How North County San Diego's Skateboarding Footprint is Showing Up in Tokyo — And It's Not Just the Athletes

The US park skateboard team shares the same North County training facility but there is so much more to know about San Diego connections to this new event.

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Heimana Reynolds. Bryce Wettstein. Cory Juneau. Brighton Zeuner.

When park skateboarding makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo next week, not only will there be athletes with ties to North County San Diego, but the actual arena where they will be competing will have some ties, too.

Tucked away in a corner of Vista, the California Training Facility or CATF, is known worldwide among the skateboarding community. In fact, the entire US Park Skateboard Team trained for the Tokyo Olympics at the facility.

Many of the competitors at the Tokyo Olympics have a membership at the training facility in North County.

Bryce Wettstein will represent the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympics, reports NBC 7's Lauren Coronado

Jagger Eaton, who won the bronze medal this week at the premier Olympic edition of street skateboarding, trained at CATF. In fact, just about every skateboard team in the world has gone there to train at least once this past year.

The training facility is owned and operated by California Skateparks. The company’s bread and butter, though, are building and creating event parks. Owner Brian Harper has been involved in just about every facility where skateboarders qualify for big events.

"That’s really the specialty -- finishing the concrete is an art," Harper said. "It's why we have to travel our crews all over the world."

Nitro World Games Skateboard Park and Vert Competitions
Sean M. Haffey
VISTA, CA - AUGUST 11: Heimana Reynolds competes in the Men's Skate Park Final during the Nitro World Games on August 11, 2018 in Vista, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

California Skateparks also designed and built the street and park skateboarding facilities in use at the Tokyo Olympics.

The company hasn't built the same two parks ever, and Tokyo, of course, is also unique. Although the training facility in Vista has the same depth and same radius, the Tokyo facility has a different shape and is much larger. The island jump in the training facility is more like a volcano in Tokyo, Harper said.

"It’s big, it's intimidating and only the bravest craziest ones will attack that," Harper said.

Pro skateboarder Tony Hawk is in Tokyo for skateboarding’s debut at the Tokyo Olympics and shared what viewers should look for when watching the sport’s events on TV. “The artistry what people should be looking for,” Hawk said. “Skating is as much about style as it is about technique.”

Still, Harper said, there are benefits to training in the Vista facility, which is why many skaters do. 

"If you came here and you spent some time here, and you took advantage of the parks we have here, I definitely think you're going to be more familiar with what’s going on in Tokyo," Harper said.

The skate parks may not be the stars of the show, and the builders won't walk away with a medal, but Harper takes great pride in playing his part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

"My biggest hope is that this creates more opportunities for kids to skate," Harper said. "Giving them more facilities to go to and, of course, that's not bad for business."

Harper called skateboarding the summer cousin of snowboarding. While 2020 is considered a trial event, Harper said the 2024 Paris Olympics have already committed to the events.

And the connections to North County go even further. It was no surprise on Tuesday to see Lincoln Ueda, who coaches at CATF and is heading for Tokyo to judge the park skateboard event, at the facility.

American Jagger Eaton took home the first-ever bronze medal in skateboarding at the Tokyo Olympics. He picked up the medal in the Men’s street event.

“There is no one skateboarder on the planet that knows everything, that has done all the tricks," Ueda said. "There is no way.“

A run during park skateboarding lasts 45 seconds, but Ueda said he will be looking for the overall impression.

“Style, speed, use of the course, creativity, combination of tricks and variety of tricks," Ueda said.

We're waiting to catch it all when Park Skateboarding debuts in Tokyo on Aug. 3 with the women's competition at 5 p.m. and medals at 8:30 p.m. The men's competition starts on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. with medals at 8:30 p.m. Click the links below to watch on via livestream.

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