ATASCADERO — Atascadero residents who may not know the difference between an Aztek Siren V2 scooter deck — ”weighing nearly 25 percent less, while still maintaining the optimal grinding surface” — and a Versatyl Bloody Mary Black deck — cheap but strong for beginners — were invited to dive into a new sport and its emerging culture March 9.
The city-owned Atascadero Skate Park, operated as the ATown Skate Park under a contract with local youth mentor Kevin Campion, held a first-of-its-kind exhibition and competition event for the best of the best amateur riders.
With about 150 riders and their entourage in town, traffic around the park and scooters along Traffic Way were a noticeable presence as contestants took to the ramps inside throughout the afternoon Saturday.
Sponsored by Aztek equipment manufacturers out of Ohio, Campion said, he’s supported the brand for years selling scooter gear at the park and watched scooters grow in popularity over the last decade.
Traditionally seen as a subset of skating, he added that the point of the weekend gathering was to help raise the level of respect the sport is shown, and he hoped, garner some interest from youth not normally interested in taking their pastime into social settings.
A solid chunk of time he spends in the park as proprietor on a normal day is in helping fix equipment brought in by riders and building gear to last, a role that was cranked up to 11 as the repair bench turned into a competition pit stop for the day.
About a third of the 150 riders wouldn’t be having trouble going social with their passion however, as they’re already leveraging Instagram and YouTube to attract sponsorship and followers to open doors. Sixteen-year-old Derek Marr from San Diego, for example, has enjoyed a tremendous amount of freedom for a teen, touring in Australia and, after a stop to attend the competition in Atascadero, packing for a trip to Spain. At last count, he had 136,000 followers on Instagram demanding uploads of his latest tricks.
The sport has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade with many stylistic differences appearing on the world stage. Representatives from Dissidence Distribution, which is selling European brands and equipment in the US, noted that the continental variant decks are designed with more tapered elegance and with lighter weight materials while Americans prefer wide, heavy decks for the grind.
It’s all a matter of taste, a representative from Aztec notes, that many of the major brands’ gear is actually manufactured in the same factories. They hope to make the ATown AM an annual attraction.