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Tampa Pro Practice Day

The 2010 Tampa Pro got underway today with the last day of open practice and the annual Industry VIP and Team Managers competition. Driving to the Skatepark of Tampa from my hotel, I was acutely aware of just how big this contest has gotten when, flipping through the radio channels, I came across two familiar voices: Paul Rodriguez and Omar Salazar were being interviewed by Tampa radio personality "Bubba The Love Sponge." Random.

At the park, the street course was packed, even more so than it has been in recent years. Part of that may have been the inclement weather in Tampa, characterized by torrential downpours all day. Where normally at the contest, there are plenty of people milling about in the outdoor area between the two warehouses that make up the SPoT facility, today everyone was staying out of the rain and on the street course instead. Serious skating was going down. Two-peat Tampa Am champ and brand new pro Luan Oliveira was out there killing the ledge section with tech bangers and he didn't seem at all intimidated by his new peers in the pro ranks. Ryan Sheckler was getting runs in. Sheckler was making pained faces and limping out of some bails in practice, so it remains to be seen if he'll actually compete. If Sheckler does compete in the qualifiers tomorrow, it will mark his first return to competition since injuring himself at X Games 15 in the summer of 2009.

Torey Pudwill was murdering the course and, definitely of note, he was not riding an Almost board, his sponsor until very, very recently. Pudwill was in fact riding a board that said "T-Puds" where the "P" was made to into a Plan B logo.

In other board news from the street course, John Newport, formerly of Rasa Libre informed me of the resurgence of the brand Arcade with Newport, Kenny Hughes and original Arcade rider Jay "SAD" Stevens as the first pros.

The pros are just getting warmed up for this week's comp but some amazing stuff has already gone down in practice. Chaz Ortiz can do his nollie backside bigspins over the sizable pyramid at Tampa every single try. Jordan Hoffart was channeling Kerry Getz with frontside flip late shove-its over the hips. Pete Eldridge was hitting massive frontside 360s over the hips. And Brian Anderson was attacking the entire course with signature style.

One thing that really sticks out to me about the vibe here in Tampa is a genuine sense of camaraderie. Many pros you might not expect to be seen together were hanging out laughing and clapping for one another. Even with the hairball collisions and near misses out on the course everyone was all smiles.