Eighteen years of Tampa Pro mania

In honor of the 18th anniversary of one of skateboarding's most legendary contests, we asked five former Tampa Pro winners to reminisce about the years they won, their strategies for success, how they celebrate, and who they think will take first place in the 2012 event that runs Friday through Sunday. Here's what they had to say:

Kerry Getz

Kerry Getz won Tampa Pro back in 2000, then went on a contest-killing spree for years after. Twelve years later, this is what he remembers.

"The year I won, I qualified first, so I went into finals skating last. I remember how sweaty my palms were. On my first run, Bam [Margera] was yelling "Do it, [expletive]!" right in my face, and it completely messed me up. I was like, "Bam, I know you're trying to help, but you're messing me up.

"In the second run I messed something up, and [Rick] McCrank was killing it. McCrank could hit the rails and everything, I'm more of the flip-trick-on-the-bank guy. On my final run, I remember I deck-checked a nollie heel over the pyramid but managed to roll away. I felt McCrank's tricks were harder, but I think I flipped my board more. I won $3,000 and a BMX bike, and I actually used some of the money to put into my shop, Nocturnal. We're coming up on 13 years, so winning Tampa helped me open my shop. …

Rob Meronek/SPoT

Kyle Berard, getting practice laps, and this switch Smith grind, in on Thursday at the Skatepark of Tampa.

"I don't know if I'm heading down this year. I'm the type of person who is super hard on myself, so If I'm not skating well, I'm not gonna enjoy myself. But I think [Dennis] Busenitz has a good chance this year. [Ryan] Sheckler, too. He's my style of skater. He went from a little kid to this monster. I like his trick selection, he's an awesome guy and always fun to watch."

Kyle Berard

Kyle Berard won Tampa Am in 2000, at 15. Since then, he's been a mainstay at the Skatepark of Tampa, winning the pro contest in 2001.

"Contests are a lot different now -- anyone who shows up has a chance. But I'll tell you, Dennis Busenitz's run last year was probably the best thing I've ever seen on a skateboard. Just the style, the tricks, everything.

"I'm heading out Wednesday. Hopefully I can skate Thursday with a little less traffic. It's just such a busy weekend. I judged the [2011] Am contest, so I got to check out the new course. It seems like the stuff is a little smaller this time, a little more tech, so I don't know how I'll fare. Last year I was there, but two days before I broke my arm in a pool, so I couldn't skate.

"I've been going to Tampa since 1998. I won the Am contest in 2000, but I wasn't really pro until [Tampa Pro] 2001, and that's the one I won. I remember first place was $5,000. I was in 10th or 11th grade, so it was great. I didn't have bills or anything."

Tony Trujillo

Every contest he enters, Tony Trujillo provides a much-appreciated spontaneity, which earned him first place at Tampa Pro 2003.

"I remember my first time there, skating in the Am contest -- at least, I think it was the Am contest. I had a mohawk, and I met Tony Hawk. There was an [Antihero] ad that came out right before, that said "Tony Mohawk." So I see him, sitting on the deck, all normal and s---, and I sat down and he recognized me. I was stoked.

The coolest part is all the crazy stuff that goes down -- those are the memories you walk away with.
Greg Lutzka, 2006, 2008 and 2009 Tampa Pro champion

"[The year I won] I didn't really watch anyone else's run. It's so crowded in there, it's kind of a hassle in that sweaty, hot Florida heat. I didn't know if my run was good, or better than anyone else's.

"I have no idea who's gonna win this year -- I don't even know who's entering these days. Busenitz? He lives up the street from me, but I don't know if he's gonna go.

"I can't make it this year. If I weren't on this Vans trip to Chile and Brazil, I'd be there. I try to milk it. I'll tell you, though, having a Golden Ticket is kind of a bite in the a--. I don't have those heats where you break into the semifinals, so when I finally do skate on Sunday, I still got those first-day nerves. Not that I give a s---, but I can feel the difference."

Greg Lutzka

Greg Lutzka is the only person to win the Tampa Pro contest three times -- in 2006, 2008 and 2009. This year he's looking at a possible fourth.

"[I think this year it's] Nyjah Huston. Isn't that who everyone's picking? I think he rips, and his video part was great. He's been on point lately.

"I don't even know [how to compare my wins]. Most of the time I don't really think about it. I just go there to skate, and winning is a bonus. The coolest part is all the crazy stuff that goes down -- those are the memories you walk away with.

Dennis Busenitz

With two wins under his belt (2005, 2011), and endorsements from three other former winners, Dennis Busenitz is a likely candidate for a third Tampa Pro victory.

"I leave [for the contest] Saturday morning -- I usually try to go for the shortest amount of time possible. If you're there for too long, your enthusiasm wears off. Last year I traveled 34 days domestically, 37 internationally. I just did my taxes, so I know exactly how much. I try to bring the family when I can: If there's something happening in L.A., I just throw 'em all in the van. It's been getting a little harder, though; they have their own little lives, the kids are going to preschool …

"[In the weeks before a contest] I usually just try to skate -- I hate going to contests after not skating for a while. It doesn't really matter what kind of skating you do, as long as you stand on your board somewhere.

"I don't know who's going [this year], but Nyjah's good. I think he really wants to win. And then there's Lutzka, P-Rod [Paul Rodriguez] -- any of those guys.

"The last time [I won] I bought my son a toy -- this expensive crane-truck that was like $65, and I bought a bunch of music. That was the extent of my party spree."

Catch all the action from street finals via live webcast at 11 a.m. Sunday.

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