He was only able to put enough together for fifth. Shane had some of the hardest tricks in his run. Bigspin back tailing the handrail in his run, every single try. Shane was able to do enough for a fourth place finish. Finishing in third was another skater fresh off of injury recovery: Kelvin Hoefler. He had blown out his knee skating in Tampa’s famous concrete courtyard the year prior. Kelvin looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. If the runs at Tampa were two minutes long, he probably would have won the contest, but unfortunately most of Kelvin’s hardest tricks were done after time. Luan Oliveira finished in second place, doing the most stylish and some of the fastest flip tricks of the whole contest. Head-high nollie backside flips on the hip, and the consistency we always see from Luan, were on full display.
In first place was everyone’s favorite: Louie Lopez. When he first dropped in, you had the feeling that this was gonna be the run that takes it. You can really feel when a skater is about to go off, and Louie truly did. Capping things off with probably the only fakie 360 flip ever done on a quarterpipe in a contest run, it was easily one of the most unique runs I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing.
Tampa is one of the last places in skateboarding where you really absorb its rich history while feeling like you’re becoming a part of it. Cheers till next year Tampa!