At last, a weekend with weather resembling an actual summer vacation. With Saturday's moderate temperature, a soothing breeze, and clear skies I was in a great mood to head to Tha Hood Games at the African American Art and Culture Complex (AAACC) on July 23 (click here to see our event preview). The vast majority of my experience with skateboarding has been watching the X Games religiously every year, so you could say that the bar was set high for day’s skating.
I didn't have a problem finding the Western Addition venue; all I had to do was follow the heart-pounding, bass-pumping beats coming from the event's speakers. Mistakingly anticipating a small crowd as I rounded the corner of Buchanan Street, it turned out the party had already started. A crowd stretched out in front of the AAACC for a lock down Fulton Street: skaters, parents, fans, everyone excited to check out the fun that was visible through the parking lot fence.
Not to be deterred by the onlooking SFPD police vehicle, the energy in the parking lot turned skate park was infectious. It appeared that every skateboarder in the city had turned out for the Games.
Tha Hood Games was the kickoff event for an exhibit that will be on display in the AAACC’s Sargent Johnson Gallery through next year. Eye-grabbing smaller paintings and murals on helmets, car hoods, and other surfaces, all highlighting the past works of Tha Hood Games, which was created to give Bay Area youth a chance to showcase artistic talent in a positive skating environment. Saturday's opening reception and fashion show were held following the parking lot open skate, which was held in tandem with music performances and a live mural painting.
But the skating was what caught my eye. The downhill orientation of the Complex’s parking lot acted as a natural drop-in for boarders who'd use it in their descent towards the various obstacles and quarter pipes that awaited them at the bottom. Boarders could grab a drink from vitamin water sponsors when thirsty, a bite from Gussie's Chicken and Waffles booth when hungry, and if their board took a hit, visit the deck doctors stationed at, yes, another booth.
The crowd snapped to attention when the emcee and founder of Tha Hood Games, Keith “K-Dub” Williams announced that pro skater Nyjah Huston had arrived at the AAACC parking lot. Huston was the youngest-ever competitor in the X Games when he made his debut during the 2006 X Games at age eleven. Now, he was being ambushed by a group of skaters that ranged from youngsters to people twice his age.
For a high-schooler like myself, to see a '5”7 17-year old admired on a ten-foot scale was really gratifying. For the skaters in attendance, Huston was the person to be: they were standing in front of a skateboarding prodigy.
But the most the most rewarding part of the day was the sight of people of all ages coming together to enjoy a day of skateboarding. Literally, I took an informal poll. Whether it came out of the mouth of Williams or I overheard it from other attendees, the catch phrase of the day was clear: “this is just a beautiful sight.”