Young skaters vie for some airtime

With self-produced film, youths show what Baltimore can offer skateboarding world

December 23, 2006|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

Joe Fitzpatrick's cheeks flushed a rosy red, his long-sleeve T-shirt was soaked with sweat and his chest rose and fell like a sprinter nearing the finish line, but he wasn't quitting until the video camera trained on his feet captured a perfect image of his skateboarding stunt work.

At least a hundred, maybe 200 times, Fitzpatrick, 17, kick-flipped his board hard on the concrete at an abandoned lumber yard in White Marsh and smoothly sailed along on his board at almost a 90-degree angle. But only once did he finish the stunt successfully, landing a perfect flip-out - and cameraman and buddy John Schissler, 19, caught the moment.

"Muscle cramps and aches," said Fitzpatrick, a Dundalk native, after finally completing the stunt. "But it feels really good. Plus, I got it on tape. I might have done it only once, but it will always be there."

This kind of painstaking work is what it takes to make a skateboarding movie, a vehicle for skateboarders to show their skills and sometimes to launch their professional careers. The videos, usually shot by amateurs, are widely distributed in skateboard shops around the country and can lead to company sponsorships and, most importantly, respect from peers.

Tonight at the Senator Theatre, Matthew Grube, 20, a skateboarder from Lutherville, will premiere a 60-minute skateboarding movie, featuring local youths, that he produced and filmed with two friends.

The movie is titled Believe, a nod to his hometown. It was shot in Baltimore and at skateboarding hotbeds in such cities as San Francisco, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, N.Y.

"I'm pumped," Grube said this week while taking a break from performing his own fancy footwork, which is featured in the movie. "These guys want to skateboard for the rest of their lives. So we're going to keep making videos. It's tough. It's really nerveracking to get a lot of tricks. But it's fun to be out there with your friends doing tricks. We're not going to stop now. We're on a roll."

Grube hopes the video will put Baltimore on the map as a place with a fierce skating crowd. He also hopes it will give some of the featured skaters, such as 18-year-old Idlewood native Spencer Brown, who has already won national competitions, some recognition.

Adam Salo, the managing editor of Skateboarder magazine, said skateboarding videos debuted in the late 1980s and have helped launch the careers of many professional skateboarders. Shops that sell skateboards and hire teams to skate for them also produce the movies as a way of advertising their products.

"The kids love to make them," Salo said. "You can learn some things, but in a lot of ways, it's just sort of inspiration, you watch someone's who's better than you. You kind of watch these videos and see what other guys are doing."

Grube's movie, which he shot with Jake Travisano, a senior at Calvert Hall College High School, and Andrew Real, a senior at Towson High School, took about a year to film. It features about a dozen skateboarders who show off their skills as music blares in the background. The skateboarders glide over ramps and railings, performing intricate tricks with ease. Some scenes, however, show bloody hands scraped in slips and falls.

None of the skaters wears helmets or other protective equipment, and shooting the movies was, at times, an exercise in avoiding the police.

Grube said he has been ticketed by police a few times for skating in prohibited areas. About three years ago, he said, his friends started skating at the old lumber yard, a concrete slab with rails and ramps that skaters have added to maximize the fun. The police have chased them from there, too.

At the lumber yard one afternoon this week, Schissler filmed his own video, gliding on his skateboard alongside Fitzpatrick as he attempted a trick. "Come on!" Fitzpatrick shouted to himself, after messing up several times. "My feet hurt!"

"I get a thrill from it," Schissler said. "The whole triumph-over-defeat thing. There's like equal pressure. I have to film it, and he has to do it."

The movie Believe will be shown at 5:30 tonight at the Senator Theatre, 5904 York Road. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., and admission is $5.

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