More than 150 skateboarders from four states converged on Waynesville this weekend for a skateboard competition and the first of a feature film showcasing some of WNC’s best skate tricksters.
The event was hosted by Jared Lee, a local Waynesville skateboarder who turned pro and a tireless champion of the surf community.
“You always see such amazing talent when you bring everyone together and they can feed off each other’s energy,” Lee said. “Skateboarding is first shown at the Olympics right now in Tokyo, and right now in Waynesville, we’re doing our own thing with skateboarders of all generations. “
Indeed, just as skateboarders raced through the parking lot of Mad Anthony’s and Dough Boys Pizza – where a makeshift skatepark with ramps and rails had been set up in the parking lot – the very first Olympic debut of skateboarding was underway at across the globe.
The symbolism did not escape the skaters, who felt that their once independent sport had finally received its due in the international spotlight.
“It’s sweet. I’m so happy they have skateboarding at the Olympics now,” said Will Hall, a skateboarder from Boone who came for the event.
However, some had mixed feelings about it – like Nick “Shaggy” Henson, a 16-year-old skater from Bethel who fears the Olympic spotlight will commercialize the sport.
“I’m not a huge fan,” Henson said. “Skateboarding is not a common thing. It never has been. Skateboarding has always been a grassroots community.
That community spirit – encompassing a network of skaters zigzagging through the mountains of the WNC, Tennessee, North Georgia and North South Carolina – was alive and well at Saturday’s event.
“There are so many cool, cool people out there, but normally you can’t see them all at the same time,” said Nick Welch, another skater from Boone.
Many have come simply because Lee was the one hosting them, not only because of his fame in skateboarding circles, but also the supportive environment he has created for the sport over the years.
The skateboarding contest in the parking lot captured that sense of camaraderie, with the contestants cheering each other on.
For Clyde’s Colin Lanning, this was part of the attraction that drew him to skateboarding two years ago. After getting her first board at 16, he was admittedly a little intimidated the first time she showed up at the Waynesville skatepark.
“The more I went, the more comfortable I felt and started meeting new people and making friends,” said Lanning, now 18. “Everyone helps each other. That’s what I like about it. “
Getting out of the local skatepark bubble and connecting with skateboarders from across the region has been an incredible experience for Henson.
“Love it, it’s the best thing ever, man,” Henson said. “It’s always fun to skate with other people because everyone has different skills and different tricks that they’re better at.”
Incidentally, Henson’s uncle, Justin Putnam, originally from Haywood, became a professional skater known as “The Barbarian”.
Headlining the weekend event was the premiere of a movie about skateboarding featuring tips and stunts from skateboarders across the WNC. And not just skateboarders, but surfers and snowboarders as well – including Zeb Powell of Waynesville, a snowboarder who grew up on the slopes of Cataloochee and managed to win a medal at the X Games last year.
“Over the past year, we’ve worked really hard to put together enough footage to make a full edited video,” Lee said.
Lee recalled what it was like to be himself in such a video in his youth.
“It just made my heart beat faster,” Lee said. “To provide this experience to other kids, to see your name appear onscreen in an edited video and for your peers to cheer you on, for many of these kids it will take them to the next level.”
Meanwhile, Dough Boys Pizza and Mad Anthony’s have been doing booming business from sold out.
“It was really fun,” said Benji Boessel, owner of Dough Boys, during a break in the kitchen to watch some of the video. “Jared Lee always hosts a big event and always tries to improve the community and raise the profile of skating.”