The young and the reckless

Skateboard event attracts about 100

March 12, 2007|By Chris Emery | Chris Emery,Sun reporter

Daniel Crowe used the handrail to negotiate the stairs, but not for safety purposes.

He hopped on the metal railing with his skateboard, slid down the tall flight of steps and rode away -- with all his limbs intact.

"The handrail is a little scary, but not so much now, because I've done it a lot," said Crowe, 11, of Woodbine in Howard County, after completing the stunt.

Crowe joined about 100 other skaters yesterday to compete at Charm City Skateboard Park, an indoor skateboarding facility hidden away in a brick warehouse in the Canton Industrial Area, east of Canton. The skaters careened around the park's many ramps, rails and banks, pulling out their best tricks in hopes of winning bragging rights and part of a $500 cash prize.

The event included classes for all skill levels and was the kickoff for the second annual King of the Coast Contest, a seven-stop series with competitions planned in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Jason Chapman, the 34-year-old owner of the city skateboard park, organized the series after lack of sponsorship led to the demise of another popular contest -- The Beast of the East. "There was a void that wasn't being filled," he said.

The format of the contest, he said, is intended to build younger skaters' confidence by having them take one competition run on their own and then skate a second time in a group, as they would during a normal skate session. "We try to be nurturing," he said. "When you go alone, and the spotlight's on you, it's really stressful. Letting them skate together takes off some of the pressure."

But the competitors weren't the only ones on edge. When Paul Franke, 15, of Pasadena crashed on one of the ramps during his competition run, his 13-year-old sister Darbie let out a scream that startled several other spectators.

"I was scared," she said afterward. "He hurts himself a lot."

Her brother later said he was unharmed by the fall but had butterflies during his solo performance. "I got really nervous," he said, his voice barely audible over the skateboard-generated roar echoing off the park's graffiti-covered walls.

Ron Hickoff, of Erie, Pa., said he too gets a little nervous at times when his 11-year-old son Zack skates. "He's fearless," Hickoff said of his son. "If I don't keep an eye on him, who knows what he will do?"

Zack's mother is more comfortable with her son's daredevil antics, Hickoff said. She delights in seeing him jump off objects and land on his board -- a classic move called a "bomb drop." "If I don't watch her, she'll have him bomb-dropping off roofs," Hickoff said jokingly.

He drove Zack to Baltimore so the boy could compete in the series opener. Zack is now sponsored by a couple of skateboard companies and competes regularly, his father said. "I don't think I left Pennsylvania until I was 18," Hickoff said. "Zack's only 11, and he's been all over the place for contests."

Last month, Zack placed 12th in King of the Groms, a contest for kids 12 years old and younger held in Minnesota. "Grom" is skater-slang for young riders.

Susi Crowe, Daniel Crowe's mother, said she also takes her son to contests regularly. "This is his 24/7 passion," she said. "All other activities, except for Boy Scouts, have dropped away."

In the summer, she said, Daniel will attend a skateboard camp in Pennsylvania. "They have a bunch of skate parks, with cabins in the middle," she said. "It's a kid's dream come true."

Daniel said he had detailed a plan yesterday for his contest run. It included a variety of tricks with names like "boneless," "disaster" and a "one-footed Indy," an aerial maneuver where he grabs the board and kicks off one foot.

"I'm going to end with the handrail down the steps," he said, standing in the skateboard park's shop in his helmet and kneepads.

Daniel Corrigan, 19, of Catonsville, took a less structured approach. "I'll just do a lot of tricks other people don't do" said Corrigan, who last year won the most advanced division in the contest.

Corrigan is a member of the skate park team and is sponsored by Heater, a skateboard company founded by park owner Chapman.

Corrigan said the Baltimore skateboarding scene is not as big as that of Philadelphia or New York.

"But I think people would be surprised," he added, "how many skaters are here."

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