by Austyn Keelty
What started as a way to celebrate Brian Schaefer’s birthday, the founder of The SPoT Skatepark in Tampa soon turned into a popular and anticipated yearly event. The Old Man Bowl Jam occurred on Friday, Feb. 7 and is a bowl competition for riders over the age of 30.
The SPoT has hosted this event for 10 years now, and each year it grows bigger and better. This event gives retired vertical skateboarding professionals, skateboard enthusiasts, and anyone who thinks they have a shot the chance to relive the experience of competing.
“You know a lot of people see skateboarding and think it’s for young kids, but there’s a lot of older dudes that still love it,” Sam Bellipanni, event coordinator of The SPoT Tampa. “It’s kind of like a bizarre contest. A contest of older guys skateboarding, just the thought of it seems crazy in your head.”
Bowl skating recreates the early 80s trend of skating in empty backyard swimming pools. Skateparks started popping up in the early 1980s and oftentimes contained a bowl to recreate the empty swimming pool environment. This can also often be called “vert” skating because the rider is putting their body in horizontal positions, also known as some of the most dangerous skating. In fact, most large skate competitions, like the 2020 Olympics, don’t include a vertical portion.
“This competition gets exciting when multiple of them drop into the bowl at once. It’s scary, but they love it,” spectator Alexia Amarelli said. ”I’ve been coming here for about three years, and my favorite part about this event is seeing some of the locals compete here because everyone is like a family and supports each other.”
Dropping in at 59-years-old, rider Roberto Vega placed first in the 50 and up division. Amateur skater Bobby Curnutte finished first in the 30-39 division with multiple hand plants. Jacob Krajewski, also an amateur skater, placed second behind Curnutte, airing to a fast plant multiple times throughout the competition.
“It’s almost inspirational,” Bellipanni said. “ I know that sounds kind of corny, but seeing these dudes at this age be able to still skate and especially how they skate…it just means a lot because as someone who’s still on the younger side, I still have a bunch of years to look forward to.”
Most spectators and riders are not new to The SPoT. Most of them have been coming to the skatepark since it opened in 1993.
“I’ve been coming here since they’ve opened back in the 90’s,” spectator Emily Mass said. “The skatepark has evolved so much. They’re constantly doing new events like the Board for Bro’s, and It’s amazing the stuff they put on for people and the community.”
To gain more followers and make a larger impact on the surrounding community, The SPoT puts on other events such as the Board for Bros, a non-profit charity event catered around giving underprivileged children skateboards.
Not only do they put on multiple events a year, The SPoT has earned a high reputation throughout the years and across the globe. Rider and competitor, Evan Ramos moved to Tampa from Puerto Rico four years ago to check it out himself.
“It was a dream coming to The SPoT and seeing events like TampaAm and Tampa pro. That’s the dream, and that’s why I came here,” Ramos said.
Providing events for all ages and abilities, The SPoT is a place for everyone and anyone. Seeing all levels of talent and backgrounds makes seeing the evolution of skateboarding very prevalent when in the park, especially when attending the Old Man Bowl Jam.
“The skateboarding population is getting older as well. The people who have been coming here for 20 years aren’t young anymore,” Bellipanni said. “The level of talent now compared to the level of talent 30 years ago is so different. Back then the technology with skateboarding was still trial and error, and you wouldn’t be able to take inspiration from anything unless you saw it in person or bought a DVD or VHS tape. It’s changed the style of skateboarding forever.”
Austyn Keelty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org