They say if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. That is true for Jaxon Statzell, a 2004 Evergreen High School graduate who has designed more than 100 skate parks all over the …
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They say if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.
That is true for Jaxon Statzell, a 2004 Evergreen High School graduate who has designed more than 100 skate parks all over the world in his 12-year career. Better yet, he was the lead designer on the skate park for the inaugural skateboarding events at the summer Olympics in Toyko.
“It's such a cool thing to be on that grand stage,” said Jaxon, 35. “It's really fun to be at the table for skateboarding at the Olympics. It's getting some of the legitimacy that it deserves.”
The skate park — with both park and street courses — is in the Ariake Urban Sports Park near the Olympic Village in Tokyo. Forty male and 40 female “skaters” — the term for someone who skateboards — are expected to compete July 23-Aug. 8, and plans call for the skate park to become a public venue after the Olympic games.
“In the Olympics, you have to design something that elevates anything that was done previously,” Jaxon explained. “The Olympic course has to be such that any skater can achieve their personal best.”
His parents, Gail Riley and Tom Statzell of Evergreen, are thrilled that he has found the perfect career path.
“I'm just proud of him in every respect,” Riley said. “I do slip (what he does for a living) into conversations because I'm so proud of him. I'm tickled with his happiness and that level of success.”
Starting on a skateboard
Jaxon learned to skateboard when he was about 10. Tom Statzell said Jaxon spent that entire summer learning to pop the board in the air, forsaking other sports for his new passion.
“On vacations, every single thing revolved around getting him to a skate park,” Riley said.
After graduation, Jaxon studied architecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
“In college, skateboarding was my hobby, and architecture was something I found I could do as a potential career,” he said. “I didn't know an industry existed for skate parks.”
While interning at a Denver architecture firm, he checked out a new skate park in Parker and was impressed with how progressive it was, not the typical gray, concrete, fenced enclosure.
“Whoever was doing this was trying to evolve these spaces …,” he said, “so I decided to look up who was responsible for it.”
Enter a small firm in the San Diego area now called California Skateparks and his career in the skate park-designing world began. The first skate park he designed was outside Tel Aviv, Israel, and since then, he has designed skate parks for cities large and small, for the X Games, Street League Skateboarding and more.
“The nice thing about skate parks,” Jaxon said, “is we do something totally different every time that is site specific. Somebody is going to show up on any given day for the first time, or someone is coming back for the thousandth time. You want it to be safe for the beginners with stepping stones for progression, so they can get better. For the person there for the thousandth time, you still want ways for them to be stimulated and challenged and keep working on their craft.”
Tom Statzell added regarding Jaxon's career: “I think (the company loves) the world stage and doing big events, but I think Jaxon gets a bigger kick working on the public skate parks because it brings younger people into the sport.”
A talent for skateboarding, details
There are two skateboarding disciplines: street skateboarding, which has stairs, rails, benches and more, and park skateboarding, which is like an empty swimming pool with different features that Jaxon said looked like “the surface of the moon,” and it's skated free form. Both are part of the Olympics.
Jaxon excels at his profession because of his attention to detail.
“He will hammer out details until everyone else in the room wants to go home,” Tom Statzell said. “He is fortunate that he (works) for a firm that is as obsessive as he is.”
While creativity is important, “the nuts and bolts is that it's a lot of grinding it out — making sure it can be built to the right specifications. I think he has a special talent for it,” Tom Statzell added.
Creating a skate park — especially for something as elite as the Olympics — means going into what Jaxon called “video game mode” where designers put themselves in the minds of the top athletes to create features, explaining that skateboarding has a mind of its own.
“It evolves constantly and changes,” he said. “(Skaters) keep advancing and do more and more. I don't think (park designers) can dictate what (the sport) is going to do. We can help it and move with it because it moves really fast.”
Doing what he loves
Skateboarding is not just his job — Jaxon still gets to a skate park several times a week, and he was able to take a few runs on both Olympic courses, though he admits he doesn't try death-defying tricks.
“I am pretty risk averse these days,” he said. “I can skate within my means.”
Sometimes Jaxon can`t believe he's working in the field that he loves.
“I think the 15-, 16-year-old me would high-5 me now and be like, “YES,” Jaxon said.
Skateboarding is seen by some as not requiring discipline, but he said there's a lot of life lessons.
“It's about getting back up after you fall and following the learning curve that is really steep,” he said, noting that having parents who were “open minded enough to allow me to be myself” was helpful. “I feel very grateful and lucky to be doing what I'm doing.”
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