While competing at Cowtown’s Phoenix Am skate competition on Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25, skaters cheered each other on. Even when they crashed into each other, they gave each other fist-bumps and a hug.
Legendary skaters Chad Muska and Dashawn Jordan walked around the event, often stopping to pose for photos and sign autographs for fans.
People of all ages and kinds — male, female, young and old — came together to enjoy the sport of skateboarding at Desert West Skatepark in Phoenix for the 17th annual event.
Mike Pringle, one of Phoenix Am’s official announcers, says the event keeps getting bigger and better, with more skaters and spectators every year.
Amateur skaters from all over the world came to compete and conquer. Being an amateur skater means an individual skateboarder is nationally recognized by a skateboarding company and represents their brand through skateboarding, receiving large amounts of free skate gear, clothes or shoes.
Phoenix Am is a major opportunity for skaters to gain publicity and go pro. Professional skaters earn large sums of money from the company they represent by skating and appearing in videos and advertisements.
Jamie Foy, 21, from Deerfield Beach, Florida, is one of Phoenix Am’s many success stories. He competed in the contest in 2015. Last year, he went pro for Deathwish and won Thrasher’s Skater of the Year.
This year, 216 qualifiers competed for a spot in the semi-finals, which only 39 skaters moved into, except Vincent Milou, 21, from Tarnos, France, who won the “golden ticket,” meaning he took a position in the top 12 and surpassed the semi-finals.
The final 12 competed for the $18,500 rewarded to the top five who placed in the competition. There was also a separate competition for best trick, sponsored by Red Bull, which Dylan Williams won with an impressive Backside 180 Switch Frontside Crook Fakie Flip Out.
Spectators were there for more than the competition; they were there to experience the energy-filled chaos of skateboarding.
Rock ‘n’ roll music filled the fast-paced, yet mellow, atmosphere. The enthusiastic crowd went wild when the skaters landed difficult tricks, and gasped when they took a tumble.
Some people posted up right next to the action, while others opted for the shaded bleacher seats, safe from the danger of a wayward skateboard.
Phoenix Am had food trucks and what they call “Tent City,” where companies offered different games, raffles and chances to score free skate gear and stickers. The companies there included Adidas, DGK, Vans and Arizona’s own Pyramid Country.
Ivan Monteiro, 19, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, won first place and came out of the weekend $7,500 richer. This was his fourth time skating in Phoenix Am. He made it into the finals every time and in 2015 and 2017, he won third place.
Pringle says Ivan’s style is very technical; when he skates, he “makes it look effortless.”
The crowd cheered for the local skateboarders, including Thomas Turner, Lazer Crawford and Chance Carr, who made it to the semi-qualifiers.
“Skateboarders support other skateboarders. It’s like a big family,” Pringle says.
According to Pringle, no matter where you go in the world, if you show up with a skateboard in hand, “people at that skate park are going to take you in as their family.” After just two hours of meeting a fellow skater, often you have a friend and a place to sleep if you need it, he says.
“If you ride a board you’re like a brother to me,” says competitor Chris Pierre, 20, from New York. “It’s the most diverse thing you could possibly do. I haven’t seen any other sports that have a connection or a bond like skateboarding.”
Some competitors came all the way from Brazil, Japan, Norway and Australia. Phoenix left an impression on them.
“(The) Arizona scene is crazy. (There are) so many good skaters out here. The AZ locals killed it,” Monteiro, the first-place winner, says.
Glendale’s Lazer Crawford, 12, competed among the other skaters.
“It’s so crazy to think that I would be skating against people twice my age but it’s super amazing to get the experience,” Lazer says.
Lazer made it to the semi-finals this year. This was his third time competing. J.J. Horner, co-owner of Pyramid Country, says it’s not weird to see Lazer hang out with a bunch of other skaters in their mid-20s because “there’s a common respect there in skateboarding,” regardless of age.
Pringle recalls when local skate competitions were held in a nearby basketball court to raise money to build Desert West.
According to Pringle, a diverse skate scene is rapidly growing in Arizona. He says skate parks have popped up in Tempe, Phoenix, Ahwatukee and all over Arizona in recent years.
Pyramid Country, a skateboarding production and apparel collective owned by Jackson Casey, Bobby Green and J.J. Horner, has been around for nearly six years. While starting any business isn’t easy, Horner says they were welcomed into the thriving Arizona skate community with open arms.
At the Pyramid Country tent, a game was set up where fans could win a Pyramid Country skate video.
Horner, 36, from Tempe, has been skating for 22 years. He says he always enjoys working in the tents and connecting with some of the younger skaters.
Even the Phoenix police officers overseeing the event were former skaters. Maurice Jordan, 21, from Los Angeles, won second place and Jack Olson, 23, from St. Louis Park, Minnesota, took third.
Other skaters who placed include Jake Ilardi, Maurio McCoy, Vincent Milou, Henry Gartland, Giovanni Vianna, Lucas Alves, Tyson Bowerbank, Patrick Praman, and Marcos Montoya.
Words and photos by Sarah Donahue