The Second Annual Phoenix Am Skateboard Contest rolls into Desert West Skateboard Plaza this weekend, and unschooled spectators may want to travel with an interpreter -- the proceedings involve more jargon than the most technically advanced operations at Honeywell.
The 26,000-square-foot skating facility is ready for action: Its pyramid, volcano, hips, grindable ledges, hubba-style ledge and steel coping are in place, and various other props will be added for the benefit of entrants and spectators. As these are board games of the slickest, speediest kind, performed by the nation's top amateur riders, some 1,200 viewers are expected. Contest proceeds will fund additions to Desert West; since the park opened in 1997, more than 1,000 boarders have rolled through each week.
After Friday's private practice session, all 100 entrants will compete in Saturday's qualifying heats. According to Phoenix skateboarder Andy Bohna, "style and difficulty are top priorities," as riders are judged on the complexity and number of tricks they can squeeze into the allotted time. On Sunday morning, 35 semifinalists will compete to advance to the afternoon's final round, in which 10 riders vie for top honors. Sunday also features the best trick contest, which carries a whopping $1,000 prize. In this segment of the competition, all entrants skate simultaneously. "It gets a little hectic," Bohna says. Last year, the winning trick was "a Nollie heel-flip backside 50/50." (Word is it's even harder to perform than to say.)
Bohna, whose sixth-place showing in last year's contest made him the highest hometown finisher, is ready to roll. He believes the Valley's active skateboarding scene is fed by several factors, including numerous skate parks, good weather and strong industry support.
"Phoenix has an underground scene. It's a little underrated nationally, but it's really good," Bohna says. "I've lived here six years now, and I've watched it grow tremendously."