By Erin Rice
According to recent statistics, at least one in every ten children in the United States owns a skateboard, with around 9 million active participants each year. Between 2002 and 2007, female participation increased more in skateboarding than any other sport. In North Texas, this most accessible of the “extreme” sports is growing in popularity and gaining more mainstream acceptance as public skate parks are being approved and built in several cities.
As popular as skateboarding is in the region, there isn’t a wealth of opportunities for young riders to compete at an amateur level. But with baby steps, that could change soon. As soon as this weekend, in fact.
On Saturday, May 16, Dallas-based Geiger Media will host the first stop of the Regional Amateur Tour (RAT) outside the Sun & Ski Sports at Grapevine Mills. With a total of four stops around Texas, the competition will include a mini-ramp and a street “Best Trick.”
Geiger Media’s founder, Bill Geiger, has had prior success with tours of this type in another board sport, wakeboarding. In 2004, he founded the Texas Wakeboard Tour with a number of stops aimed at promoting the water sport throughout the southwest. Geiger anticipates that the RAT will grow in popularity in much the same way.
“When I started the wakeboard tour it was all very amateur, but as we built it up the money got better and then the pros started to come.”
Speaking to skateboarding’s following in this region, and the desire for a place to compete, the RAT had no trouble getting participants. Though the organizers originally put a limit of 20 on the number of entries in mini ramp, Geiger noted that early this week, only two weeks after releasing the tour’s website, they’d easily reached their number and would likely accept additional riders. Throughout the two parts of the competition, street and mini-ramp, he said the ages of participants vary from eight- to 24-years-old.
While the RAT is an amateur tour, looking at the sponsorships you could mistake it for a pro event. Top-billed sponsors include Texas Scion of Grapevine, Sun & Ski Sports, Monster Energy Drink, Fuel TV and Time Warner Cable. In addition to sponsoring the event, footage from the four stops will be aired on Fuel TV, associated with Fox Sports and piped into tens of million of homes throughout the U.S.
Also helping to put on the tour is Push Distributions and Productions, a local manufacturer and distributor that oversees three skate brands: Hype!, Guapo, and City Stars. Mike Crum, an original X-Gamer who works with Push and helped construct the mini-ramp that’s being used this Saturday, is excited about the impact of a competition like this on young Texas riders.
“In California they see events like this all the time. Tony Hawk skates at the skate parks. But here – bringing something legit like this to Texas – it’s way more of a big deal for the kids.”
The RAT kicks off this Saturday at the Grapevine Mills Mall. Located just outside the Sun & Ski Sports, action begins at 11 a.m. and will continue through 5 p.m. There will be a live DJ spinning tunes and a number of sponsor tents. But, most importantly, there will be tons of local amateur skateboarders shredding the lot all day long. The event is free to watch.