Notes on a Skateboard Spectacular
A few days after our encounter at the pool, I find Jake and Patty again, standing next to the large wooden half-pipe that has been specially constructed for the aforementioned New Hampshire Skateboard Spectacular. “This pipe is terrible,” Jake tells me. “It was built all wrong; it isn’t high enough and the curves aren’t smooth enough. It’s going to take a long time to get used to it.” Sure enough, during the warm-ups, most of the contestants are having trouble. Most can’t muster enough momentum to perform the fancy turns or tricks, and those who do usually end up falling awkwardly to the bottom or pitching themselves into the crowd. One hardy soul, in an attempt to get some much-needed velocity, places a step ladder behind the half-pipe, climbs to the top, places his skateboard precariously on the ledge and hooks the rear wheels over it. Then he climbs on the board, leans forward and pulls the back wheels up. He flies down the ramp, loses control instantly, and sails into the crowd. Defeated although unhurt, he staggers to a nearby bench and sits down.
Jake has better luck. He doesn’t try the over-the-top method, but attacks the pipe with more vehemence than all the others, and after a few nasty falls starts to get the hang of it. Patty is not as aggressive, but the many hours at the Zero Gravity half-pipe have paid off, and she makes an impressive showing. All in all, though, both are unsatisfied with their performances. “This pipe stinks,” Jake concludes. “Yeah, it stinks,” Patty agrees.
On the other side of the floor, some of the skaters are practicing for the barrel jump, the idea of which is to get a running start on a skateboard, jump off it over the barrels, and try to land on another skateboard placed on the other side. The skaters are currently up to a leap of seven barrels, and most are literally throwing themselves over the obstacles and landing in crumpled heaps on the other side. Undaunted, they get up, brush themselves off, and return to the line.
In another corner, the high jump is getting a lot of attention. Set up like the track-and-field event, with a crossbar, this stunt presents an additional challenge: the skater has to land back on the board after he has made the jump. The number of near misses and spectacular pratfalls doesn’t seem to discourage the skaters.
Once the contest starts, the greatest excitement is reserved for the freestyle competition that takes place in the middle of the floor. From the beginning, this is the event that captures the imaginations of the crowd, and it is here that the skaters get a chance to engage in the head-to-head battle of skills they are all primed for.
Each freestyle routine is evaluated by a panel of six judges (all members of the college’s trick skiing team), who are supposed to rate the routines according to a fairly sophisticated code that deducts points (0.1 to 0.5 from a perfect score of ten) for such shortcomings as: “Definite unintentional sitdown, fall or touchdown”; “lack of harmony, rhythm, flexibility”; and “incorrect form or posture during an exercise.”