Matt Phillips won’t be hard to spot at the world freestyle skateboard championships.
At 6’7″ the 24-year-old Langley man towers over most competitors.
“I’m tall for any sport, except basketball” he said, laughing.
Phillips will be representing Langley and Canada at the World Freestyle Round-Up Skateboarding Championships at the Cloverdale Rodeo that begins Friday (May 17).
It is one of the biggest and most attended skateboard competitions in the world, Phillips said.
Now in it’s eighth year, the Cloverdale freestyle championship is expected to draw more than 50 freestyle skateboarders from 13 countries.
Amateur and professional skaters are competing for $10,000 in cash prizes.
Competitors will be evaluated on the creativity and complexity of their routines by a panel of five international judges.
On Sunday, May 19th, the top pro and amateur freestyler will be crowned the 2019 World Freestyle Round-Up champions.
Phillip who placed 22nd at the event in 2018, said his goal this year is to make it into the finals.
As he tells it, he was never really good at street skateboarding.
Then, he saw some top competitors freestyling and got hooked.
“It changed my life,” Philips said.
“I found a kind of skateboarding I felt comfortable doing.”
A few days before the competition, Phillips was hanging out with some fellow competitors.
He was enjoying the chance to talk about the sport with other people just as driven as him to create new and more elaborate routines set to music, in a sport that has been described as the skateboard equivalent of figure skating.
Unlike other elite level competitions, Phillips said there is a friendly, family feel to the event.
“When everyone gets together, it doesn’t feel like a bunch of strangers,” Phillips said.
“It’s a really fun competition.”
For people new to the sport, Phillips has a few tips about understanding what they see during the event.
“The fancier it looks, the harder it is, and if you see them get really get excited about a trick they just landed there’s a pretty good reason why. The one thing about freestyle is it’s always a constant rush to move forward.”
On Monday, May 20, the event will feature specialty contests in 360 spin offs and best tricks as well as best handstand tricks and longest coconut wheelie contests.
This year’s competition will once again take place inside the Cloverdale curling rink, which has been reconfigured into an arena with an 80-by-140-foot flat concrete floor.
Contest producer and Canada’s first professional skateboarder Kevin Harris was anticipating even more interest in the competition this year.
“Since the 2020 Tokyo announcement came out that skateboarding would be part of the Olympics, the interest in the sport of skateboarding has grown substantially,” said Harris, who is also a board member of the Canada Skateboard Association
“We always get a good crowd but believe this year’s event could grow in terms of attendance and most certainly in excitement,” Harris added.
It’s a free event, once fair admission tickets have been purchased.
The annual Cloverdale competition is one of only five that happens globally and is the biggest one in the world.
The other four are held in Germany, Japan, Brazil and the U.S.
For the first time in history, the Olympics will feature skateboarding events for men and women at the 2020 games in Tokyo.
The 73rd Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair will run from May 17 to 20 at the Cloverdale fairgrounds at 176 Street and 64 Avenue.
In addition to the rodeo, there will be a midway, a lumberjack show, rib fest, go-kart racing, and a mix of live entertainment.
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