A skateboarder runs through the Ralphs Skate Court during last year's SC Open contest. Photo: Eric Heinz
A skateboarder runs through the Ralphs Skate Court during last year’s SC Open contest. Photo: Eric Heinz

SC Open skate contest showcases local talent, raises funds for park improvements

By Steve Breazeale

Bill Hart remembers a young San Clemente skateboarder flying through the air and carving his way around Ralphs Skate Court during the SC Open skate contest’s early days.

The crowds all knew the young teen was something special, and the contest, which is put on by the city and the Friends of San Clemente Foundation, was always his chance to shine in front of the home crowd.

“I remember Ryan Sheckler out there doing feature tricks for the contest,” said Hart, the Friends Foundation’s skate contest liaison. “Those moments are what the contest has always been about. It’s about getting our local kids involved and allowing them to showcase themselves for a day.”

Indeed, the next Sheckler could be among the dozens of competitors expected to skate during Saturday’s big contest, which will be the event’s 17th installment.

The contest is open to all ages and will be held at Ralphs Skate Court, 241 Avenida La Pata. Check-in and on-site registration begins at 7 a.m. Cost to compete is $40, with all proceeds raised going toward skatepark improvements.

The Friends Foundation partnered with the city of San Clemente to hold the first-ever contest in 2000. Since then, they have been devoted to making each version of the contest better than the last.

Professional judges and announcers have been brought in to make for a better contest and presentation in recent years. High-profile, local action sports businesses, such as Stance and Electric, are now sponsors and will be on-site.

“From a commerce perspective, the contest has grown and expanded to include all these awesome organizations,” city of San Clemente Recreation manager Samantha Thomas said. “It helps fortify our efforts in acknowledging we are a skate community. It’s exciting and it gets the skaters excited too.”

The skaters will be competing not only for the pride of being a hometown winner, but also for prizes and cash. Each contestant will receive a T-shirt and everyone will have the opportunity to compete in the popular Nike SB Best Trick contest.

All skaters are asked to wear proper safety equipment, including a helmet, elbow and knee pads.

Coalition with a Cause

Hart said that while the contest has always been well-run, welcoming volunteers and input from the San Clemente Skatepark Coalition has taken the event to a better, more legitimate level.

The SCSC is a volunteer-run nonprofit made up of residents whose main goal is to improve and potentially expand Ralphs Skate Court.

Last year, the SCSC used its connections in the skate industry to bring in new vendors as well as the respected contest judges. The relationship between the SCSC and the Friends Foundation is mutually beneficial, as the contest serves as a big fundraising opportunity for SCSC’s causes.

Currently, Ralphs Skate Court does not have lights, which forces skaters to either go home earlier than they would like, or continue to skate in dangerous, dark conditions. When assessing initial improvements that could be made to the park, the lighting issue topped SCSC’s list.

Earlier this year, the city of San Clemente earmarked $100,000 to erect lights at Ralphs Skate Court as part of a capital improvement project for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

The city estimated the lights would cost roughly $150,000 and have asked the SCSC and the Friends Foundation to raise the additional $50,000 to help foot the bill.

All funds raised at the contest go directly to the Friends Foundation, which in turn holds those funds for the $50,000 skatepark lighting goal.

San Clemente Skatepark Coalition organizer Stephanie Aguilar said the contest is great way to unite the skate community and “reenergize everybody on the cause”.

Aguilar said the SCSC hopes once the funds are raised for lighting, they can continue to work with the city to improve the skatepark. She called the lighting initiative “phase one” of a multi-step plan.

“Getting the lights (funding) was a huge win for us and the city is supporting us,” Aguilar said. “The lights are only a small part, but something we really want to make clear to the skate community and the city is that the ultimate goal is to bring more to San Clemente.”

For more information on the contest, or to register, visit www.san-clemente.org/scopen.

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