St. Petersburg Times
skater art
Tony Hawk's Boom Boom Huckjam online interactive special

Welcome to half-pipe heaven

For skateboarders, this grind isn't work - it's play - at a weekend spent at Central Skate Park.

© St. Petersburg Times
published November 11, 2002

CLEARWATER -- Wheels rumbling across the wooden floor. Rock music blaring from the speakers. Slapping and smacking noises as wood strikes the ground.

[Times photo: Kinfay Moroti]
Mark Akiyma, 27, of St. Petersburg, practices kick-flips over a skateboard ramp at Central Skate Park in Clearwater.
These are the sounds of 50,000 square feet of skateboarding heaven.

Every weekend 200 to 300 kids go to Central Skate Park, 6140 Ulmerton Road in Clearwater, to enjoy the challenging sport of skateboarding. These kids enjoy the extreme excitement of going up and down dozens of ramps, including half-pipes and a ramp that leads into a giant foam pit. Central Skate also has several grinding poles.

Grinding poles are rails that kids slide on with their skateboards. Half-pipes are two ramps facing each other and resembling a large pipe with the top half cut off.

Kyle Sippel of Lakeland skateboards every day. His practice has paid off. At the Skate Park, Kyle, 17, was landing some cool grinds. "Skateboarding is fun and intense," said Kyle, who was visiting the skate park for the first time.

Bryan Kotter, 15, of New Port Richey says that he practices five to six hours every day. He usually practices in the street near his home. Bryan's best move is a "Dark slide," which is grinding with the skateboard upside down. This was also Bryan's first visit to Central Skate Park. "This place is massive!" Bryan said.

Bryan was inspired to start skateboarding after watching other kids enjoying the sport. It looked like fun, he said, so he went out and bought his first skateboard. Tony Hawk, the famous skateboarding legend, also inspired Bryan.

"Tony Hawk is awesome at skateboarding," Bryan said.

Jay Turner, the general manager of Central Skate Park, said that Hawk has led many more kids to skateboarding. "Tony Hawk is really well-liked by the kids," Turner said.

Kyle said that he is looking forward to seeing Tony Hawk's Boom Boom HuckJam at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa on Saturday. Hawk's show will feature skateboarding, BMX biking, motocross and a performance by the rock band Good Charlotte.

Hawk is the legendary skateboarder known to many through his video games and toys. Hawk will even be lending his voice to the 300th episode of The Simpsons, scheduled for February. Hawk was renowned in the skateboarding world but became more of a household name through the X-Games.

Skateboarding may be fun, but it also can be painful. Bryan described one time when he was grinding and he fell on his back and hurt his tailbone. "It hurt so much I couldn't skateboard for a whole week," he said. Kyle said that he once jumped over a 5-foot gap between ramps and fell, injuring his leg.

Turner explained that at Central Skate Park the kids are required to wear safety equipment. Everyone must wear a helmet.

The kids usually wear padded shoes while skateboarding to protect their feet. They also wear T-shirts and loose-fitting shorts.

If you are looking for an extreme, intense, bone-crushing challenge, skateboarding may be the perfect sport for you.

-- Jacob Ludin, 11, is in the fifth grade at the Pinellas County Jewish Day School in Clearwater. Information from Times files was used in this report.


Times art — Mike Sudal
BOARDSLIDE/ RAILSLIDE: To slide on an obstacle or lip with the contact point the underside of the board.

DARKSLIDE: As you approach something to grind, you flip your board and grind on the grip tape while standing on the bottom of the board.

GRIND: To ride on an object, such as a ledge or handrail, with just the trucks making contact.

HAND PLANT: A type of trick where one hand grabs the skate while doing a one-handed handstand on a ramp, or obstacle.

HALF PIPE: A type of ramp that is shaped like a "U" and used for vertical skating.

LANDING FAKIE: Landing backwards.

NOSE SLIDE: Sliding on the nose of a board, on the edge of an obstacle such as a handrail, ledge or ramp lip.

OLLIE: Using your back foot to smack the tail of your board against the ground while your front foot pulls the board up into the air.

SPINE RAMP: Two half pipes placed back to back creating a double U shape.

TRUCKS: The axles that hold the wheels to the board.

ZONK: Hit the wall.

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