The World Freestyle Round-Up is the creation of two Canadian skateboard legends, Kevin Harris and Monty Little. Kevin is one of the top freestyle skaters in the world and was a member of both the famous Ripping Squad and Bones Brigade skateboard teams. Monty is Canada’s Frank Hawk, and has run hundreds of safety clinics and contests across Canada since 1976, including the TransWorld Skateboard Championships at EXPO 86. Now in its sixth year, the World Round-Up has become the most successful and largest freestyle contest in the world. I asked Monty if he would shed some light on what it takes to put together an event like this.
The first thing he told me was to surround yourself with a like-minded and devoted staff. He then pointed out Jim Goodrich, their staff photographer, and AJ Kohn and Mike Faux, who like himself live and breathe skateboarding and have successful contests themselves. Here, then, are some tips from three of the best contest organizers out there on how to run a successful skateboard contest.
First off, we run the contest like a business, with a budget, schedules and multiple spreadsheets to keep everything on track. We’ve created an informative website to keep the contestants and freestyle enthusiasts on top of what is happening. We keep our staff informed by holding pre-contest staff meetings so everyone is clear on what their responsibilities are, and we hold a staff after-party to go over how we can improve the event next year.
Because the World Freestyle Round-Up takes place at the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, we have the responsibility of making sure that it’s exciting and fun for the 80,000-plus fair-goers who attend the four-day event. For this reason, we run the contest almost like a show, providing our MC’s, AJ Kohn and Kevin Harris, with detailed bios of the contestants so they can keep things informative and interesting. We also introduced a fast-paced battle format of one-minute freestyle routines that has proven to be a real winner for both the spectators and the skaters. If there is any downtime between heats, we slip in a freestyle demo to keep the crowd engaged and wanting more.
By holding our contest in conjunction with a large festival, we’re able to utilize many of their resources and tap into their extensive advertising budget to get the word out about the contest. In addition, because we are providing free entertainment for the Country Fair, they give us $10,000 in prize money as well as additional funds to help run the event. Kevin and I felt it was important that local skate shops could afford to be involved, along with larger sponsors like Powell-Peralta. Sponsors can either buy or trade services for banner space at this high-profile event. For example, Scaffold Depot supplies the scaffolding that we use to create the entryway towers into the indoor contest venue.
Three of our sponsors provide prizes for the amateur division, and Protest Skateboards creates a wrap-up video of the contest in exchange for their banner space. PD from Skull Skates not only helps out financially but also creates a contest souvenir each year for everyone. One sponsor, the Henry Candioti family, even holds an after-party for the whole gang. For continuity, and to make the venue look exciting, all sponsors’ banners are the same size and are produced by us, then stored for use the following year.
Another goal is to make all the contestants feel involved and a part of the World Round-Up family. We do this in several ways: Russ Howell, our head judge, selects contestants for our judging panels, with pro skaters judging the amateur division and amateur skaters judging the pro division. Speaking of judges, we’ve found that using five judges has always proved to be the fairest system, dropping the high and low scores, then combining the three other scores from the skaters’ runs. Another thing we do to create camaraderie is to have a different skater design the contest artwork each year. Their design is used on the contest T-shirts, posters, welcome bags and the coveted contest belt buckles. We also draw on the talents of our skaters to create our contest trailer. This year’s video was done by Darryl Grogan.
And here are perhaps the three most important keys to success. First, make sure the contestants and staff have fun. If you do, they will keep coming back. Second, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a competent and dedicated staff working as a team to pull off your event. Remember to praise and reward them well. And third, after the contest is over, send out thank-you letters and emails to everyone, and I mean everyone – the skaters and the staff, the city who provides the bleachers, the forklift operator, and of course all of your sponsors. Everyone involved receives a thank-you letter letting them know just how important a role they played in the success of the contest.
With 28 years of skating experience under his belt, AJ has organized and performed in over 1,500 demos worldwide and is ranked as one of the top five professional freestylers in the U.S. He is a dedicated youth advocate, developing inner-city youth programs teaching action sports and anti-bullying. Besides running the Skateboard Academy of Philadelphia, AJ also holds several contests each year at local skateparks, and he organizes the U.S. Freestyle Championships that have taken place over the past seven years in Philadelphia.
Here are AJ’s 10 key items for running a successful skateboard contest.
1. MC should be knowledgeable in skateboarding with a good personality
2. Time management: well-organized, with no lag time between events and heats.
3. Clear communication of your plan of events and tasks (talk to your staff and the contestants).
4. Competent and respected judges.
5. Proper venue: easy to get to, adequate parking, close to amenities, good working relationship with city officials for permits, etc.
6. Basic level of sponsorship to cover set-up costs, awards and prizes.
7. Listen to criticism and act accordingly. Remember to praise your volunteer staff equally.
8. Ask for help when needed (teamwork makes for a successful contest).
9. Promote your event on social media, shops and any other forms you can.
10. Be flexible and able to adapt to situations and make on-the-spot decisions when needed.
Mike Faux, better known as “Hippie Mike,” started skateboarding in Ontario in 1986. In 1998 he moved out to B.C., where he developed his first skateboard sponsors and also created his own skateboard brand, Protest Skateboards.
Mike has been organizing and running skateboard lessons and events for 15 years, including the 10-year series Hippie Mike’s Tour de Surrey, which expanded in 2014 to become Hippie Mike’s Super Tour. Both contest tours were created and combined as food bank fundraisers that have helped to raise thousands of dollars and thousands of pounds of food donations over the years.
“These competitions are not just about winning a contest,” Mike says. “They also build a stronger community in the skateboard world and teach the next generation how to have fun in competition while expanding their minds, setting and accomplishing their goals and performing under pressure in front of a crowd.”
Here are Hippie Mike’s 10 key items for running a successful skateboard contest:
1. Have fun. Ensure that everyone will have a good time at the contest, whether they are competing, spectating, judging or even hosting.
2. Have sufficient and efficient categories so that all levels of skaters can participate.
3. Be organized and ready long before the day of the contest (prizes, sponsorships, posters, etc.).
4. Promote your event everywhere, and well before the event date (social media, posters in skate shops and at skateparks, word of mouth, radio, newspaper or TV when possible).
5. A solid MC – must be able to hype up the skaters and the crowd, know what they’re talking about at all times, be funny and keep the show running.
6. A solid DJ – keep the show going with good music that relates to the competitors and the spectators, and have proper sound equipment.
7. Make sure all participants are always treated equally.
8. Have qualified judges, or at least people who will judge consistently.
9. Get kids involved in the event, whether competing, judging, helping with set-up/take-down, registration, etc.
10. Always be positive and encouraging to everyone. Whether you’re running a freestyle, skatepark or street event, we hope this article has given you some insight on how to run a successful contest.
Special thanks to Michael Brooke of Concrete Wave Magazine.