Every spring for the last 20 years, the world's most elite and influential skateboarders make the pilgrimage to the outskirts of Tampa, Florida, for what is considered by most to be the coolest and most important skate contest of the year. The event is held in a jam-packed, small, sweaty skate park with skate rats filling every available nook and cranny inside the steamy space. The prize money is relatively minimal. The contest is not nationally televised on ESPN. There is no green room or "private rest area" for the skateboarders to chill in between runs. The park is loud, the music is blasting, and the announcers scream wicked banter during, after, and before the skaters' runs. There's no glitz or glamour; instead, it's grit and gnar. Millionaire professional skateboarders mingle tightly with frothing skate kids.
A week at this contest is a battle against body odor, post-party sickness, and skate stamina. This contest is not for the prima donnas of the skate world; this contest is the most legendary and coolest contest in the world of skateboarding.
This is the Tampa Pro, and the guest list makes Street League and X Games look like amateur hour.
The Tampa Pro lineup features the world's most popular skaters, some of whom rarely, if ever, enter contests. Legends like Eric Koston and Brian Anderson skate alongside contest kings like Nyjah Huston, Chaz Ortiz, and Chris Cole. Technical street wizards like Ishod Wair and Luan Oliveira grind and flip their boards while dodging hard-charging park killers like Ben Raybourn and David Gonzalez. The list of names goes on and on, but why do all these top dogs and underground heroes keep coming back to the Tampa Pro?
"It’s one big party weekend out in the cut of Tampa and it’s a skater-owned and -operated park," says Jaime Owens, editor in chief of TransWorld SKATEboarding. "The contest is chaos, anarchy, and filled with good vibes."
While contests like the X Games and Street League offer huge prize money, fancy, perfect street courses, and plenty of perks, the Tampa Pro holds a special place in the heart of skateboarders. "It’s the exact opposite of those contests," says Owens. "This contest is small and intimate. It’s not packaged for TV, so it has that real, kind of raw vibe to it. Guys drinking beer on the course, puking during their runs, the announcers saying crazy, funny shit that’s not appropriate for kids to hear. It’s everything you want a real skate contest to be."
For all the madness and legendary nightlife that goes down every year at the Tampa Pro, the most important thing is still the skateboarding, and year after year some of the greatest and gnarliest contest skating ever happens at this event. This year was no different. At the end of skateboarding's sweatiest week, it was contest machine Nyjah Huston taking the coveted Tampa Pro win, with Chaz Ortiz and Alec Majerus rounding out second and third.
For full coverage and a deep look into the belly of the Tampa Pro beast, go to transworldskateboarding.com.