Nikiski skateboarder Vaughn Johnson records his run for the 2020 World Freestyle Roundup in Nikiski, Alaska on June 14, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski skateboarder Vaughn Johnson records his run for the 2020 World Freestyle Roundup in Nikiski, Alaska on June 14, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Flipping out

Nikiski skateboarder competes virtually in international competition

A Nikiski skateboarder is the lone Alaska representative at an international tournament this year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he never had to leave the Kenai Peninsula to participate.

Vaughn Johnson, 33, is competing in the World Freestyle Round-Up for the third year in a row. For the last two years he traveled to Canada to compete in person. This year the event went virtual, and contestants were asked to submit a video of their best “run” from wherever they happened to be.

For Johnson, that meant heading to a piece of flat asphalt off the Kenai Spur Highway in Nikiski, where he spent several hours attempting a series of tricks he had planned out while his friend Noah Windhom recorded the footage.

Freestyle skateboarding is a style of skateboarding that uses only flat ground — no rails or ramps needed — so it’s popular in places where skate parks are few and far between.

Johnson said that one positive about the event being virtual this year is that it drew a lot more competitors. This year’s contest features 124 contestants from 23 different countries, according to the event’s website, which Johnson said is the largest number of participants yet.

“There’s so many people that wanted to compete in the World Round-Up, but couldn’t afford to fly to Canada,” Johnson said. “So yeah, we’ve got people from all over the world that have signed up.”

A major downside for Johnson is that he didn’t get to reconnect in person with his friends and fellow skateboarders from around the world. Although in this digital age Johnson noted that it’s relatively easy to stay in touch. Johnson is part of the Onslawt skateboarding team. He and his teammates are in a group chat regularly sharing videos and collaborating on projects with others in the freestyle community.

For his submission to the amateur division of the contest, Johnson needed to film a 90-second run.

When asked how he came up with his routine, he said his motivation was simple: land tricks.

“But not just tricks I was comfortable doing,” Johnson said. “I was trying to think of tricks that I have a good shot of scoring high with.”

Johnson originally planned to incorporate the Kodiak Flip into his run, which is a signature move that not many other skateboarders have been able to accomplish. Over the course of attempting his run on Sunday, however, he started to realize the Kodiak Flip might not be in the cards this year.

“The Kodiak wasn’t working,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “I probably did 200 runs not landing it. This just wasn’t the year for it I suppose.”

Under normal circumstances for the competition, Johnson would skate two runs at the Round-Up in front of judges and be scored on the better of the two runs. Being able to record as many times as necessary for this year’s competition might sound less nerve-wracking at first, but Johnson said when he started recording he was as nervous as he would have been in person.

“I mean, we expected it to go kind of like this, where it takes a million tries,” Johnson said on Sunday.

Johnson faced several hurdles leading up to the competition that had him worried he wouldn’t be able to compete at all. On Sunday Johnson was skating on a board he had gotten in the mail just the day before. While practicing last week he snapped his old board in half. Johnson’s old board was a specific shape that is no longer being produced, so he wasn’t sure if he would be able to find a replacement that he was comfortable riding. Fortunately, Johnson said one of the owners of Waltz Skateboarding Company did him a favor and got a similar board shipped to him in time to record.

Johnson also recently recovered from a leg injury that happened, perhaps unsurprisingly, while skateboarding. Johnson was attempting a handstand about two months ago and tore the soleus muscle in his right leg.

“I was on crutches for like a week, and then I was able to walk but it was still pretty painful,” Johnson said. “About a week after that I felt like it was OK so I tried to skate and kind of hurt it again a little bit. Then I gave it a solid month.”

On Sunday, Johnson said his leg was still a little weak from atrophy, but the pain had subsided.

Johnson and Windhom returned to the skate spot Tuesday night to successfully record his run. It is currently viewable on Johnson’s Facebook page. All entries to the World Freestyle Round-up, including Johnson’s, will be broadcast live on the Braille Skateboarding YouTube Page starting July 12.

More in News

An adult, female bald eagle was rescued from a tree Saturday in Juneau. The eagle was taken to Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka. (Courtesy Photo | Kerry Howard)
Juneau bald eagle rescued on Fourth of July

Injured but conscious, the raptor will get treatment in Sitka.

Robin Richardson, right, and her coworker Ellen Paffie from Georgia get ready for the night shift at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York on May 7, 2020. (Photo courtesy Robin Richardson)
Soldotna nurse joins COVID-19 fight at New York hospital

Richardson cared for 53 critically ill COVID-19 patients. Only two of those patients lived.

COVID-19. (Image CDC)
COVID-19 week in review: Case count jumps; new hospitalizations, deaths reported

The current average positivity rate for all tests conducted is 1.39%.

‘Crowning jewel’

Iron Mike statue unveiled at Soldotna Creek Park

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in Soldotna, Alaska is seen here on June 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly to consider declaring 2nd Amendment ‘sanctuary’

The proposed ordinance opposes legislation restricting rights protected by the Second Amendment.

Bikers participate in the Fourth of July Parade in Kenai on July 4, 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officially sanctioned events for July 4 — including the parades in Kenai, Seward and Homer and the Mount Marathon Race in Seward — have been canceled. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
A quiet 4th of July

With public events canceled, officials urge residents to practice caution.

COVID-19. (Image CDC)
Seward takes emergency measures as cases rise

Alaska has had 1,226 cases of the disease since the state began tracking the pandemic in March.

COVID-19. (Image CDC)
38 new resident COVID-19 cases seen

It was the largest single-day increase in new cases of COVID-19 among Alaska residents.

Anglers practice social distancing on the upper Kenai River in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in late June 2020. (Photo provided by Nick Longobardi/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge)
Exploring the Kenai’s backyard

Refuge to start open air ranger station

Most Read