Skater still goes full speed

Longtime skateboarder Garry Moore Jr. lost his foot in an accident. But he beat back depression and addiction, and hopes to show he's `amped, not out.'

August 06, 2005|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,SUN STAFF

Garry Moore Jr., an amputee since a 1997 accident crushed his left foot, leans against a chain-link fence in Carroll Park. Two children walk up behind him to sneak a peek at his prosthetic limb, a hunk of metal attached just below his left knee.

Later, those same kids and others watch in amazement as Moore cruises around a half-pipe on a skateboard, turning moves such as front five-O and 50-50 grinds. In a sport that requires ankle control to make subtle moves and balance the body on the board, Moore not only can ride -- he can rip.

"How's the foot stay in place?" Mar Braxton, 31, wonders. "I've got a thousand questions."

In Moore's words, he's "amped, not out." The injury kept the Hereford High School graduate largely off his board for years and helped him sink into a depression and addiction to pain killers. But the 34-year-old has found a way to enjoy the sport he took up more than two decades ago.

Through his budding skate team "Amped Riders" -- a handful of disabled skateboarders from across the country -- he performs in skate demos, hoping to dispel myths about disabilities and encourage others who might not realize their potential.

Yesterday, Moore was joined by two other team skaters with arm disabilities at the Extreme and Adaptive Sports Expo in Southwest Baltimore's Carroll Park. He showed kids how to perform simple board tricks, while wheelchair basketball players competed in a pickup game and two women performed a therapeutic horseback riding demonstration.

"I want people to recognize that there are definitely challenges -- it's not like grabbing your board and going out and doing it," said Moore, who now lives outside Reading, Pa. "People see Paralympic athletes and say, `Oh my goodness, they're doing so great. That's so remarkable.' They don't see the process it takes to get to that point. There's an awful lot of obstacles that you have to overcome to get to that level."

For Moore, that level means skating with the adrenaline-charged recklessness he has had since he was 13 -- just with a new challenge.

Moore was injured while working on marine construction at a pier in Ocean City. A pile of timber dropped from a crane caught the edge of a trash bin and sent the 12-foot logs crashing and onto his left foot.

When he removed his boot, his sock was red with blood, and his foot was maimed, he said.

Doctors initially removed his toes. Moore tried to adapt, cutting his shoe in half and patching it up to fit the new size of his foot so he could skate. But he was in agony, experiencing phantom pains and taking OxyContin six times a day, he said. He said he slipped into depression and was prescribed three kinds of anti-depressants.

"My first thought was, `This is a guy who I've skated with, who lives down at the beach, loves skim boarding, loves surfing," recalls childhood friend Dave Anderson, 34, now a teacher at the Gilman School. "Everything he loves to do, he depends on his feet. This is going to be the end of him. I'm not going to know him as I used to know him."

After another surgery scaled back his foot even more, a friend told him he should consider removing his lower leg completely. Doctors said that a more elaborate prosthetic would give him more flexibility.

Moore took the chance.

He is now fitted with a prosthetic limb that holds tightly in place through suction. It also has a synthetic foot with shock absorbers and axial movement in all directions, allowing him to better navigate and center the skateboard. His baggy shorts and pink-and-black Vans skate shoes hide most of the device.

"It's just part of his gear now," said Mark Hopkins, a physical therapist at Johns Hopkins Hospital who works with amputees.

Falling is as natural a part of skateboarding as tackling is in football, so Moore needs repairs sometimes several times a month.

The day before the expo at Carroll Park, Moore traveled to Maryland Orthotics & Prosthetics Co. Inc. for a tune-up.

"Garry puts this stuff to the extreme test," Dennis Haun said as he attached Moore's repaired leg.

"Use it and abuse it," Moore responded with a smile.

That night, Moore joined a group of friends -- including pro skater and Towson resident Derek Krasauskas -- for an all-night skate session in a 9-foot-high half-pipe in the woods of Davidsonville.

With rock music blaring from a stereo, Moore set up at the top of the ramp to try a move called an "invert." His natural foot held down the back edge of the board. He placed his prosthetic leg on the front and leaned forward, gently grasping the edge for balance as he took off down the ramp.

As he came back up the half-pipe, he gripped the coping -- the top of the ramp -- and kicked his legs into the air, eliciting cheers.

But as he came back down, the board fell from under him and he tumbled down the ramp.

"Ahhh!" Moore yelled, flinging the board into the dirt.

Though unable to execute the trick that night, what he did was nothing short of amazing to the other skaters.

"People are concerned even about what shoes they're wearing, because the weight can affect how they skate," said Scott Spies, a 28-year-old from Annapolis. "Imagine not even feeling your feet."

Moore hopes Amped Riders can help other amputees with an interest in extreme sports. He was a counselor at the renowned Woodward skate camp in Pennsylvania, helping three young amputees.

"It's all about being able to come out and do something that people with two good arms and two good legs wouldn't dream about," he said.

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