What happened to Tampa Pro?

An Am skater just won skateboarding's most infamous Pro contest. Eh?

First off – we’d better approach the most obvious elephant in the room.
2018’s Tampa Pro winner (and 2014 Tampa Am winner) is 17-year-old Jagger Eaton.
Now I’m not about to question this kid’s ability as it is indisputably insane, and anyone who is as at home on a mega ramp as they are on a street course is clearly destined for great things. But, and it’s a big ‘but’: how is it that Jagger has just placed first at Tampa Pro despite not being pro?
The answer might be as simple as with him being a previous Tampa Am winner he’s allowed to enter the Pro comp, but I’ve searched around to see if that is the case to no avail.
Does anyone know how this makes sense?
Yes, it’s been clear that the distinction between Pro and Am level skateboarding has become almost imperceptible over the last decade but still, why call it ‘Tampa Pro’ if anyone can enter and win? We’re confused…

We’ll address some of the other questions thrown up by this year’s contest in a minute but for now – have a look at Jagger’s winning Tampa Pro run first and see what you think…

I can remember staying up late at night to watch Tampa Pro live feeds back in the day.
Back when the contest was streamed straight from Skatepark of Tampa’s own website, and then later on the SLS site. The excitement was palpable, people talked shit on the microphone and there was an option for viewers to leave comments which were then read out over the mic.
Much fun was had and Tampa retained its much deserved reputation as the ‘skater’s skate contest’.

Fast forward to 2017 and emergent pay-to-view media platform ETN took over the live feed, meaning that people had to sign up and pay to download an app to watch an event that was formerly broadcast for free to skateboarders across the globe.
No surprise then that this move caused uproar, and presumably enough of a decline in viewing figures for ETN, (who also hosted this year’s live feed) to decide to broadcast it for free in 2018. Leaving aside the fair point made by ETN mastermind Erik Bragg that ‘free content’ is an unrealistic concept – you have to wonder whether or not Tampa Pro would’ve been better off leaving things as they were.

Anyhow – we’ll leave it up to you to come to your own conclusions as regards the implications of the above and instead, move backwards from this year, looking at each winner in turn to see if it reveals anything about skateboarding’s general trajectory.

Louie Lopez Tampa Pro Winning Run 2017

A little unfair to compare 2018 winner’s run to this but hey ho, life’s unfair at its core so whatever. Louie Lopez delivering a master class in skating an entire street course – mixing ledge and flip in rail moves with seamlessly smooth tranny tricks.
Not a single axle stall and only one dismount. 14 tricks landed in succession (not counting one 5050 grind) and an air of stylish insouciance. Pro skateboarding in its most instantly recognisable format.

Shane O’Neill Tampa Pro Winning Run 2016

At the other end of the spectrum to Louie Lopez, but equally as otherworldly in terms of ability, is Shane O’Neill. As an Aussie, this guy has happily accepted the taunts directed at him being some kind of cyborg and proved any and all critics wrong by unleashing regular video parts of mind-bending technical skateboarding without seeming to break a sweat. This Tampa Pro run fits into that mold with a mixture of casual but perfectly executed tech rail moves, alongside a few bits of sketchiness and self-aware shrugs to remind us all that he is indeed human.
This is how you win a contest by simply doing the most difficult tricks – skate on this level and you can avoid the tranny completely and nobody will complain.
12 tricks – one dismount – couple of stalls – no tranny, (unless the ironic fakie ollie counts).

Luan Oliveira Tampa Pro Winning Run 2015
I remember watching this live and it was fucking bonkers. All three of his runs were insanely technical, every trick popped high and at speed and with his third and final run (technically his ‘winning run’ I guess) the MC’s basically handed him the trophy without even waiting for the judges. Lots of cheering, smiles from Luan himself and a tour de force of technical power and consistency. Nobody was complaining about this win. 20 tricks – no dismounts – couple of rock fakies – tranny tricks.

Nyjah Huston Tampa Pro Winning Run – 2014

Can’t fault Nigel here – a flawless victory via calculated contest strategy. What he lacks in seamless flow and tranny tricks (although there is a smith grind on tranny chucked in there) he more than made up for with the rail two-piece at the end.
This is a run from someone who has entered and won contests since they were barely out of nappies. We’re assuming that the MC’s “Don’t forget to clap…” comment was an unconscious reference to his somewhat unduly tarnished reputation prior to this Tampa win.
A true strategist on top of his game. A*
10 tricks, 3 dismounts, rail heavy, one tranny trick.

Luan Oliveira Tampa Pro Winning Run 2013

Interesting to see an evolution from Luan’s first Tampa Pro run here in 2013 and his win two years later in 2015. As always Luan skates faster, pops higher and fits in more tricks than anyone else in the allotted time. The hardflip fatty to flatty ender was in tune with Tampa expectations of the time too – indisputably victorious.
12 tricks, 2 dismounts, tricks on every obstacle.

Torey Pudwill Tampa Pro Wining Run 2012

Everybody’s favourite teddy bear supporter might’ve produced less tricks than future winners, (which in itself was ironic given his penchant for cramming 8 tricks into one combo), but it was hard to argue with this one. Extra points for two wrong way tricks utilizing his monster off-the-flat pop, particularly the switch kickflip up the stairs that most people went down. Zero tranny tricks here and a lot of dismounts but we’ll give it to T-Puds anyway, even if his angry face throughout kind of made you wonder what type of weed he’d been smoking beforehand.
9 tricks, 3 dismounts, no tranny and a post run crash into Ishod.

Dennis Busenitz Tampa Pro Winning Run 2011

And now we come to the ultimate Tampa Pro (and probably skate contest in general) run.
This is the measure against which all other Tampa Pro runs will be judged forever.
It’s almost unnecessary to even point out why this is so good – just watch it.
This is pure, unfiltered skateboarding – yes it’s in a contest format but it would look just as at home on the streets. Raw speed, power, aggression and style.
This is how you win a contest and please every possible tier of skateboarders.
Nothing will ever touch this run, ever.
19 tricks, 1 dismount (simply because the park isn’t big enough for him to go as fast as he needs to), real tranny tricks and genuine applause and cheers from every skateboarder in there. Untouchable stuff.

We were planning on including Paul Rodriguez’ winning run from 2010 too but honestly, this ought to end on Busenitz. If you need to ask why then we suggest you go buy a scooter.
So has the above taught any of us anything about how skateboarding has evolved in the last 8 years? We’re not sure, but I guess one take home is that people are way more strategic about contests these days as the prize purses have grown.

One last thing – of the top ten placing skaters in this year’s Tampa Pro, seven were wearing energy drink hats. Make of that what you will.

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