Fans flocked to the Long Beach Convention Center this weekend for some exhilarating skating at the Dew Tour Long Beach event. Thousands were on-hand to watch the men’s and women’s park and street competitions. On the women’s side, Misugu Okamoto of Japan took home the park course title, and Pamela Rosa of Brazil was first on the street course podium. For the men, Cory Juneau from San Diego, California (above), won the park course competition, and Aurelien Giraud of France was the champion of the street course.
The street course consists of flat ground, stairs, and rails in a setting just like you are out having fun on a street with your buddies. But the park course includes a bowl with different ramps and curves more like being in a skate park. The skateboarding competition had everything you would expect, but Dew Tour Long Beach was different from any other contest in one big way.
“This competition is an Olympic qualifier, and that obviously that makes it stand alone,” said Jagger Eaton, who earned the top spot in the men’s street quarterfinal but fell to 20th in the semifinal.
Street and park will be part of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. In fact, Dew Tour Long Beach was the first global Olympic qualifier for skateboarding in the U.S. As a result, the competition more than quadrupled in size, from around 75 competitors last year to over 300 competitors coming from 45 different countries this year.
For fans and athletes, this competition is a lot of fun. “The environment the Dew Tour creates for all their participants—from the athletic support to the general vibe with live concerts during practice sessions—this contest just really stands out from all the other ones,” said Jagger. With shops to visit, live music, public skate everywhere, and fun games throughout the area, Dew Tour Long Beach makes the fans feel like they’re part of the contest.
To the top athletes, skateboarding is a lot more than just a competition. Their love for the sport is palatable. “I don’t see my life without skating,” said 12-year-old Gavin Bottger (above), the youngest men’s skater at the event, who finished 21st in the men’s park semifinal. “I hope to be a professional skater for my whole life; I don’t even know what else I would do.”
“Skateboarding to me means everything,” agreed Eaton. “I love the environment; I love the creative and artistic part of it. It just means more than anything I’ve ever done.”
As the four-day event continued, it was impossible not to notice the crowds of kids, from toddlers to teenagers, vying for a spot to see their favorites. Bottger, Eaton, and so many of the skaters at Dew Tour Long Beach are inspirations for the next generation of skaters. “Just follow your dreams,” Bottger reminds them, “and always have fun.” Skateboarding is a lifestyle for this community.
“To any kid out there who really wants to start skateboarding,” said Eaton, giving a word of advice, “get ready to go through a lot. It’s crashing; it’s getting up. But skateboarding is something you’ll fall in love with easy after you push through it.”
The next Olympic qualifier for street skateboarding will be in Los Angeles July 23–28; for park, competitors will head to Nanjing, China, July 14–19.
Top photograph by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images