Do the terms “airwalk grab,” “fakie” or “kickflip” mean anything to you? A few years ago, I would have thought they were from a foreign language. Now, with a little experience working with teenagers at the city skate park, I discovered these are maneuvers performed by millions of skateboarders throughout the world.
The city of Painesville in Ohio hosts an annual skate-park series called The P-Games, which is open to skateboarders, bikers and roller bladers, ages 12 and up. There are four rounds of competition on the second Saturday in June, July and August. The fourth and final round in September is called the P-Games Finale.
Competitors earn points for their performances in each monthly round. After the Finale, whoever has the most points in that age bracket and category wins a P-Games trophy. The cost to enter is $10 per round or for all four rounds $20, and includes a P-Games T-shirt. The money raised from the games goes into a fund to improve the skate park.
In The Beginning
In 2001, community members, local business leaders and city officials hosted a program called Rock the Ramp, where a closed-off street and portable ramps provided a place for skaters to show off their skills. Skaters and bikers were charged $8; the general admission price was $5. Raffle tickets also were sold, and prizes were donated by local businesses. The event was energized with musical performances by local rock bands. Three of these events helped the city secure its own skate park. This was the birth of the P-Games.
In 2006, a devastating flood destroyed and damaged many homes and property in the area, washing several pieces of the skate park into a nearby river. To keep the third annual P-Games going, a local skate shop donated portable ramps, and the contest was held in a parking lot in the center of town. Money from this event and previous events, as well as Federal Emergency Management Assistance and city funds, was used to resurface and purchase new equipment for the skate park.
When the city first started this event, parks and recreation employees placed flyers at the local library and convenience stores. They also contacted local schools for the event to be included in the morning announcements.
The turnout was significant, but we wanted more. We went to the skate park and talked to skaters about the event. Not only did they receive flyers, but we asked some to help promote the event. Nine of 10 kids were enthusiastic to receive a handful of flyers and gave them to friends and other skaters. This was one way to make the P-Games “their event.” The word-of-mouth promotion helped increase the turnout.
The next step was to ask the local skateboard shop to distribute flyers. Not only did this improve the numbers, but the shop donated posters and stickers to be used as giveaways during the event, which helped gain credibility with the area skateboarders.
Safety And Rules
Before the event, a park department crew sweeps and cleans debris from the skate surface. A skater then waxes the rails in the park, which helps the boards slide cleanly during the event and prevents injury.
Rules for the event include the following:
• All participants must fill out a waiver to compete.
• A parent’s signature is required for any participant under 18.
• Helmets are required while the use of other protective gear–wrist, shin and knee pads–is encouraged.
• Equipment must be buckled to participate.
• Competitors are not allowed to use each other’s equipment.
• Poor sportsmanship and foul language are cause for disqualification, without a refund.
• Shirts must be worn at all times.
Since this is a summer event, two 5-gallon jugs of water are provided by the city. Three tents also are set up so people can take a break from the heat and direct sunlight. A fully stocked first-aid kit and 3-gallon jug of ice also is on hand, if needed. In recent years, a large sound system has been used to make announcements and play music while the competition is judged.
Judging has always been difficult because my co-worker David and I do not have a vast knowledge of skateboarding or other extreme sports. Luckily, a 20-year-old skater called after seeing a poster we handed out, and he and his friend offered to be judges, while his girlfriend served as the timekeeper since they all knew the sport well. I also served as a judge.
When it comes to awarding points, each skater is given two 60-second runs to complete as many tricks as possible. The highest score of the two runs is counted. Judging is kept very simple. Each trick attempted is given a score of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. Bonus points can be earned in the categories of “Use of Course” and “Originality.” Judges’ scores are added together to determine rankings. If there is a tie, each participant has a 45-second run to determine the winner. The first-place winner receives 1,000 points, second place 900, third place 800, and so on. The rankings carry over to the next month’s event and to the finale.
There are three divisions (boards, bikes and blades) and three age groups (12 to 14, 15 to 17 and 18 and over). Following the fourth round in the series, prizes are awarded. Discussions were held about what type of prizes to offer; in the end, it was determined most skaters in the community loved winning a trophy. Trophies are presented to the top three in each division and age group. “It’s better than winning a free skateboard; we have skateboards,” some said. One skater looked at his trophy and said, “Wow, I never won a trophy before.” Listen to the kids about what type of prizes to offer. A gift certificate or promotional item from a local shop is another possibility.
Although some kids may enjoy the glory of winning a trophy, most just want that moment when all eyes are on them, and they hope to land that next trick.
For more information on this season’s skate-park events, visit www.painesville.com, or call the city’s recreation department at (440) 392-5912.
Chris Mackar has worked in day care, summer camps, sports camps, and after-school programs. He is currently a Recreation Coordinator for the city of Painesville in Ohio. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.