Sports


Saturday: 'Skate Jam' returns to Menlo Park

Valparaiso Avenue from Altschul Avenue to Hallmark Circle will be closed to car traffic

What's more fun to do at the Sharon Hills Park in Sharon Heights than fulfilling your masochistic fitness needs sweating your way up the steep incline? For some, the answer is easy: bombing down the same hill on a longboard at insane speeds.

At least, that's what the competitors at Menlo Park's fifth "Skate Jam," set for Saturday, Oct. 1, have planned: a day of speeding down "Valpo Hill," as it's affectionately called by local longboarders, showing off tricks before sponsors and spectators.

The hill on Valparaiso Avenue from Altschul Avenue to Hallmark Circle will be closed to car traffic for the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There will be two levels of competition: the "grom" division, for kids and less-experienced skaters, and an open/pro division for the more competitive skaters, said Chuck Melber of Black Diamond Sports, the Palo Alto-based skate shop hosting the event.

The grom, or under-18, competition is tentatively set to begin at 11 a.m., and the open/pro competition at 12:30 p.m., he said. The competition will be judged by three longboard industry professionals. A separate competition for "longest slide," will begin at 2 p.m. and an awards ceremony is set for 4 p.m.

Prizes will be awarded for top competitors, and there will be a "gnarliest spill" consolation prize for whoever falls the hardest, Mr. Melber said.

As far as safety measures go, he said, there will be professional medical support on hand. Plus, competitors must wear protective gear. Hay bales will be set up as a buffer for careening competitors.

"We view it as an opportunity for riders to get together, hang out and test their skills on a closed road," he said.

It's also a chance for the representatives of 15 to 20 skateboard brands expected to be there to discover new talent and scout out new competitors to sponsor, he added. Among the brands scheduled to be represented: Volcom, Nixon, Sector9 and Boosted Boards, an electric skateboard startup, Mr. Melber said.

This will be the fifth such competition hosted in Menlo Park, though the event did not happen last year, Mr. Melber said. It's the only permitted closed-road event in Northern California, though other skate brands may host others events, he said.

So far, about 100 competitors have signed up, he said, with about two-thirds registered to compete in the open/pro bracket. Most are from the Bay Area and West Coast, though in past years, he said, competitors have come from as far as the East Coast, Canada, or in one case, the Philippines.

Watch a video from the third annual event here.

People can still register for $50.

Go to blackdiamondsports.com for more information.

The event will be free for the public to watch. People who plan to attend should bring lawn chairs and prepare to see "people going really fast downhill on skateboards," said Mr. Melber.

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