Next week, park skateboarding makes its Olympic debut.
One thing that many of the competitors will have in common is membership at a training facility in the North County.
That’s not the only connection that makes San Diego County so significant to the skateboarding events.
Bryce Wettstein will represent the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympics, reports NBC 7’s Lauren Coronado
Tucked away in a corner of Vista, the California Training Facility or CATF, is known worldwide among the skateboarding community. In fact, the entire US Park Skateboard Team trained for the Tokyo Olympics at the facility
And that’s not all: Jagger Eaton, who won the bronze medal this week at the premier Olympic edition of street skateboarding, trained at CATF. In fact, just about every skateboard team in the world has gone there to train at least once this past year.
So it was no surprise on Tuesday to see Lincoln Ueda, who coaches at CATF and is heading for Tokyo to judge the park skateboard event, at the facility.
American Jagger Eaton took home the first-ever bronze medal in skateboarding at the Tokyo Olympics. He picked up the medal in the Men’s street event.
“There is no one skateboarder on the planet that knows everything, that has done all the tricks,” Ueda said. “There is no way.“
A run during park skateboarding lasts 45 seconds, but Ueda said he will be looking for the overall impression.
“Style, speed, use of the course, creativity, combination of tricks and variety of tricks,” Ueda said.
The training facility is owned and operated by California Skateparks. The company’s bread and butter, though, are building and creating event parks. Owner Brian Harper has been involved in just about every facility where skateboarders qualify for big events.
“That’s really the specialty — finishing the concrete is an art,” Harper said. “It’s why we have to travel our crews all over the world.”
Pro skateboarder Tony Hawk is in Tokyo for skateboarding’s debut at the Tokyo Olympics and shared what viewers should look for when watching the sport’s events on TV. “The artistry what people should be looking for,” Hawk said. “Skating is as much about style as it is about technique.”
California Skateparks also designed and built the street and park skateboarding facilities in use at the Tokyo Olympics.
The company hasn’t built the same two parks ever, and Tokyo, of course, is also unique. Although the training facility in Vista has the same depth and same radius, the Tokyo facility has a different shape and is much larger. The island jump in the training facility is more like a volcano in Tokyo, Harper said.
“It’s big, it’s intimidating and only the bravest craziest ones will attack that,” Harper said.
Still, Harper said, there are benefits to training in the Vista facility, which is why many skaters do.
“If you came here and you spent some time here, and you took advantage of the parks we have here, I definitely think you’re going to be more familiar with what’s going on in Tokyo,” Harper said.
The skate parks may not be the stars of the show, and the builders won’t walk away with a medal, but Harper takes great pride in playing his part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“My biggest hope is that this creates more opportunities for kids to skate,” Harper said. “Giving them more facilities to go to and, of course, that’s not bad for business.”
Harper called skateboarding the summer cousin of snowboarding. While 2020 is considered a trial event, Harper said the 2024 Paris Olympics have already committed to the events.