‘They see the world differently:’ Summit snowboarders react to inaugural Olympic skateboard contest
There is a strong connection between skateboarding and snowboarding. The two sports share an outlaw-origin story, tricks and, now, inclusion in the Olympic record books.
The importance of the moment this week and last in Tokyo, Japan, for board-sport enthusiasts is not lost on U.S. halfpipe pro Chase Blackwell. When he’s not lacing double corks in Woodward Copper’s 22-foot snow superpipe, the Dillon resident and Longmont native is an avid wake surfer and skater — as is most of the U.S. Snowboard Team.
Exactly half a year before he hopes to represent Team USA at the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Blackwell watched the conclusion of skateboarding’s maiden Olympic medal contests.
Blackwell said Olympic inclusion is a major mainstream milestone for not only the sport but for the tightknit skateboarding community.
“Sometimes it takes a sport being in the Olympics to realize how legit these things are,” Blackwell said.
Daniel Gale, co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, said he realizes there are mixed emotions for skaters around the world on Olympic inclusion. He too takes pride in skaters being somewhat of a counterculture community of people. That’s why, he said, he founded Adaptive Action Sports, to represent adaptive athletes that aren’t commonly represented in mainstream sports.
But, Gale said, with Olympic inclusion — which snowboarding first experienced in 1998, nearly a quarter-century before its brother sport — comes further opportunity. That includes his current push with USA Skateboarding to have skateboarding become a Paralympic sport.
“It’s exciting to keep the family and sport growing,” Gale said.
Even if he is a world-class halfpipe shredder, Blackwell himself has been impressed with the athletic achievements of the world’s best skateboarders. The halfpipe pro said when he skates with elite pro skaters he is amazed at the speed at which they can pump and glide through the ebbs and flows of a park.
Interestingly enough, Blackwell said, that’s the same feedback Olympic-level snowboarders of his caliber receive from skaters when they see the country’s best rippers let it loose in an icy superpipe.
“That’s something that draws people to action sports, how fast you’re moving and how you’re pushing through the G-forces,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell said the U.S. Snowboard Team is chock-full of talented, stylish skateboarders both in street and park settings. Outside of American Olympic legend Shaun White — who’s in Tokyo this week sessioning the Olympic park venue — Blackwell said some of the team’s best skaters are Summit local Jake Canter, Lyon Farrell of Hawaii and Lucas Foster of Telluride.
But Blackwell said Sean Fitzsimons of Hood River, Oregon is not only “hands down” the best skater on the team but he’s talented enough to be a pro skateboarder when not on snow. U.S. Snowboard showcased Fitzsimons skating at the Hood River skate park Wednesday.
Mike Minor of Frisco has himself done the snowboard-skateboard double dip, winning an X Games medal in adaptive skateboarding and multiple Olympic medals in adaptive snowboarding. Minor, a prideful street skater who also loves flowing through the Frisco Skate Park, said he thinks the Olympics did a great job channeling the essence of street and park skating in its competition formats. As for the contests themselves, Minor said he appreciated Japan’s podium dominance on their home soil.
Blackwell said he was especially impressed with the level of skating the best female skaters from across the world showcased to viewers everywhere, including many families and young girls tuning into the sport for the first time.
“It will show a lot more women that it’s possible,” Blackwell said. “Parents who are going to go buy girls skateboards, it’s not, ‘You’re going to get hurt; you’re too fragile for this.’ It’s, ‘If she wants to skateboard, she can skateboard.’”
Blackwell and Minor agreed the coolest thing they’ve seen at the Olympics has actually been the skating outside of competition venues. Team USA star Nyjah Huston may have won the unofficial, social media gold medal for his video of hitting street features in the Olympic village, but many more Olympic skaters have shared videos finding creative spots across the city of Tokyo.
Blackwell said he appreciated U.S. halfpipe teammate Taylor Gold’s Instagram share of the Huston clip, one in which Gold said Olympic villages in the future should double as a skate spot. It’s a skater’s ethos Blackwell can relate to as he and other U.S. pros often take their skateboards wherever the snowboard circuit takes them, whether that be in Europe, New Zealand or China.
“There are going to be plenty more experiences like that,” Blackwell said.
It’s that flair — to have the most fun in the moment, even in the Olympic village — that is precisely what Minor loves about skateboarding’s addition to the Olympics.
“You don’t see Nordic skiers ski to things in the athletes’ village,” Minor said with a laugh. “Real skaters are always after stuff like that. You can’t contain them. They see the world differently.”
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