Competitors from as far away as China, Brazil, Japan, and Germany return to the Cloverdale Rodeo this weekend for the fourth annual World Freestyle Round-up Skateboarding Championships.
The four-day battle puts the fairgrounds at the centre of the freestyle skateboarding universe, attracting top amateurs and professionals – as well as masters-level athletes, taking part in a new “legends” category this year.
There’s $10,000 in prize money up for grabs May 15-18, along with prizes from sponsors for amateurs, but that’s not the only reason more than 30 skaters from eight countries will be taking part.
Last year, 12-year-old Japanese skateboarder Isamu Yamamoto took the competition by storm, beating out Kaue Araujo from Brazil for the top spot in the amateur division. Yamamoto will be back – this time in the pro division.
Also look for Surrey’s Dillanger Kane, a 19-year-old who will be competing in the amateur division. He’s been skateboarding for seven years, but turned to freestyle four years ago. He’s currently studying computer science at BCIT and skates at least five days a week.
Also returning is special guest Kilian Martin (right, Jim Goodrich photo), a YouTube phenomenon presenting skateboard demos Sunday, May 17 from 2 to 6 p.m., and Monday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More than 80,000 people attended the rodeo and fair last year, making it the ideal location to showcase the sport, and for the competitors to take advantage of the smooth concrete surface of the venue, the Cloverdale Curling Rink.
Each day there are several shows featuring demos and contests, using a battle format, with three heats of about 20 minutes each for each show. There will be a DJ spinning tunes while the contestants battle it out.
For the first year, the competition has opened a new division, the Legends Freestyle Classic for skaters 50 and over.
“There’s quite a few of them out there,” notes promoter Monty Little, a Cloverdale resident who’s part of the team organizing the event and is one of the sport’s most persuasive ambassadors.
The up-and-comers enjoy mixing with the “legends” of the sport. “These are our forefathers,” Little says.
Freestyle is a grassroots, highly technical style of skateboarding characterized by choreographed tricks performed on flat surfaces. There are no ramps, rails or stairs.
With “maybe 350 [people] in the world” competing in freestyle, “We try to reach out to everybody,” says Little, who notes competitions are more likely to take place under a viaduct than in an arena-like venue like the Cloverdale Curling Club.
While the competition is fierce, the event itself is almost more of a reunion for the entrants than anything else.
Competitors scrape up enough money to cover travel costs and most billet or bunk with organizers during their stay in Surrey.
“This is a family,” he says. “A lot of people feel it’s more than a contest. It’s a therapy camp.”
Little allows that while there aren’t a lot of “sisters in the family” there is one woman taking part, Mic Murayama (left, Jim Goodrich photo), and she’ll compete against the guys for the third year in a row in Cloverdale. She placed 8th in the amateur division in 2013 and within the top 10 the year before, so it will be interesting to see how she fares in 2015.
Since debuting at the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair in 2012, the event has been a consistent (and weather-proof) crowd pleaser, drawing standing-room-only audiences and forcing organizers to bring out a fourth set of bleachers this year, and emerging as the premier freestyle competition in the world.
“It’s been so well received,” Little says. “That’s why the rodeo is so excited to have us.”
It’s also free, exciting to watch for rodeo-goers of all ages, and, best of all, sure to inspire the next generation of freestyle skateboarders.
Watch for freestyle demos at Thursday’s Bed Races (5:45 p.m., 176A St. at 57A Ave.), the Cloverdale Chili Cook-off Friday at Clover Square Village (4:45 p.m.) and as part of the Cloverdale Rodeo Parade Saturday, at 10 a.m.
– Visit theworldroundup.com for more information.