Flyin' high

Dundalk native Lasek to compete this week at Pantech Open in Ocean City

July 20, 2011|By Chris Branch, The Baltimore Sun

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 the 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 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 video, "The Bones Brigade Video Show," featuring skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and his crew, the Bones Brigade, came out.

"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 met Lasek. Wisniewski was 19 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."

Wisniewski, who lives in Carlsbad, Calif., said the young Lasek mastered tricks quicker than anyone there.

"Bucky was so naturally talented," Wisniewski said. "Bucky would show up after school and in 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 largely been his life since. He skipped college to pursue his skating career. Now he hangs out with Hawk. He also counts Pierre Luc-Gagnon and Bob Burnquist as close friends. He was featured in the Bones Brigade 1988 skating video "Public Domain." He was a major player in many of the Hawk video games, though he acknowledged that 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, with 13 Summer X-Games medals (six golds). At 38, he is a 20-year veteran of the sport, which has gained immense popularity.

In his prime, Lasek was considered the best vert skater in the world. His element is gliding along the back-and-forth rhythm of vert, in which skaters blaze through a 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 — spins, grinds and tricks in which the skater grabs the board while in the air. And Lasek has mastered them all.

He doesn't consider himself a geezer in the sport; 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 about the dangers of her husband's profession. But that doesn't stop her 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: Devin, 13, Paris, 10, and Tenzin, 3. All three girls ride horses (Lasek says Tenzin rides a play horse). Paris is picking up skateboarding and also does gymnastics. Devin competes in equestrian events.

"She's gnarly," Lasek said. "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.

Among his hobbies, Lasek is most passionate about auto racing, specifically with Rebel Rock Racing, a group masterminded by Grammy-winning hip-hop producer Jim Jonsin.

Jonsin said when he met Lasek, he didn't have a clue who he was.

"All I knew was that this guy named Bucky was coming to race one of my cars," Jonsin said. "When he walked into the RV, my brother tripped out. He was like, 'Do you know who that was?'"

The two hit it off and kept in touch. Eventually, Jonsin decided to invite Lasek onto his team, which plans to eventually race in the American Le Mans series.

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