Thirteen years after he last lived in the state, Dundalk native…
Bucky Lasek, dressed like a typical skateboarder in a plaid button-up and khaki pants, is in disguise.
"I just grew this beard and mustache," said Lasek, pointing to his scruffy facial hair. "I think that's why people don't recognize me."
Over lunch at Costas Inn in Dundalk — Lasek's hometown — nobody seems to recognize the man who is usually a local celebrity.
Lasek, who visits home once or twice a year, hasn't lived in Maryland since 1998, when he moved to Encinitas, Calif., a suburb of San Diego. Lasek called San Diego "the mecca of skateboarding."
Thirteen years later, Lasek is returning to Maryland to compete in the Dew Tour's Pantech Open in Ocean City from Thursday through Sunday.
"I've been competing for so long. Now I just get to be in front of my friends again," Lasek said. "The good thing about doing it at home is, win or lose, you have a good time."
Over a fried softshell crab sandwich with a side salad, Lasek recalled his memories of home.
"I'll have to work out a lot when I go back" to Encinitas, Lasek said with a grin. "Coming home is never good for my diet."
Lasek's skateboarding career started when his bike was stolen. Around that time, the popular Powell Peralta skate video, "The Bones Brigade Video Show," came out featuring skating legend Tony Hawk and his crew, the Bones Brigade.
"That video came out, and that was it," Lasek said. "I wanted to skateboard. I got one for Christmas. Done deal."
Lasek grew up in Armistead Gardens, later moving to Dundalk and then Essex. Downtown Baltimore and Dundalk were frequent stops for Lasek, who credits the halfpipes at Fisherman's Inn in Kent Island for sparking his vert skill. He also listed a mini ramp off German Hill Road as a memorable spot.
Paul Wisniewski, a famous skater in his own right, used to skate at Fisherman's Inn on the "Hell Ramp." It's where he first met Lasek. Wisniewski was 19 at the time, and Lasek was 14.
"He was a little guy, goofing around all the time," Wisniewski said. "He was constantly laughing. Always having a good time."
Lasek wasn't a joke on the ramp. Wisniewski, who lives in Carlsbad, Calif., less than 10 miles from Encinitas, said the young skater would master tricks quicker than anyone there.
"Bucky was so naturally talented," Wisniewski said. "Bucky would show up after school and two tries make the trick. We would work all day on the same tricks."
"Skating was my life back then," Lasek said.
And it's been his life since. He skipped out on college to pursue his skating career.
It's worked out pretty well.
Now he hangs out with Hawk. He also counts Pierre Luc-Gagnon and Bob Burnquist as close friends. He was even featured in the Bones Brigade 1988 skating video "Public Domain." He was a major player in many of the Hawk video games, which he acknowledged he doesn't play much.
"I would play to test out my character, which was pretty accurate," Lasek said. "But I never really got into playing video games."
He's a titan of skateboarding in his own right, amassing 13 Summer X-Games medals (6 golds) and is considered an expert in vert. At 38, he is a 20-year veteran of the sport, which has gained immense popularity during his era.
In his prime, Lasek was considered the best vert skater in the world. His element is gliding along the back-and-forth rhthym of vert, where skaters blaze through a large halfpipe, launching tricks as they soar into the air at each end.
A skater begins by dropping into the halfpipe. Tricks happen when the skater reaches the top, continuing past the safe confines of the wooden halfpipe surface. Spins, grinds and even tricks where the skater grabs the board in his hand momentarily before hitting the surface are routinely seen.
And Lasek has mastered it.
He doesn't consider himself a geezer in the sport, though. He likes to think of himself as "controlled chaos."
"I get wild, but I keep control," Lasek said. "I know my limits, my borders."
Lasek's wife, Jennifer, said she doesn't worry as much anymore about the dangers of her husband's profession. But that doesn't stop her completely from fretting.
"I can't worry about the unknown," she said. "But he keeps me on my toes. I'm a mother, so the worrying never goes away."
They have three children, all girls: Devin (13), Paris (10) and Tenzin (3). All three ridehorses (Bucky Lasek says Tenzin rides a play horse). Paris is picking up skateboarding, and she also does gymnastics. Devin competes in equestrian events, jumpinghorses.
"She's gnarly," Lasek said of Devin's equestrian prowess. "She wins blue ribbons and everything."
They named Tenzin after the Dalai Lama, whose given name is Tenzin Gyatso. The Dalai Lama is the religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism, something Lasek said he and his family dabble in.
Lasek has hobbies outside skateboarding. His most passionate is auto racing, specifically with Rebel Rock Racing, a group masterminded by Grammy-winning hip-hop producer Jim Jonsin.