At 17 years old, Eric Madsen entered his first skateboarding contest. His friends had pressured him into signing up. Despite his shaky nerves, Madsen won first place that day at Mark Dabling Skateboard Park, and was rewarded for his performance with a new board, wheels and bearings. But Madsen came home with more than just a few spare parts.
Second-place rider Dusty Nothem and Madsen became close friends after the competition, and the two have been skating buddies ever since. They now share a house in central Colorado Springs.
The contest also helped Madsen quit smoking cigarettes. "I told myself that if I won the contest, I would quit smoking forever. It's been almost four years now," he explained.
Last summer, Madsen completed a "sponsor-me" video, about three minutes of top-notch footage that earned him a deal with Powell Skateboards and Globe Footwear. Madsen's position as a "flow" rider entitles him to a package of free equipment each month in exchange for new skateboarding footage demonstrating his progress. He also rides with the Northshore skateboarding team.
Most agree that Colorado Springs is not the ideal place for a rising skateboard star. As Madsen pointed out, "Colorado is basically outside the industry. Skateboarding is East Coast/West Coastbased. If you are anywhere in between, you want to move. California is where all the companies are."
But the local skateboarding community is strong despite the lack of an industry base. According to Northshore employee Seth Lockard, Colorado has more free skateboard parks than any state in America. And whereas a city's baseball diamonds or basketball courts are not always occupied, Lockard observed, "A skateboard park? Guaranteed, it's always being used, from sunup to sundown."