Tom Schaar, a professional skateboarder with Malibu roots known for prominent X Game finishes and spinning his body like a top 20 feet in the air, is perhaps an ollie, kickflip or another airborne, spinning skateboarding move away from representing the red, white and blue in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
That’s right. The U.S. will field a skateboarding team in next summer’s Olympiad in Tokyo and Schaar, a former Malibuite now residing in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, a beach community in San Diego County, was one of 16 men and women skateboarders named to the inaugural U.S. skateboarding squad.
The 19-year-old owner of more than a handful of X Games medals has come a long way since he and his older brother John would roll on four wheels at the now-closed Papa Jacks Skate Park in Malibu. He is excited about the chance to showcase his skills on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
“I’m looking forward to whatever happens,” Schaar said on March 27 while taking a break from skating near his home. “Honestly, I don’t know what to expect.”
USA Skateboarding, the national governing body for skateboarding, and sponsors Toyota and Nike, recognized Schaar and the other Team USA members at an event in Vista on March 19.
USA Skateboarding CEO Josh Friedberg said the founding of the national skateboarding team is a historic moment in the sport.
“We’re looking forward to doing all we can to support these amazing skateboarders on their road to Tokyo,” he said.
Schaar said it’s hard to believe the craft he has plied at since he was a student at Point Dume Elementary School is an Olympic competition.
“It’s kind of a real sport now,” he said. “People are starting to take it a little more seriously.”
The group of skateboarders includes Schaar and three other skaters classified as men’s park, four men’s street skaters, four women’s park skaters and four women’s street skaters.
The park competition division takes place in a set of combined concrete bowls that have different featured obstacles, while street courses include obstacles that can be found in any urban setting.
The 16 qualified for the national team based on their performances in international level events in 2018. The skaters will receive support from USA Skateboarding while they attempt to qualify for the next summer Olympics. Only 12 of them will be selected for the American contingent that competes in Japan. Along with the Olympics, they will also vie for chances to compete in the Pan American Games and other international competitions.
The athletes with the three best scores in World Skate sanctioned events during the 2019 qualifying season, which ends on Sept. 15, combined with their six best scores during the 2020 qualifying season, running from Sept. 16 to May 31, 2020, will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Next year’s world championships will serve as a direct qualifier for the summer games for the top three finishers.
Skateboarding is one of several activities that will be introduced in the next Olympics including surfing, 3x3 basketball, freestyle BMX, sport climbing, karate and Madison cycling.
Schaar followed his older sibling into the sport during the 12 years they lived in Malibu. Tom admitted John was a better skateboarder before their teenage years.
“I would go skating with him every day when we were younger,” Tom.
John eventually moved on to surfing, but Tom, who has played other sports like soccer and basketball, was hooked on skateboarding.
“You are doing your own thing, so no one can tell you what to do or not to do,” he said. “You have your own style. There is no right or wrong way to skateboard. It’s all open to your interpretation.”
Schaar said there wasn’t a particular moment he realized he was a standout skateboarder. He just started doing competitions and got better and better.
“Around ages 10 or 11, I started to get a bit more serious,” he said. “But I was having fun. If you’re not having fun while you are skating, I don’t know why you are doing it.”
Schaar became a mainstay at bigtime skateboarding events soon after.
When he was 12, he won his first gold medal at the X Games—the event’s youngest-ever top finisher. At the same age, he became the youngest person to ever do a 900, an aerial spin that features a skater rotating two-and-a half-times, and the first person to complete a 1080, a midair spin that features a skater making three full rotations. Red Bull at the time described the 1080 as “the Holy Grail of skateboard tricks.”
The skateboarder has captured gold, silver and bronze medals at a variety of showcases the past few years. He closed last year by taking third place at the 2018 Vans Park Series Men’s Pro Tour Finals in China.
Schaar will next compete at a Vans event in Orange County on May 4. In preparation for Olympic qualifying, he is refining moves he already knows.
Schaar is unsure of what to expect if he makes the Olympic team. He wants to showcase skateboarding to a worldwide audience.
“I just want to experience it,” Schaar said. “Skateboarding is becoming so big without the Olympics. With the Olympics, it’s going to be crazy. I’m not going to be able to come to the skate park anymore. It’s going to be way too crowded.”