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Throwing it down in Waynetown: First skateboard competition to be held in May

Waynesville’s first skateboard competition will allow local skaters to show their stuff. Town of Waynesville photo Waynesville’s first skateboard competition will allow local skaters to show their stuff. Town of Waynesville photo

To hear local skateboarding impresario Jared Lee tell it, there wasn’t much to do in Haywood County for young skaters growing up during the sport’s early boom in the 1980s. 

“It was much different. We had no public skate park when I started in middle school,” Lee said. “First Methodist Church would let us skate in their parking lot. The middle schoolers would walk there, the high schoolers would drive there and they’d let us put a few ramps and rails out there. That’s really where it started.”

But the local skateboarding scene has come a long way in the past decade, with the completion of an 8,000-square-foot free public skateboarding facility on Vance Street in 2013, and now, the first skate competition in the park’s relatively short history.

Skateboards weren’t exactly “invented.” Rather, they evolved organically when kids in the early 1900s took the trucks off of their roller skates and affixed them to the bottom of long narrow boards. Often, they’d have milk crates or wooden handles affixed to the boards to offer some modicum of control. Half a century later, skateboarding, strongly associated with the California surfboarding scene, had come into its own with the 1965 American Skateboarding Championships televised on ABC. But for years after, the sport itself had suffered undue scrutiny due to stereotypes that painted skaters as countercultural, anti-social slackers, delinquents or vandals.

Those negative sentiments ebbed when the sport found new exposure and greater mainstream acceptance through the high visibility of 1990s heroes like Tony Hawk and competitions like the X Games.

Waynesville was something of an early adopter in terms of committing municipal backing to a skateboarding facility on par with the tennis courts and basketball hoops most often found in city parks across the region and the nation.

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In the late 1990s Waynesville’s now-Mayor Gary Caldwell, a longtime town alderman at the time, took notice of the emerging trend and pushed for the town to build a skate park — at least in part to keep young skaters out of danger and off the city’s streets.  

It took Caldwell 15 years to cobble together a $60,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, $20,000 from the Waynesville Kiwanis Club, $10,000 from the sale of inscribed bricks and $5,000 from Hawk’s foundation to fund the $445,000 project. Caldwell cut the ribbon on Sept. 27, 2013.


out lead jaredlee

Jared Lee. File photo

“To be honest with you, I’ve been trying to do this forever and ever, but I never envisioned it to look like this. This is amazing,” Caldwell said at the time.

Lee noted that most counties in the region now have such a facility.

“I mean, it just really goes to show how much skateboarding has grown regionally and everywhere else,” he said. “Hendersonville, Asheville, Cherokee, Highlands, Franklin, Brevard. Besides Sylva right now, most of the other surrounding towns have gotten a public skate park within the last probably five years or so.”

Since then, participation in skateboarding has only grown, according to market research reports, and the sport is now recognized for what it really is — a demanding exercise that requires strength, agility and balance, offering plenty of life lessons in return. 

“I think skateboarding teaches you a lot about persistence, and that failing is OK,” Lee said. “Really, you’re going to have to learn to be OK with failing most of the time. You’re going to fail multiple times compared to the few times that you nail it, but that makes it all-the-more rewarding.”

And in an era when electronic amusements conspire to keep kids confined to wherever they can find wi-fi, the sport provides strong opportunities for self-expression in a healthy, more physically active way.

“It allows you to be an individual. You really can be who you want to be, because in skateboarding, there’s no right way or no wrong way,” Lee said. “I feel like if you’re out there and you’re having fun, nobody can tell you that that’s the wrong way.”

In July, the world’s greatest skateboarders will again gather at the Olympics in Paris, after the sport was first included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Olympic competition isn’t much different than what will take place at the Waynetown Throwdown on Saturday, May 18 — a “best trick” competition alongside multiple runs judged on obstacle utilization, skill and style. 

Throwdown judges will come from the local and regional skateboarding community, with Lee serving as the contest MC. He says he just wants to give back to the movement as a whole and to the next generation of skaters who will grow up with things he didn’t.

“I do think it’s going to be a big deal,” said Lee. “I think there’s going to be some real high-caliber skating at the skate park that day, and what’s cool is, you can already see kids showing up, practicing a lot and probably being there more than they normally would be.”

Throw down

Suitable for skaters ages 8 and up, the Waynetown Throwdown skateboard competition consists of three divisions — beginner, intermediate and advanced/open. Skaters will be judged on use of course, consistency, creativity and trick difficulty. Awards will be given to the top three skaters in each division. There will also be a separate “best trick” competition. Entries are $20 per skater. To register, visit secure.rec1.com/nc/haywood-county-nc/catalog before Friday, May 18. Day-of registrations will be accepted in person at the event, payable by cash only. Volunteer opportunities are also available. For more information, contact Waynesville’s Parks and Recreation Director Luke Kinsland at 828.456.2030 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Time: 10 a.m.

Date: Saturday, May 18

Location: Waynesville Skate Park, 550 Vance Street

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