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June 21, 2014

Skateboarding event aims to bring sport to more Wichitans

It’s called Bangers Under the Bridge.

It’s called Bangers Under the Bridge.

The nearly daylong event Saturday at Wichita Skatepark, 635 S. St. Francis, under the Kellogg flyover downtown, was a competition among Wichita skateboarders as young as 10 and as old as the mid-20s.

“Bangers,” organizers said, is skateboarding parlance for doing a good trick. And the successful execution of such a trick generally results in fellow skateboarders banging their boards on concrete.

More importantly, skateboarders and organizers said, the event was intended to help build a community among skateboarders in the Air Capital and hopefully to show people in the community that skateboarders are athletes.

“We want to build the scene,” said Jake Williams, a founder of the Wichita Skateboarding Society and partner in Welldone Skate Supply, 617 W. Douglas, the event’s organizers. “The whole idea is we’re building the Wichita skateboarding community.”

Williams and Welldone partners Nathan Beste and Cory Whitlock came up with the Bangers event as a way to build interest in skateboarding and their business.

Prizes for the top three finishers in three divisions – beginner, intermediate and advanced – were provided by some of Welldone’s suppliers, such as $100 Oakely sunglasses.

In the first few heats Saturday, things looked a little chaotic, with a multitude of skateboarders around the park doing midair flips, jumping traffic cones and riding rails. But all the competitors – about 40 – were closely monitored by about eight to 10 judges who awarded points based on the difficulty of a trick, how well they completed the trick and whether they remained on their boards. There was a lot of falling and tumbling in between. As the day wore on, the number of competitors narrowed through elimination with each successive heat.

Williams said he was happy with the turnout, at least among competitors.

“We’ve got a lot more skaters than last year,” he said. But, he added, the number of spectators was down, which he thinks was because there wasn’t any seating for them.

One spectator, Frank Valdivia, said he was there watching the event because he wanted to reminisce about his teen years in Montreal.

“I used to do it back in the ’80s,” said Valdivia, who now lives in Wichita. Was he a serious skateboarder back then? “As serious as a teenager can get,” he replied.

Landon Barnhart was vying for a repeat as last year’s champion in the advanced division. Barnhart, a Wichita native who started skateboarding at 6, said the Bangers event means a lot to him because, growing up here, there weren’t many organized skateboarding competitions, and the ones there were weren’t organized by skateboarders.

“This is more like a core, skater-run competition,” said Barnhart, 19. “I’m just happy there are so many skaters out here.”

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