Early December event highlights skateboarding skill and culture
By Mike Chaldu
It was about three years ago when Evin Banta, now 8 and a third-grader at Solvang School started to take up skateboarding after watching others do it at the skatepark at Hans Christian Andersen Park in Solvang.
On Dec. 9, he was preparing for his very first skateboard competition, the Solvang Skate Contest, held at the same Hans Christian Andersen Park where he first started.
“I’ve gone to this skatepark this most,” said Evin, pointing over the the HCA setup. “But I have also gone to Nipomo, Mammoth, Santa Maria, Lompoc. I’m trying to get to Venice, I’m working toward that goal.”
Evin’s parents are supportive of his activity, and are enjoying the interaction with others in the skate culture.
“It’s a really good community. It’s tight knit a lot of fun to be around,” said Evin’s mom, Elfa Reader.
Evin’s father, Jason Banta agrees.
“Loving it. We’ve been to a few different skateparks in California,” Evin’s dad Jason Banta said. “I skated a little bit when I was his age, but then just played the ball sports; you know, football, basketball. But, if this keeps him happy, that’s great.”
Reader also mentioned that Evin is tackling this competition after “getting a few lessons with Robbie.”
“Robbie” would be Robbie Hargreaves, organizer of the competition. He is also the owner of the Solvang Skate Shop at 446 Alisal Road No. 14 in Solvang (to find it, take the staircase next to the Alisal Ice Cream Shop and go through the doorway straight ahead).
Hargreaves, who grew up in Lompoc, has been skateboarding for close to 30 years, and has competed in many national and international competitions.
“I have a genuine passion for teaching people how to skate and helping make their skateboarding journey more enjoyable,” Hargreave states on the Skate Shop website. “My mission is to encourage, inspire, learn and grow through skateboarding.”
On the early December morning, Hargreaves was greatly encouraged by the number of people at the event.
“Once we get going it’s going to be fine,” he said. “But it’s a great turnout so far.”
Later, Hargreaves gathered everyone in the parking lot for a group photo and then expressed his gratitude for those who came.
“I thank you guys so much for the opportunity to be here, sharing my love and passion of skateboarding with all of you,” he said.
The event had skateboarders competing in three categories: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, with the contestants being rated by a small panel of judges.
While a good amount of the competitors were in the pre-teen to teenage category, there were a few adults who also decided to take part. One of them was Jason Daniel, a 48-year-old U.S. Marine veteran who, like young Evin Banta, had just started the sport.
“I’ve been skating about a year, and recently moved to Santa Ynez from Oregon,” Daniel said. “I’ll probably be doing the beginner or intermediate run, so it’s exciting.”
Daniel said he got interesting in skateboarding “kind of by accident.”
“I went to a birthday party for a kid that was held here at the skatepark,” he said. “I had a really cheap skate deck and start participating and it kind of lit a fire under me to do this.”
Daniel said so far his skateboarding has been self-taught.
“I just learned what from watching folks and taking what I can from what they do, and watching videos and stuff,” he said.
Ultimately, Daniel ended up entering the Intermediate division, while the competition started with the Beginner division that consisted of competitors 13 and under.
One of the skaters entered in the Beginners category was 9-year-old Natalia Bacha from Oxnard. Hargreaves, who was serving as the competition’s emcee made sure to point out that she was the first female to take part in the Solvang event.
For Natalia, though, being a female at the skatepark is not a big deal.
“I’ve never had anyone give me trouble about it,” she said. “Down in Oxnard, I just started skating two years ago, and the guys I ran into don’t have a problem with it. We just skate and have a good time.”
This was Natalia’s first time at the Solvang skatepark.
“My skateboarding instructor found out about this, and said this would be a cool thing to skate in so my dad brought me up,” she said.
Natalia’s father, Brandt Bacha, was there to cheer her on and give her any advice he might have.
“I’ve haven’t actually skated much, but I’m an avid surfer, and it’s kind of similar,” Bacha said. “It’s all board sports, and in fact, Natalia’s even started snowboarding when we can get to the snow areas.”
Bacha also agreed with his daughter that gender isn’t even much of an issue in this sport.
“They aren’t even looked at as a different section anymore, just because the progression levels are so high,” Bacha said.
At the end of the competition, the top three winners were announced in each category. The winners were:
Beginner: 1, Rusty Mullen; 2, Zachary Adam; 3, Owen Martinez
Intermediate: 1, Maddox Hazzard; 2, Ben Hazzard; 3, William McNamara
Advanced: 1, Nick Santos; 2, Issac Relis; 3, Komoana de Guzman
Logan Earthski Award: George Golluf.