Aspen’s Hooper hits pay dirt in skate contest
Pocketing more than a thousand dollars for just an hour’s work didn’t faze 25-year-old skateboarder Aaron Hooper.Sure, Hooper collected first place in the sponsored division during Saturday’s Highcountry SK8 Challenge at the Rio Grande Skatepark. He also picked up a manila envelope full of $1,500 cash and a load of skate-related prizes – T-shirts, equipment and the like.But even though nearly $5,000 was at stake at Saturday’s contest, Hooper – along with a few friends who rushed to congratulate him on his win after his last run of the day – claimed that he registered for the competition solely for the fun of a full day of skating. “I just came out to have a good time – this was just a bonus,” Hooper said, holding his envelope full of winnings aloft. Hooper – skating for sponsors such as Othello’s SK8 Shop clothing team, Polar Revolution, Emerica and OGB – and his fellow 45 contestants wowed the crowd Saturday with skating in five divisions: youth beginner, youth intermediate, youth advanced, women’s open and adult sponsored. However, Hooper said attempting a few tried-and-true tricks, such as the transfer – a sudden change in direction in midskate – seemed to be the best way to attract attention from judges. “I just try to flow it through the park, and try to stay fast and consistent,” he said.(For results, see page A31.)Competitors also tried quite a few unorthodox tricks during their time in the Rio Grande Skatepark “street bowl,” the park’s center attraction. A few did their best to incorporate a table used by event announcers, located at the end of just one of the skatepark’s ramps, into their runs. Another optimistic skater launched out of the street bowl’s quarterpipe in order to jump a set of stairs leading out of the park. And, in a trick that earned some of the biggest applause of the day, El Jebel resident Petar Kovacic took time out of his run to toss his shoes and socks aside and skate barefoot.For other skaters, the Highcountry Challenge was more of an educational experience than a chance to show off. Among the skating veterans vying for prize money was 10-year-old Joanna Coffey, a local fifth-grader who has been skating for less than a month.”I came down here one day and saw everybody skating, so I decided to do it, too,” Coffey said of her introduction to skateboarding.Coffey is apparently a fast learner – after picking up a few pointers from her older brother, she entered the Highcountry contest to take second place in the women’s open division. Othello Clark, owner of one Aspen skate shop and a co-organizer of Saturday’s event, deemed the Highcountry a success. The contest packed Rio Grande Park with a variety of vendors, an excitable crowd and, most importantly, a lengthy roster of local and visiting skaters looking for some friendly competition.”Everything went wonderful,” Clark said. “Everybody got along. There was no rough competition – they’re all friends.”The Highcountry Challenge, a sanctioned event in the Mountain Madness Series – and, Clark hopes, a competition that will be held at least twice each year from now on – will now send its competitors on to a host of contests throughout the state. Hooper, along with a majority of the skaters in the Highcountry’s top division, will be heading to contests in both Breckenridge and Silverthorne in the coming weeks.And though Breckenridge will draw some stiff competition for visiting Aspen skaters, Hooper is optimistic about the Silverthorne turnout.”There’ll be some of the same people there, but I plan to win at Silverthorne, also,” he said with a grin.
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.