Skate or Die!

The Valley's first public skatepark needs some love -- and not from the loyal skateboarders who've grinded the edges off the steel coping for seven years. Desert West Skateboard Plaza needs some TLC from the City of Phoenix, says one of the park's founders, Laura Martin, who -- through amateur shows in the early '90s -- raised the park's first $35,000 and convinced the city to chip in the rest of the $250K needed for construction back in 1997. The park then spurred the construction of another 25 across the state. "I'd like the city to upgrade the rest of the facility. It's beat," says Martin, who co-owns Cowtown Skate Shop. But since Phoenix authorities say there's no money to renovate Desert West, much less build the bowl the park sorely needs, Martin plans to do it herself -- with the help of this weekend's third annual Phoenix Amateur Skateboard Contest. From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 3, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 4, 100 qualified competitors will grind and railslide Desert West, 6602 West Encanto, in hopes of claiming the $2,000 prize for the overall winner, plus another $2,000 for best trick. Admission is $3. For more information, call 602-233-8715 or visit -- Joe Watson

Tour de Force
Athletes go the distance for charity

Sat 4/4
While it may not include a mad dash across the Pyrenees or a sprint down the Champs-Elyses, local two-wheel freaks know full well that the only "tour" that matters this weekend is the one taking place in their own backyard. The psychotic beauty of long-distance biking takes an altruistic turn Saturday, April 4, with El Tour de Phoenix XIII. Events include a 70-mile bike ride beginning at 7 a.m. at Fitch Park, 651 North Center in Mesa, and a 25-mile bike and inline skating event commencing at 10 a.m. on the Bush Highway, 1.7 miles south of the Saguaro Lake turnoff. Proceeds benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Call 520-745-2033 or register online at Craig Wallach

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Craig Wallach
Joe Watson