What a grind
Even well before 2007, Mark Mullen couldn't help notice that skateboarding was becoming a legitimate sport.
However, that year, the 3rd Lair Skatepark and Skateboard Shop co-owner and president, along with others at the Golden Valley-based company, felt like it was time for someone to organize a way for local kids to compete in a professionally run contest series.
After 14 years of running random competitions around the state, Mullen said he believed his company had the right people who would do it for the right reason -- because of a strong love for skateboarding -- and, thus, the 3rd Lair "Summer Series" was born.
"To us the Summer Series is way more than just a competition," Mullen said. "It's a way for us to give back to the sport that has treated us so kindly. Being a part of the Summer Series means way more for the participants as well. It's a way for them to meet new friends, experience all of the local skateparks in the Twin Cities area, and they learn all of the positive lessons that competing in a sport teaches you."
Mullen and 3rd Lair recently brought the show to south Washington County for one of 14 Summer Series skateboard competitions -- which run from early June to the end of August.
Roughly 50 competitive skaters from all over the metro -- and as far away as Grand Rapids -- took part in the contest on July 29 at the Hamlet Park skatepark in Cottage Grove.
In addition to the competition, the event included live play-by-play, music, prizes and booths hosted by sponsors like Vitaminwater.
"Our main philosophy with running skateboard contests is that we de-emphasize the importance of winning," Mullen said. "We focus more on the camaraderie and the pure fun that skateboarding is."
The 3rd Lair Summer Series is the first-ever cumulative points skateboard contest series in the state of Minnesota -- and one of the only such events in the country, according to Mullen.
"We are the first state to do this type of thing," Mullen said. "We are well-connected in the industry across the country. I've had so many people tell me it's a great idea and they wish they had something like it in their state. Minnesota is really the first one to get this type of competition series."
Taking a page from NASCAR, points in the Summer Series are given to each competitor based on their final standing at each contest. The competitors with the most points at the end of the series are the winners. There are three overall champions crowned -- at the beginner, intermediate and expert levels. For the first time, this year the Summer Series championships will take place at the Minnesota State Fair -- Aug. 29-Aug. 31. The top three finishers from each division at every Summer Series contest is eligible to compete at the State Fair.
In each Summer Series event, all riders get two, one-minute runs to show what they can do on rails, ramps and halfpipes. At each event, riders have an opportunity to get up to 50 points. All entrants automatically get 10 points. First place gets an additional 40 points (50 total), second place gets 30 additional points, third place gets 20 additional points and so on. At the end of the contest series, everyone's points are added up and overall winners are decided. Winners of each division at each individual contest also receive a 'Golden Ticket' to the Midwest Melee -- an annual contest held at 3rd Lair at the end of the summer -- which puts them directly into the finals of that event.
The entry fee for riders is $10 per event, which is split between 3rd Lair and the host city.
Cameron Haas, 16, of Fergus Falls said he's been skating for nine years. For the most part, he competes around Fergus Falls and in neighboring Fargo, N.D.
"It's a lot of fun," Haas said. "I always have fun at these competitions. I like the pressure. But, the best part is the freedom. There's no one telling you what to do. It's up to you."
Cottage Grove's Jason Greeder, 12, was competing in his first skateboarding competition.
"I just wanted to do it," Greeder said. "It's a lot of fun, but I was nervous. The experts are a lot of fun to watch."
Greeder joined the contest with his friend Logan Beaulieu, 12, of Cottage Grove. It was Beaulieu's sixth competition.
"It's something to do in the summer when you're not playing other sports," Beaulieu said. "It's a lot of fun to do. More people should come to them and check them out."
Mullen said his ultimate vision with the Summer Series is to make it into the Little League of skateboard for the state of Minnesota. He then hopes it blossoms into the Little League of skateboarding for the Midwest and then -- who knows?
Mullen said the Summer Series has grown each year, with more cities adding events and registration numbers going up.
"It's our responsibility as skatepark owners to fill the needs of skateboarders," Mullen said. "We really wouldn't be doing our jobs well unless we filled the needs of what skateboarders want. This was something not only kids wanted, but parents as well. It's our duty to go out and do these things."
Go to www.3rdlair.com for the full results, standings and cumulative point totals of every competitor at the Summer Series.
See additional photos in the Aug. 10 issue of the Bulletin