Going for gold at the Wedge

Decked out in skinny jeans and giant shoes, skaters from across the city and beyond made their way to The Wedge Skate Park in Scottsdale to compete in its annual competition on Saturday. Kids as young as 10 rolled their way onto the park’s concrete waves, all hoping to grind, jump and flip their way into the top spot. The Wedge is a popular skating spot, and even while the competition was underway, the whole park buzzed with the clacking sounds of skateboards hitting concrete from all the spectators practicing their moves on the sidelines.

Check out photos from the event in our slide show: Skate or Die.

“The thing about The Wedge Skate Park is that it has a good sense of community,” says Daniel Miller, assistant recreation coordinator for the City of Scottsdale and the organizer of Saturday’s event. “The kids all know each other and we get kids from all over town coming here for that community feel.”

13-year-old Brandon Short, who placed fourth in his age bracket, says he’s been all over the state checking out the skate parks, but always comes back to The Wedge.

“This is my favorite park in Arizona and I’ve been to a lot,” says Short.

And how does Short’s mother Lauren feel about her son’s skating?

“The nerves for the competition kills me,” she says. “The skating I have no problem with, it’s the watching and hoping he’s going to land all his tricks that’s tough.”

Competition was tough as the event ran through the day, with skaters in four brackets showing off their best moves. Spectators cheered from the sidelines, many drinking free Red Bulls or playing at foosball tables, as a live DJ filled the park with roaring punk anthems and hard-hitting rap tunes.

While The Wedge doesn’t feature any of the high-walled half-pipes seen at pro skating competitions, contestants still soared into the air around the park’s clover-like bowl, sliding down slick railings and leaping into the air off of anything they could find. Michael Cardenas, who came down for the competition from Prescott and skated in the amateur bracket, says the park is not quite what he’s used to.

“This park’s a lot different than the one in Prescott,” says Cardenas. “This place doesn’t have any straight-up walls. I just learned all these handplants and things, and you can’t do that here, so I’m a little disappointed about that.”

But judge Lane Scholes says there are plenty of moves skaters could pull that would impress him.

“Really, I look for new tricks, consistency, style and a lot of energy,” says Scholes. “Basically, if you do a some cool tricks and do them clean, you’re doing to get a good score.”

Any time there was a lull between competitions, the park was descended upon by a mob of eager skaters, who flew through the area until the staff members were able to shoo them away. But they always did it smiling, because even though the event was a competition, it was kept very loose and lighthearted.

As the day wound to a close, the much-awaited amateur bracket took center stage to compete for the top spot of the day. In years past, this bracket was only open to skaters 18 and older, but Dan Miller said that had to change.

“Now it’s open to anyone who feels they can compete in the amateurs, because we were getting 10-year-old kids who had sponsors and everything,” says Miller with a laugh. “And it became really obvious that they were way too good to compete in their age group, so we opened up the floor.”

The day ended with Taylor Varva landing the gold medal in the final rounds, following an impressive display of four-wheeled virtuosity, and he accepted his medal as his competitors cheered him on. After the accolades as the staff cleaned up the bleacher and tents, The Wedge again filled with the sounds of clacking wheels and screeching wood, as the skating continued on into the night. Like the park itself, the competition wasn’t about judges and medals. It was about the love of skateboarding.