PARKERSBURG - It was an afternoon of aerial antics as 23 skateboarders took to the concrete Sunday in the Downtown Bethel Church's Best Trick Contest at the Parkersburg Skate Park.
Janet Richards, pastor of the church located at 517 Market St. in Parkersburg, was on hand with dozens of church volunteers to handle registration, sell snacks and play Christian rap music as entertainment to the skaters during the Sunday afternoon contest.
The church invited professional skater Mike Steinkamp, 23, of Wilmington, N.C., to judge the competition. Steinkamp said he travels the country "to share the Gospel with other skateboarders."
Photo by Gretchen Richards.
Jordan McCalla, A participant in the Downtown Bethel Church’s Best Trick Contest, grabs his skateboard as he flies through the air during the bowl portion of the competition on Sunday afternoon.
Photo by Gretchen Richards.
Josiah Renn, winner of the advanced street portion of the skating contest, launches himself into the air above the street course to the delight of onlookers.
The Best Trick Contest was sponsored by Skier's Edge Sports Lodge, Chancellor Insurance, Parkersburg Bike Shop, W.L. Walraven Construction and Wal-Mart, Richards said.
Kenny George, 49, is among the oldest skaters at the Skate Plaza and identifies himself as "the self-proclaimed caretaker of the park", he said.
"I think this was a fabulous idea and we had a wonderful turnout," George said. "We would love to have more competitions and events here."
The contest was divided into three categories for the street division, and one category for the bowl division, Steinkamp said.
Prizes for each category varied from BMX accessories to new skateboard decks and Wal-Mart gift cards, Richards said.
The contest began with the street division, limiting skaters to the street section of concrete park that consisted of ramps, ledges, stairs, slopes, and hand rails, Steinkamp said. Each session was limited to 10 minutes with all skaters in a category skating at the same time, vying for Steinkamp's attention.
The beginners category included six skaters of varying ages. Each skater took turns performing his best trick while avoiding running into other skaters.
This category saw the most wipe-outs, but also saw some beginners manage difficult tricks.
The beginner's category winners were: first place Aaron White; second place Sabian Kelley; and third place Caleb Boyles.
After 10 minutes, the beginners were called away from the street section while the intermediate skaters warmed up. These skaters performed more advanced tricks, including balancing on railings and sizable jumps above concrete ramps.
Several of the intermediate skaters landed on their backs and slid for some distance, but hopped up to continue skating every time while Steinkamp called out the names of their tricks and congratulated them on their attempts.
The intermediate category winners were: first place Curtis Haislep; second place Rorey Fields; and third place Stephen Chapman.
The final category, the advanced skaters, were allowed to warm up for a short time before taking over the skate park.
The advanced skaters showed off their specialties during their 10-minute session, including jumps that took them several feet in the air, with some twirling their skateboards mid-jump. Josiah Renn, managed to slide on the tip of his skateboard completely around the edge of the large curve of the park, then dismount with a jump to continue skating.
The advanced category winners were: first place, Renn; second place, Jordan McCalla; and third place, Zach Debruller.
The third place winner of each category received a Wal-Mart gift card. The second place winner received a BMX accessory and the first place winner of each category received a new skateboard deck without wheels.
The final section of the contest was the bowl contest. Any skater who wished to participate took turns entering the deep bowl section shaped like a three-leaf clover without a stem. One by one, skaters took turns until they fell off of their boards, then climbed out of the bowl before the next skater struck them.
The winner of the bowl contest was Rex Wartes, 36, who was bleeding from his hand by the time the contest was over. He shrugged at his injury, dropped his skateboard to the ground, and skated back onto the street course without making comment.
Wartes received a Wal-Mart gift card for winning the bowl portion of the contest.