When he was eight years old, Tanner Van Vark got his first skateboard from his grandmother on Valentine’s Day.
Now the 15-year-old from Andover annually competes in around 20 tournaments and recently beat out around 100 other skateboarders from 25 different states as well as two from Australia and one from Canada to win his age division at a competition at the 3rd Lair skate park in Golden Valley. The championship took place between June 14-17.
Tanner won the King of the AMs category for those who are 13 to 16 years old. He previously was the King of the Groms category winner for the 12 and under category a couple of years ago. The King of the Groms winner this year is from Sarasota, Fla.
Tanner and his older brother Tukkur, 19, started skateboarding around the same time. They cannot quite pinpoint the moment they became interested in the sport, but Tanner said a demonstration he saw at the Minnesota State Fair one year made a huge impression on him.
What continues to interest Tanner in the sport is he can always push himself to try new stunts.
“There’s an infinite amount of tricks you can learn,” he said.
Tukkur has not got into the competition scene like his younger brother. He just does it for fun and it’s great exercise, Tukkur said.
Tanner’s competitions have not been limited to the Twin Cities or even the state of Minnesota. He has competed in Arizona, Kansas, Texas and Wisconsin, for example.
Some of those tournaments offer really good cash prizes. He won $2,000 for finishing in second place at a tournament in Texas. He used some of this money to buy a video camera and Tukkur is taping him in hopes of Tanner getting additional sponsors. His main sponsor is currently 3rd Lair.
In their free time, Tanner and Tucker give private lessons at 3rd Lair to kids that are ages 10 and under.
Rhonda Van Vark said as a parent it is wonderful to see her two sons have a common interest and spend so much time together. She credited Tukkur for getting Tanner interested in skateboarding because he kept inviting his younger brother to try out his new skateboard in the unfinished basement of the family’s first home in Andover.
This was around January 2006. One month later, his grandmother Pat Johnson bought him a skateboard at Target. Four months later, his parents bought Tanner a custom skateboard online for his ninth birthday.
Rhonda’s husband, Shaun Van Vark, is on the Andover Parks and Recreation Commission and was a key player in encouraging the city to build a new skateboard park for kids by Sunshine Park.
Rhonda said they both are 100 percent behind Tanner’s interest in skateboarding. They know it is more than a hobby for Tanner. He dreams of turning professional one day, but Rhonda said the next step is for him to attend as many amateur competitions as possible and receive additional sponsors.
“It is wonderful to see Tanner have success,” Rhonda said. “He has found something that he is super passionate about and he puts all he has into skateboarding and making himself better.”
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]