Planning Skateboarding Contests Guide

Young man with skateboard texting with smart phone
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How to Plan Skateboarding Competitions

From time to time I get questions about planning skateboarding competitions, and so I've put together this helpful guide to give you the tools to do it. Planning your own local skate contest is a tough job, with a lot to consider, but hopefully, this guide to planning skateboarding competitions will help! This guide was assembled with loads of help and input from the guys at Skaters for Public Skateparks, and the Skatepark Association of San Antonio.

When reading through this guide, remember that it's only meant to help you along, not to be a hard list of rules that you have to follow. Also, the list is in a general order, but that doesn't mean you must do things in this order. And, if you want to try something different, well, by all means, do it!

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Step 1 - The Vision

I'm guessing you already want to hold the skateboarding contest; that's probably why you're here! Good! You might have some ideas of what it will look like, and that's good too. Whether you have a solid mental picture or just know that this would be something fun to do, the first step is to really develop the idea more and get some help.

That last part is key - get some help! Don't try and plan this whole thing on your own. Get people involved now - that way they will be there later, too! Also, other people will be able to see holes in your plan and come up with different ideas. Step 6 goes into more detail on some of the things you will need people to help with.

When thinking about what the contest will look like, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Where do you want to have it?
  • How big are you imagining it to be?
  • What style of contest do you want?
  • What ages are you going to allow to compete? Will there be a separate girls class?

You don't need to have the whole thing planned out at this stage - in fact, you are going to have to be flexible and allow for changes later anyway, so don't get too married to any of your ideas. But, you do want a vision for how the contest will look and a plan. If you don't have much experience with skateboarding contests, then you might want to ask for help from someone who does. Your local skateboard shops are the PERFECT place to get help. If you don't already have a shop that you are friendly with, you need to. Local skate shops are the hub of most skateboarding scenes. If you are a skate shop owner or employee, then you are set up in a good place to run a contest!

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Step 2 - Permission

The next step is asking permission to do it. Humility is the key here, and being flexible to work with the city. Ask them what they need from you - for example, Carter Dennis explains that they have many contests at their local park in San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio requires a permit, insurance, and a security guard. Your city might require less or more. The Skatepark Association of San Antonio has their system set up to that proceeds go to their non-profit account which they use to fix and upgrade the skateparks, so the city gives them a discount on the permit. That's a great great idea!

If you want to hold your skateboarding competition on a privately owned skatepark or on private land, then you'll have to ask permission there, too. But, that should be a little easier.

Now, there is a third option for a place to hold your contest - some abandoned place, a huge concrete slab somewhere, a drainage ditch - some cities have a lot of places like this. If you want to, you can pull together a skateboarding competition at a place like this, but it is very risky. Not only because the city might shut you down, but also because there's no way you are going to get insurance for something like this. Which of course means the whole contest will be a lot cheaper to run, but you can get in a lot of trouble with the city, and if someone gets hurt.

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Step 3 - Insurance

Every state differs on this one - Ask your city officials what you will need. This is really part of getting permission, but I wanted to make sure that you do it! Finding a place where you don't need insurance is a great idea - look around!

Ric Widener works for the YMCA in Boulder, Colorado, and has a system set up where he collects all the prizes himself, and then he lets shops run their own specialty advanced events, using the YMCA facilities. This way there's no hassle for insurance or skatepark rental since his events are covered under a relationship between YMCA and the Parks and Rec department of the county. A situation like this is ideal. Look around - there might be opportunities like this in your community just waiting to be discovered.

Waivers are also a good idea - have the skaters sign some sort of waiver saying that the skater is doing this at his or her own risk. If the skater is under 18, you should definitely have the parents sign some form of waiver as well. This has the double effect of protecting your backside and serving as permission for the kid to be there!

