Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Skateboarding [Print without images]

Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: December 9, 10:39 PM ET
The 18th Annual Tampa Am

By Chris Nieratko
ESPN.com

Preview Qualifiers Semi Qualifiers Finals

By the time you read this I'll be on a plane heading south to sunny Tampa, Fla. for the 18th Annual Tampa Am contest.

Tampa Am is the most respected amateur contest in skateboarding, and this year the Skatepark of Tampa is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The fact that they're celebrating two decades of rich skateboarding history, a longer length of time than most skaters in this weekend's contest have been alive, doesn't make them old -- it makes them awesome.

With so many cherished institutions going away or going out of business in skateboarding it's nice to know Brian Schaefer, Ryan Clements, Rob Meronek and the entire Skatepark of Tampa family is going strong after all these years. It gives a sense of hope that no matter how big or small skateboarding gets that the purest of things can endure through anything.

Since its humble beginnings in 1995, the Tampa Am contest has been a turning point in a skater's career. Of the 17 previous winners only one guy, (1998's Nathan Smith), has disappeared into obscurity hill and only two other winners were not turned pro (2007 winner, Felipe Gustavo, who most certainly will be pro once his Plan B video part drops and 2011's winner, Trevor Colden). Every other winner has gone on to have long and storied professional careers in skating. Judging by the crop of talent competing this year like Stevie Perez, Evan Smith, Alec Majerus, John Fitzgerald, Mark Suciu, Sebo Walker and Trevor Colden, it seems pretty certain that 2012's winner is a shoe-in to turn pro as well.

If you're within a day's drive of Tampa, I urge you and your buddies to get down there -- Tampa Am is hands-down the most fun weekend in skateboarding! The contest showcases some of the hungriest talent in skateboarding in an unbelievably casual but exciting atmosphere. If you're not able to make it down then the live webcast starts Friday on Skateparkoftampa.com and check back here each day for a highlight reel of each day's festivities.

For a full schedule of the weekend's events click here.

Past Tampa AM Winners:

2011- Trevor Colden
2010- Elijah Berle
2009- Luan Oliveira
2008- Luan Oliveira
2007- Felipe Gustavo
2006- Cody McEntire
2005- Nyjah Huston
2004- Sierra Fellers
2003- Kevin 'Spanky' Long
2002- Caswell Berry
2001- Colt Cannon
2000- Kyle Berard
1999- Mike Peterson
1998- Nathan Smith
1997- Judd Hertzler
1996- Donny Barley
1995- Josh Stewart