April saw the return of the Skateboard GB National Championships for 2023, with the first stop taking place at The XC in Hemel Hempstead for the Skateboard Park Competition. The bowl, which was built back in 2011, is one of only 3 indoor concrete bowls in the whole of the UK and has been the venue for many of competition back in its short life span.Although neither the Street or Park Championships contribute to OWSR rankings, they nonetheless serve to bring skateboarders from all over the British Isles together over two different weekends and for that reason alone they are to be commended.
In slight tweak in schedule the men were up first in the final and it was a real mix bag of amazing skating. The top 3 places were fought out to the very-end with very little in-between for Sam Beckett, George O’Neill and Tay Cunningham. Sam’s powerhouse run was nothing short of spectacular; boosting big airs, long smith grinds and the best nose-pick of the competition on the extension. At 13 years of age George O’Neill is already a competition veteran, possibly due to his insane consistency landing 540’s time-after-time and pulling through mind-boggling runs. However he was pipped to the post this year, by another young gun, Tay Cunningham, who put down the biggest kickflip of the competition over the big hip and followed up with backside 540 and a sweet blunt on the extension.
The female final didn’t disappoint either and it is the young skaters who are now taking the podium places, with a combined age of 34 taking the top 3 spots. Miriam Nelson generally known for her transitions skills, last year ditched the park competition in favour of skating the street event (which she then went on to win)- but this year she’ll compete in both and her skating last weekend showed that she is a force to be reckoned with, pulling off long backside grinds and finishing with a bigspin backside disaster. Katie Pike is a name which is recognised more on the circuit and she pulled off frontside airs over every hip in the bowl and solid hand-plants to take the second place spot. But there was only one winner of the competition and this went to Lilly Strachan, straight off the back of her podium place at Vert Attack earlier this month, she skated with consistent style and power, finishing with the only kickflip over the hip in the female category
The Street competition returned to London’s Bay 66 Skatepark later that month after the success of last year’s event, and duly sold-out in under 2 weeks of being announced. You get the feeling that given the numbers attending here and the constant influx of Younger skaters like Diggs English and Ayva-Mae Whittenbury that this event is quickly becoming an established feature of the British skateboarding calendar here underneath the Westway flyover. Certainly, it is great to see the energy of events return here after the demo years which used to pack it out two decades ago.
Joe Hinson and Miriam Nelson may have both retained their respective UK Street Champs titles but the overall sense is that this is an event which is improving year on year to become a fixed star on the relatively limited UK event circuit much in the way that the old Crossfire jams in this very skatepark were for a previous generation.
As with each year, the finals were broadcast live on the BBC iPlayer, Red Button and BBC Website- the only British skateboard event to hold this accolade- meaning that anyone across the country who wanted to tune in live, could.
That’s quite a groundbreaking feature of these Championships: the ability to broadcast skateboarding out into homes the length and breadth of the land.
Marc Churchill as ever kept the energy and tempo high on the mic, while Lucy Adams, Ben Powell and James Threlfall provided superb support on a pair of altogether awesome events.
Men’s Park Champions 2023
- Tay Cunningham
- George O’Neill
- Sam Beckett
Women’s Park Champions 2023
- Lilly Strachan
- Katie Pike
- Miriam Nelson
Men’s Street Champions 2023
- Joe Hinson
- Etienne Turnbull
- Alex Decunha
Women’s Street Champions 2023
- Miriam Nelson
- Ayva-Mae Whittenbury
- Ilka Rogers
Photography: Garry Jones/ Skateboard GB
Words: Neil Ellis/ Skateboard GB