One by one, at the edge of Oak Park, skateboarders launched over a car with “Sacto” spray painted on the side. Thirty-third Street between Broadway and Second Avenue, in front of Sub-Versions Skate Shop and Records, was closed for a few hours on Saturday afternoon so Sacto Street Style 3 could take over the block.
As tunes from the classic Sacramento punk band Tales of Terror cranked through the sound system, skateboarders dodged bits of broken glass on the streets, trying not to slam into one another while preparing to catch some air.
But in a sense, these skateboarders were blasting into the past. Saturday’s event was an homage to Sacto Street Style, a pair of iconic skateboarding contests held locally in 1985 and 1986. This was long before skateboarding was the multibillion-dollar industry it is now, with major corporate sponsorships and fat prizes through ESPN’s X Games and other televised contests.
Saturday’s idea was to connect the current generation of Sacramento shredders with the city’s storied skateboard history.
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“This has the Sacto grit and grime,” said Steve Brockway, a veteran Sacramento skater who judged Saturday’s best tricks contests. “We’ve got grease on the ground. We’ve got some throwback obstacles. It’s pretty much perfect.”
The original Sacto Street Style contests were fairly scrappy affairs. The 1985 event was hosted on the oil slicked parking lot at the former Tower Records on Watt Avenue. The 1986 edition was held on an equally scorching day at the Sacramento Raceway parking lot. Both contests featured a variety of wooden launch ramps, parking blocks and a graffiti-covered car as makeshift obstacles for the skaters to show their best moves.
Bryce Kanights, a longtime skateboard photographer and former professional skater, remembers Sacto Street Style as a pivotal contest in the evolution of skateboarding. Through pictures of slides on parking blocks and leaps of faith from the car, coverage from these Sacramento contests in Thrasher magazine helped introduce a new kind of street-borne trickery to the world’s skateboarding community.
“Prior to that, all skateboarding competitions were either a slalom race through cones, or on a vert ramp or maybe a skateboard park bowl,” said Kanights, who competed in the 1985 and 1986 Sacto Street Style contests. “We were just experimenting with the kinds of objects we’d find in the streets. For Sacto Street Style, I think that first contest in Sacramento really gave everyone the idea that this was for real.”
Saturday’s homage to Sacto Street Style stayed true to its gnarly spirit. Melody White, co-owner of Sub-Versions, donated her 1989 Chrysler New Yorker as an obstacle for the event. A crowd of more than 250 watched as skaters leaped onto its hood and roof, or tried rolling down the car’s fractured front windshield.
White said the car was on the verge of being junked, and she would rather put it to good use for the sake of skateboarding. The shop spent more than $2,000 on permitting and other expenses to make Sacto Street Style 3 happen and hoped a bump in Saturday’s shop sales would offset some costs. To her, the event was a way to bring Sacramento’s skateboarding community together for a few hours and continue the Sacto Street Style tradition.
“I wanted to bring that back, that sense of everyone skating, of everyone having a good time,” White said.
So the skaters rolled on, flipping their boards in midflight and sliding on a giant pole that was turned on its side. There wasn’t any big prize money, just some new skateboard parts for winning the best tricks contests. Shaun Grimshaw, who pulled a 180 backside nosegrind on the car’s roof to win a best trick honor, also walked away with a deeper understanding of Sacto Street Style.
“I honestly didn’t know (about the history),” Grimshaw said. “But it’s been dope. There’s good people, good energy, you’ve got the creative car. It’s been awesome.”