Jake Wooten is still looking for his first professional contract, but that isn’t what fuels him.
The love of skateboarding, more than the trophies that are placed on his mantle, or the fame and money that comes with having a big corporate sponsor back him is what keeps him going.
That isn’t to say he is unnoticed.
Sponsorships from Converse and Santa Cruz skateboards, among others, are nothing to bat an eye at.
Still, Wooten is searching.
Searching for his next big moment, and that moment will be this week when he competes on one of his profession's biggest stages, the X Games.
In order for Wooten to make the X Games in Minneapolis, Minnesota at U.S. Bank Stadium, he first had to qualify in Boise, Idaho back on June 28 and 29 against some of the top athletes in an invite-only event.
“It was a fun experience,” he recalled. “It was definitely different more serious in how things were run than what I’m used to. It was still really cool, the bowl was super fun to skate and the temperature was great.”
Wooten placed sixth to qualify for his first X Games experience, which will take place beginning August 1, but he won’t skate until his Park event on Sunday, August 4
“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” he said. “I never had an opportunity on a platform this large and I’m just excited about competing. It will be a very cool opportunity to have. I’ve never dreamed it would happen but something I always thought would be amazing if it did. I’m just super stoked about it, I can’t say that enough.”
This moment, as surreal as it will be for Wooten, wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the love and support of Phillip and Sharron Brown. Phillip Brown, brother of Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown, is the one who got Wooten into skating and never gave him the opportunity to follow in his biological parent’s footsteps.
“It’s a long story, but basically they are drug addicts and had a hard time parenting,” Wooten said of his biological parents. “I lived with my mom after they got divorced and my Uncle [Phillip Brown] wanted to get me out of the house and away from that lifestyle more and more. He bought me a 50CC Honda and took me to Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom HuckJam because they were going to have the motorcycle competition. In the distance, I see the skateboarders in the middle and just thought that was the raddest thing I’d ever seen at 5 years-old. I was completely overwhelmed by it. My uncle used to skate when he was younger and always had boards around the house so he started taking me out Sunday mornings to skate. He is who got me into skating so shout out Phillip Brown. He and Sharron are basically my parents. I can’t thank them enough for what they have done for me.”
Shortly after that moment, Wooten competed in his first event at Gallatin Skatepark where he won the Pee Wee division in 2005 at 5 years-old.
Since that day, Wooten has been all over the map.
The United States, Europe, Australia, Asia, you name it, but there is one place that will always stand out to him as the raddest that he has ever skated.
“Barcelona,” he said. “The entire city is a skatepark. The architects there are crazy, 20-30 foot banks, fully skateable banks and hips that are so perfect and rails that are rad. The ground is so perfect, it’s smooth and you never have to worry about cracks that will throw you off. The parks there are unrivaled. The city is amazing.”
Now that his journey brings him back home to Tennessee he is able to relax, only for a moment, before heading North to compete in the X Games.
“The plan going is to just win the whole thing,” he said of his preparation. “It’s one step at a time, skate the bowl the first day, take a day off and just see how everyone else skates it. I know what I would like to do, but I’m not sure if it will work in that bowl just yet. I have a large bag of tricks, so if one doesn’t work in that environment I can always swap it out and go with another one. Normally it takes 30 minutes of skating for me to know what I can and can’t do at a certain park.”
Wooten is only 18, so if X Games 2019 doesn’t go according to plan there is always more time to learn, more time to grow and to get to where he wants to be as a skater.
Still, the hyper-active kid from Gallatin knows just how far he has come but he also knows how much work there is left to do.
“The dream is to go pro,” he said. “To have a company put your name on a board, to have your own graphic is something you can always have and cherish. With time it may happen but the goal is longevity. This is such an ever-changing industry, a fickle one. I want to make money and survive and live this dream for as long as I can.”
There is no doubt Wooten is living his dream. He is soaring among the clouds, and as free as a bird when he is on his board. He has so many people to thank for getting him to this moment and will always be someone who never forgets where he comes from.
“I just want to give a shout out to Santa Cruz skateboards, Converse for making my dreams a reality and allowing me to travel, pay for my hotels and give me clothes, shoes and just taking care of me. Sometimes I really can’t believe I’m living my dream.
“Shout out to Phillip, Sharron and Paige Brown - they are the best,” he continued. “Shout out to My Arms by My Side and Sidewalks for keeping me off the street. Shout out to Franklin Skate Shop for giving my first sponsorship when I was 8 years-old and shout out to Donny Mehyer for taking me to skate camps and giving me boards.”
Turning pro doesn’t fuel Jake Wooten, it’s the freedom of expression that keeps him coming back for more.
“There is no feeling like when you are in the air for those 3-5 seconds of just flying,” he said. “It’s amazing, I’ve never experienced anything else like it. It has something nothing else does. I love it.”
You can watch Jake at the X Games this Sunday, August 4 when he competes in the Wendy’s Men’s Skateboard Park competition from 1:00-6:00 p.m. on ABC.