Battle at the Rez: Death Pitts Skate Competition 07.05
Over the fourth of July holiday weekend in Salt Lake, I could have seen a hobbit on turntables, LARPing at the Salt Palace or even the new Jonah Hill movie. Instead, I jumped at the chance to help support a cause that is close to my heart—substance abuse prevention. The Ute Tribe Alcohol/Substance Abuse Prevention Center held the Death Pitts Skate Competition at the Fort Duchesne skate park in order to get people off their couches and doing something productive. Certified social worker and director of the program, Anthony Guzman, coordinated the competition, and it all went down on Saturday, July 5th.
The prospect of driving the three hours to Fort Duchesne alone was not appealing. So, I enlisted the help of longtime friend and fellow member of The Good Guys Club, Volkswagen Frank. As we pulled up to the skatepark a couple of hours before registration, the only people we saw were a couple of kids on scooters. This gave us some time to check out the obstacles. The park is small, but it has everything you need. A couple of hubbas are on the side of a long four-stair with a handrail in the center for the more experienced skaters, and gentle banks for the kids who are just getting their sea legs. With a crescent moon quarter pipe at the far end, benches surrounding the perimeter and a gutter gap with a ledge at the top, this skate park is well rounded and offers something for every skill level.
As registration time approached, the population of the skate park just about doubled every 10 minutes until there is not one empty parking space in sight. As people showed up, they introduce themselves to everyone. I have been to plenty of skate contests, and the vibe of this competition felt the friendliest. There were no hotshots with headphones trying to rule the park or dirty looks if you accidently snaked someone—just homies skating.
The 4WheelWarPony crew facilitated the competition by putting up some of their product as prizes and team manager Dustinn Craig helped out with announcing duties. DJ Chef Fred and DJ L.A. of 90.3 Rez Radio kept the beats flowing before and during the competition at the DJ booth. After around three hours of free skating, I heard Craig over the P.A. say that the contest would be starting soon. The format for the 16 and up division was as follows: Each skater would have a one-minute qualifying round where 12 skaters would become six, then they’d move on to the final round. The same format was chosen for the 12 and under division.
The 12 and under division only had two contestants. A young local known only as Hiram and last-minute entry Dominick Frank gave it their all. They both showed their skills going up and down the banks. Neither of the skaters pulled off carving around the crescent moon quarter-pipe, but I’m sure they will be able to if they keep at it. It was inspiring to see the next generation of skaters as part of the contest.
After the first heat, the judges picked the contestants for the final round: Shiloh Welbern, Tim Sprouse, Ross Col, Josh Pons, Tony Steele and Sam Smith. Shiloh Welbern gave it his all in the last round, landing a kickflip front 50-50 on the ledge to drop and a huge backside 180 off the obstacle that I can only describe as “the boob” which landed him Third Place overall. Josh Pons had to travel over an hour to skate the contest, and you could tell from his skating, that he did not want to go home emptyhanded. Using the stair section to the best of his abilities, Pons landed crook on the hubba and a frontside lipslide on the handrail. He just couldn’t stick his last trick—a front 180 to nosegrind on the hubba. Craig allowed him a few more tries even after his round was over, but his last attempts were in vain. His fervor for skateboarding landed him Second Place. Tim Sprouse was not afraid of getting weird with a bigspin hippy-jump under/over the flat bar and a wallie up the gutter. While his tricks did qualify him after the first round, the judges didn’t place him in the top three.
Tony Steele is part of the 4WheelWarPony team, and chose to skate in the contest. All of the judges were also members of the 4WWP crew—this made me slightly worried about the judges having a bias. As Steele began his round, I realized that this guy is not human, and the only way the judges could have been biased is by giving him a low score. He rattled off tricks faster than I could write: kickflip off the boob, backside disaster on the crescent moon, bluntslide on a ledge, 360 flip down the four and a bigspin front board on the handrail. He ended his run with a kickflip to flat bottom off the bank, which was a crowd favorite. Steele received top honors in the contest, but even though he won, he ended up giving away the product he earned to other skaters who entered. This kid is a class act, and he hasn’t even graduated high school yet. He is one of the heavy-hitters of the 4WWP crew, and is doing great things for the Arizona-based brand. After the contest, they premiered a video they have been filming for the last couple of years. You can check out their YouTube channel here.
SLUG gives thanks to the Ute Tribe and Anthony Guzman for organizing events that get young people doing something creative with their free time. Prizes were provided by 4WheelWarPony and Rezolution Skateboards—both homegrown native board companies. With these companies in attendance and giving out product, it showed that skateboarding is not a new thing in native communities. Combined with the Shred Fest and the nearby Pow Wow, there was plenty of clean and sober fun to be had in Fort Duchesne over the Fourth of July weekend. Check out Shred Fest coverage here!