Even if not a skateboarder, anyone driving around Kanawha Plaza Sunday evening would have had the urge to jump on a board and bust out some ollies.
Even if not a skateboarder, anyone driving around Kanawha Plaza Sunday evening would have had the urge to jump on a board and bust out some ollies. Sunday marked International Go Skateboarding Day (GSD).
Skaters everywhere gather each year on June 21 to celebrate and Richmonders commemorated the day with a free-for-all skate contest. Created by the International Association of Skateboarding Companies in 2004, GSD is an official annual holiday to help make skateboarding more accessible to the world through various events held in major cities around the world, according to the organization’s website.
One of the most rewarding aspects of GSD is seeing skateboarders come together from all over to celebrate, according to Clem Martin, Event Coordinator and Art Director for Venue Skateboards. Being able “to see kids win prizes for skating as hard as they can and landing some incredible tricks under pressure,” is by far his favorite part of the fun-filled day.
A veteran skater of 15 years, Martin has been working with Maury Blankenship to plan a creative concept for the holiday for the past three years. Blankenship runs Venue Skateboards, a local skateshop that has been hosting the annual celebration in Richmond since the creation of GSD. Martin sought to diversify the local celebration and, “since GSD has always been a free event we decided to go with just that, a ‘Free for All’ — free food, free prizes, and free entry.”
The free-skate event has been hosted at different locations around the city for years, but this year Kanawha Plaza stood out as the ideal spot. A major piece of Richmond skateboarding history, the open park is set to be remodeled at the end of the month, and Martin said the new layout of the park doesnt look very skate-friendly. He remembers the plaza as a destination for skateboarders to go and film tricks for videos since he began skating.
“The brick banks and perfect height ledges along with the fact that Richmond City Police have for the most part allowed us to use the space as our own has made it a central destination for skateboarding,” he said.
Kanawha Plaza, a skateboarding landmark in its own right, may no longer be a local skating attraction, but the Richmond skate scene is “amazing and growing faster than ever,” said Martin.
Richmond attracts skaters from all over the state. The Free For All alone attracts 200-300 people each year, and continues to grow in number of participants, amount of sponsors involved, and social media coverage.
With such a growing crowd, Martin joked that the biggest challenge to putting on skating events is running out of water.
“A lot of times it all comes out of pocket and we can’t feed everyone and keep everyone hydrated the entire day,” he said. “Of course, this is only a problem if they don’t get shut down by the Richmond Police Department first.”
Martin assured the safety precautions the organization always takes when coordinating events.
With a name like “Free For All,” the judging process for the contest can be open for interpretation. However, the event consists of three obstacles and a 20-30 minute jam session for each. The title ‘jam session’ provides just about the same clarification as ‘free for all,’ but according to Martin, skaters just “go at it as hard as they can and try to pull better and better tricks to beat the last one someone landed, basically a best trick contest.”
He and some of his coworkers from Venue keep track of who did what trick, rank them by difficulty, and organize it by first, second, and third. The prizes for winners range from skateboard decks, t-shirts, wheels, and bearings.
“Go Skate Day is only once a year,” said Martin explaining that skaters are not limited to that one day. The Venue organizes other contests and hosts professional teams to do demos for kids.
“It’s local skateshops like Venue that go out of their way and to put on these events and look out for the local skateboarding scene,” he said.
It’s for this reason he urges skaters to support local shops rather than corporate owned businesses they could find in a mall. “
“Mall stores are only in it for the money, we’re in it for the love of it,” he said.
“Get your hands on a board,” Martin added addressing any aspiring skaters. “I’ve never felt a stronger bond with anyone other than skateboarders.”
It’s this camaraderie and unity he has found through his years of skating that motivates him to organize events where others might find and feel the same exact thing.
“Never quit, travel as much as you can, look out for your friends, stick together, make videos, and use common sense and your given rights when dealing with police,” he concluded.
Blake Scott winning the FREE-FOR-ALL last night at Kanawha with this steezy ass Backside Heelflip #goskateboardingday #goskateday
Posted by Stand Up Skateboarding on Monday, June 22, 2015