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Step 4 - Prizes

There's a lot of ways to go about getting prizes - here are some ideas:

  • Ask your local skateboarder-friendly shops and businesses to donate - you'd be surprised how many people actually like skaters! Ask around! They can donate services, goods, or money for you to go purchase prizes.
  • Ask your local skateboard shops if they would like to donate - this is a great opportunity for shops to advertise for themselves! They can give away shop decks (those are skateboards with the skate shops name and logo on them), T-shirts, hats, stickers, etc.
  • Ask skateboarding companies - this is the main place that people like to go for prizes. Write to various skateboarding companies, tell them about your contest, and ask them if they would be willing to donate prizes. It's a good idea to ask your local skate shop if they mind having the prizes sent to their store - a lot of companies are uncomfortable with sending prizes to you at your home. Check out this list of skate company websites, or ask at the skate shop if they would be able to give you contacts (they may not want to - don't be offended, a business can be a very personal thing).

Asking for prize donations can get really frustrating, and really old fast. Hang in there. And get a start on the prize collecting early. It can take months to get everything together.

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Step 5 - Equipment

You're going to need a lot of equipment to make the contest a good show. Here's a list of stuff to remember:

  • Advertising. This isn't so much "equipment", but it's a good idea. Word of mouth is your best friend, but to get the ball rolling you might want to put up some ads at your local skateparks, skate shops, wherever. If you are having the event at a skatepark, then that would be the first place you want to advertise! Just make sure you are doing things with permission, again. I know, it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission, but you don't want anyone getting bent out of shape and pulling the plug.
  • PA/sound system, for music, announcing who's up, commentary on the runs, other announcements, etc.
  • A time clock.
  • Waivers - see step 3!
  • Food, drinks, and someone to run the snack area - see step 6!
  • Something to give shade, if the place is outside and sunny.
  • Wristbands or numbers - something for the competitors to wear, so you know that they are actually in the event.
  • There are several other things that will come up - the most useful thing to hold onto is your flexibility and patience!

Getting everything lined up can be a huge project. Get some help, make a checklist, and it should be OK.

The last piece of equipment, or maybe the first, is advertisements

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Step 6 - People for Jobs

Like I said earlier, you are going to need a LOT of help - and here's what for:

  • Judges - start looking for your judges early. As far as who they should be, it can get pretty sticky. Ric Widener says, "It's best to get some commitments ahead of time from skaters that are respected in the community. Look for sponsored riders from the shops that are helping with the event. Better yet, get some rippers from another town to come in and judge. Let them do a demo so the locals see that they shred, and bribe them with beers, couch space and a night on the town after the event. Judges that don't know the local scene are less liable to be confronted with "this ... is fixed!" accusations."
  • Food servers - Get a local restaurant on board to set up an area hand out free food, and gift certificate prizes. Or to sell their food, if no one will hand it out for free! But you'd be surprised - ask around and see. If you can't get a restaurant to help, then get someone else to be in charge of a snack area. You really need to have food and drink at a skate competition.
  • Entry people - smart, intelligent people to handle signing in, the waivers, wristbands if you're using them, numbers if you're using those, entry fees, rosters for the judges, etc.
  • MCs - you want someone, or a small team, who are very VERY excited to do this! A tired, bored, too cool MC will kill the event - you need an actually cool, fun, EXCITED person. And they should know something about skateboarding, too.

Depending on your event, there might be all kinds of other people you will need. That's ok - at least you were warned here first, right?!

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Step 7 - The Event

You have everything together, hopefully, weeks before the event, and you're set. Great!

The final bit of help I can give you is what to expect when the event actually happens. Expect things to go wrong. Expect EVERYTHING to go wrong. Expect angry kids who think they should have won. Expect angrier adults. Expect the sound system to have issues, and the MC to show up with a hangover.

Will all of that happen? No. But there's a great chance that some of it will. And when it does, relax. Don't worry. There might be confusion, there will be angry people, but in the end, it's a simple skateboarding competition. Everyone actually WANTS it to be fun - they're really on YOUR side. Some of them just might not know it!

If the sound system dies, just keep going. Have the MC talk loud. If people get mad, tell them to try again next year. If judges don't show up, you might be stepping in and judging! The point is, if you have enough people to help and support you, and do the best you can set up before the event, then the only thing you have left to do is be flexible and relax!

You're doing something big for your community - if no one there says it, let me make sure I tell you thanks. Local skate contests are a great way for skaters to push themselves, see what they can do under pressure, meet people, and have their skills and efforts validated (hopefully in front of friends and family). Plus, it should be fun! You're doing a great thing for your community. Thanks!!