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Kihana Ogawa of Japan performs a backside air in the vert competition on Sunday during the 11th annual Exposure Skate competition at Encinitas Skate Plaza. Photo by Laura Place
Kihana Ogawa of Japan performs a backside air in the vert competition on Sunday during the 11th annual Exposure Skate competition at Encinitas Skate Plaza. Photo by Laura Place
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Top skateboarders return to Encinitas for Exposure benefit event

ENCINITAS — For many, the 11th annual Exposure Skate event is about more than just skateboarding — it’s a celebration of community, growth and belonging.

The community ties were stronger than ever last weekend at the skateboarding event’s in-person return to the Encinitas Community Skate Plaza from its two-year virtual hiatus due to COVID-19. Over 150 competitors of all ages representing 18 different countries showed off their skills in the street, bowl and vert divisions.

The three-day competition is the flagship event for the nonprofit, which seeks to empower female, transgender and nonbinary youth through skateboarding opportunities and raise funds for survivors of domestic violence.

Grace Marhoefer participates in the vert skateboarding competition on the third day of the 11th annual Exposure skateboarding benefit event on Sunday at the Encinitas Skate Plaza. Photo by Laura Place
Grace Marhoefer participates in the vert skateboarding competition on the third day of the 11th annual Exposure skateboarding benefit event on Sunday at the Encinitas Skate Plaza. Photo by Laura Place

“We love being back in Encinitas; this is just the best venue,” said Exposure co-founder Amelia Brodka, who also emceed the event. “We’ve tried to move this event to other places, but there’s no other place like Encinitas that brings the community together. The best thing is seeing the event grow.”

While Exposure offers a cash prize purse of $60,000 and features some of the world’s best youth skaters — some of whom, like Encinitas skateboarding icon Bryce Wettstein, represented Team USA in the 2020 Olympics — the main point of the event is to have fun and try new skills in an encouraging environment.

“That’s what skateboarding is about, trying to do something that you couldn’t do yesterday. I think overall the community just wants to see one another succeed. Yes, there is a competition, but the real competition is within yourself,” Brodka said.

Encinitas hometown hero Wettstein has been involved with Exposure for around a decade, and said it’s hard to find the words to describe what the event and the organization mean to her. She called that special mix of feelings “Expoetry.”

“Being out here at Exposure, I feel kind of like everybody is family,” Wettstein said. “Exposure is that example of Expoetry, a redistribution of feelings for me. It’s like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich of feelings.”

Encinitas native and Olympic skateboarder Bryce Wettstein, 18, competes in the vert competition on Sunday during the 11th annual Exposure Skate competition at Encinitas Skate Plaza. Photo by Laura Place
Encinitas native and Olympic skateboarder Bryce Wettstein, 18, competes in the vert competition on Sunday during the 11th annual Exposure Skate competition at Encinitas Skate Plaza. Photo by Laura Place

This year’s Exposure drew tons of other international top talent — Japan’s Junto Matsuoka, 11, got the highest air in the vert frontside air competition; Yujuan Li, 19, of China placed third in the open-pro vert finals; and Kihana Ogawa, 21, of Japan brought the highest backside air and took first place in the bowl open-pro finals.

For many, like Aaliyah Wilson of Victoria, Australia, it was their first time participating in an Exposure event. Despite suffering an injury to her knee during the bowl on Saturday, where she placed 5th, Wilson said the event was incredible.

“It’s more amazing than I could have ever thought it would be,” said Wilson, who pushed through her injury to compete in the vert competition on Sunday. “I really love Amelia and I think what she is doing for female skateboarding is awesome, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

North County native and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk signs a skate deck during the 11th annual Exposure Skate competition at Encinitas Skate Plaza on Sunday. Photo by Laura Place
North County native and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk signs a skate deck during the 11th annual Exposure Skate competition at Encinitas Skate Plaza on Sunday. Photo by Laura Place

North County is a known skating mecca, with Encinitas being its vibrant epicenter, and connections in the community are strong. The vert ramp used at Exposure’s competition was loaned by none other than legendary skateboarder and North County native Tony Hawk, who stuck around to watch the competition.

“It’s important for the diversity and inclusivity of skating,” Hawk said of Exposure. “I love seeing what’s possible.”

Encinitas 12-year-old Katelyn West, who enjoyed an ice pop after competing in the vert division on Sunday, called her first year at Exposure “awesome” and encouraged other young aspiring skaters to give it a try.

“Do it, it’s an amazing event. Just do it for fun,” West said.

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