Skateboard Challenge to honor memory of local boarder

  • Written by Derek Johnson

On a daily basis, Ethan Zakes used to plead with his parents to take him to Woodinville Community Park. While en route, the young boy would clutch his skateboard and count the seconds before arrival. Then as the family vehicle pulled up to the curb, the whirling dervish would be unleashed.

SKATEBOARD1Kids from last year’s Skateboard Challenge compete at Woodinville Community Park. (Derek Johnson photo)“We were lucky if we could get the car stopped before he would go racing out,” Brad Zakes recalled of his son. “He would be out there on his skateboard before we could even make our way out there to the park.”

This Saturday marks the 11th annual Woodinville Skateboard Challenge at the park. Woodinville Rotary will again provide a $250 prize to the winner of the Best Tricks contest, and also provide prizes to skaters in memory of Ethan Zakes in a special new “EZ Rocks Tricks for Ethan” contest.

Ethan passed away in 2011 at the age of 10 from adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a brain disorder.

Ethan’s playful spirit and charisma were reasons he was so beloved.

SKATEBOARD2 copyThe memory of Ethan Zakes is being honored at this year’s Skateboard Challenge. (Courtesy photo)“Even after Ethan became diagnosed with ALD and he started to lose some of his balance and coordination, he was still so passionate and loved the sport so much that he still wanted us to take him to the park,” Brad Zakes said.
As the disease progressed, other skateboarders at the park began to recognize something wasn’t quite right with Ethan. But according to Brad Zakes, those kids were incredibly supportive. “As hard as it was for Ethan to no longer be able to do the things he once was able to do, to have all the local guys he looked up to cheering him on and giving him support meant a lot to Ethan. And it meant the world to us as well. It was really reflective of what a great group of kids make up this sport.”

The event’s longtime organizer, Pam Miller, also knew Ethan.

“My son Sky Siljeg is a professional skater,” Miller said. “He kept in contact with Ethan. Sky left for the beginning of his pro circuit and went to New Zealand. He told Ethan, ‘Hey, I’m going to do your pro career.’ They communicated via email. Sky sent pictures from New Zealand and Australia. I get a little teary just thinking about it.”

Miller said the bond between her son and Ethan illustrated the tightness of the local skateboarding community.

“There’s a huge skating community in the Northshore,” she said. “It’s really about a 10-mile radius. We have kids coming from Monroe, Snohomish, Mukilteo and many Woodinville families. I was over at the park the other night and the kids there were already excited about the event.”

Registration for the Skateboard Challenge will begin Aug. 2 at 10 a.m. with the competition held from noon to 5 p.m. The cost is $10. Competitors of all ages will have an opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

Brad and Nancy Zakes have established the Zakes Foundation, a memorial to Ethan. The foundation advocates screening of newborns at birth for early detection to lessen the likelihood of a child contracting ALD.
“There is a known treatment in the form of stem cell transplant, which can literally stop the disease in its tracks,” Brad Zakes said. “But the key is to diagnose it shortly after birth.”

For more information, go to

Additionally, on September 19-21, there will be a pro/am (professional and amateur) skateboarding fundraiser at the City of Bellevue Skate Park called “EZ Skate for the Cure.” Mitchie Brusco, Sky Siljeg and other big names in the sport will be competing. For more information, go to

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