World’s top skaters return to Cloverdale Rodeo for freestyle event

‘It’s like a reunion’ for many of the competitors, who also appreciate the audience at the Cloverdale Curling Rink during the Rodeo.

Alexandre Mendes

Now in its third year, the little international skateboard competition that could has become a premier contest for freestyle skateboarding, attracting the world’s top pros and amateurs alike to Cloverdale.

The World Freestyle Round-up Skateboarding Championships run May 16 to 19 at the Cloverdale Curling Club, presented once again during the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair.

Performed on a short, skinny board – like the ones millions of kids convinced their parents to buy them in the late ‘70s – freestyle involves technical moves on flat surfaces. There’s no ramps, rails or stairs.

A blend of artistry, athleticism and precision, the sport demands perfectionism, patience, and practice — lots of practice.

“They’ve put in thousands and thousands of hours to their sport,” says senior contest producer Monty Little, a resident of Cloverdale and tireless ambassador for the sport.

The smooth cement surface of the Cloverdale Curling Club makes it a perfect venue for competitors to showcase their considerable talents and expertise.

So far, more than 30 skaters from seven countries have confirmed, including from Germany, the U.S., Brazil, Japan, China and Canada – where four B.C. competitors will represent the Maple Leaf.

Look for Vancouver’s Adam Flood, Andy Anderson, Delta’s Ryan Brynelson, and two Surreyites: Andy Anderson, who’s been skating for 14 years, and Dillanger Kane, an 18-year-old who prefers complex tricks, like the no-footed handstand kick-flip.

Most are paying out-of-pocket to cover travel expenses, notes Little, a pioneer in broadening skateboarding’s appeal in the 1980s.

He says a number of the competitors will be here for the second or third time in a row.

“It’s almost like a skate camp,” he says of the World Round-up. “It’s like a reunion.”

They skate for the love of the sport, and the opportunity to perform precision tricks in front of an appreciative audience.

The past two competitions, also presented as part of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, have drawn standing-room-only crowds for four days of competition.

There’s $10,000 in prize money up for grabs, along with prizes from sponsors for amateur skaters.

The four-day event will see freestyle demos and contests using a battle format, to keep things moving.

All routines are performed in one minute, and judges must render their scores in 15 seconds.

“It’s a contest, but we have to make it a show,” says Little. skateboarding has been around since the 1960s but, thanks to competitions like the World Round-up in Cloverdale, it continues to attract newcomers to the sport like Japan’s Isamu Yamamoto, who started skating when he was 8.

Now 11, Yamamoto, pictured at left, is on his way to Cloverdale from his hometown of Otsu City, Japan, where he’s stacked up a bunch of amateur titles, including best kick.

Bert Matheson is a 52-year-old U.S. pro who has been skating for 40 years.

“They don’t get the injuries,” explains Little.

Freestyle isn’t as hard on the body as other disciplines, allowing someone like Matheson to remain competitive in his 50s.

Quite a few of the competitors coming to Cloverdale this year are in their 30s and 40s.

“So they’ve put in some serious practice hours.”

It begs the question: what other sport could an 11-year-old dynamo and a seasoned veteran in his 50s be part of the same international competition?

Other stars to watch out for include China’s Shen Dominick Meng, who saw a movie about skateboarding when he was 13, begged his parents to buy him a board, and when they finally did (a year later), he had to teach himself all the moves.

“Every trick that I have learned I have learned from watching videos on websites,” he says in a bio.

After a foray into competitive trail bike biking, he’s back to his true love of freestyle.

Resident artist and designer at the Kempinki hotel, Sheng spends three to four hours a day practicing the sport.

The World Round-up is his first skateboard contest.

Imagine his disappointment when his Canadian visa application was denied. Sheng and Round-up organizer Little wrote letters to the Canadian consulate in Beijing then finally Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“Finally, on April 18th at 5 p.m., I received the good news that my second application had been accepted.

“Canada, here I come,” he says.

New this year is the Henry Candioti Skate-4-Fun Award, created in memory of one of the world’s top freestyle skateboarders.

Known for his distinctive skating style, Enrique “Henry” Candioti passed away from cancer in 2012.

The award, along with $500, will be presented to the freestyle skater who best embodies skating with style.

Henry’s wife, son and brother will be on hand to present the award and to honour his memory.

There will also be static displays on the history of skateboarding, photographs by Jim Goodrich, one of freestyle’s top shooters, and a corporate display by skateboard park builders. “So when you come, there’s more things to do than just watch the contest,” Little says.

One of the manufacturers includes the makers of Cloverdale’s new youth skate park, which isn’t officially open but will be ready for skaters in time for the Rodeo.

Since the skateboard competition is indoors, the World Round-up will go ahead, rain or shine, for all four days, making the event an audience favourite no matter what Mother Nature has in store for the Cloverdale Rodeo.

Outside the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, look for freestyle demos at the Cloverdale Bed Races on Thursday, May 15 (176A Street between 57 and 58 Avenues), starting after the decorated bike contest), the 17th annual Cloverdale Chili Cook-off in Clover Square Village Friday May 16, and at the Cloverdale Rodeo Parade in the historic town centre on Saturday morning May 17.

Please note: those freestyle demonstrations are weather permitting.Follow the Cloverdale Reporter on Twitter and Facebook. View our print edition online.

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