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Passion for thrashing

[Times photos: Krystal Kinnunen]
Sean Cooper, 15, of Sunrise catches air on a half pipe ramp using a snake board at Central Skate Park.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 16, 2001

Skate parks are taking off around the bay area, giving skateboarders and skaters room to create and refine moves.

CLEARWATER -- The rain has turned everything into a soggy mess outdoors, but inside the Central Skate Park where wheels are hitting wood, it's dry.

It's one of the pluses of an indoor skateboard park: Mother Nature isn't in charge of your right to flight.

As more folks get into skateboarding, more places for them to skate are being built. Last week, Hernando County commissioners agreed to put up money for a skate park. They also backed a proposal to have local skateboarders help design it.

A skate park can be anything from an outdoor area with a couple of quarter pipes to an enclosed space with more than 100 elements and courses for beginning, intermediate and advanced skateboarders.

Confessions of a skate rat
When he was a teen, skateboarding ruled his life. A couple of decades later, he's ready to pass on the mantle to a daughter who inherited his sense of balance.
Clearwater's Central Skate Park is the largest indoor facility in Florida and one of the few indoor parks in the Tampa Bay area. Most of the kids who skate there are 11 to 15 years old, and most of them are guys, but more young women are showing up.

The national Gravity Games Airwalk Amateur Challenge was held at Central Skate in July. The 45,000-square-foot facility has been open three years and has been written about in skateboarding magazines such as TransWorld and Thrasher.

"Skateboarding is becoming more legitimized," said Central Skate owner Jim Talarchyk. "You're seeing it on ESPN. You see Tony Hawk everywhere."

The 33-year-old Hawk is the Michael Jordan of skateboarding. He's a professional skateboarder who created his own skateboard video games for PlayStation. ESPN is airing Tony Hawk's Gigantic Skatepark Tour this summer.

T.J. Vercauteren, 15, left, and Steve Bunday, 14, both of Pinellas Park, and Erica Kampourias, 11, of Clearwater watch an inline skater grid a rail at Central Skate Park in Clearwater recently. “I come here almost every day, and I’m better than most boys,” says Erica.
Hawk, not surprisingly, is a proponent of skate parks.

"There's a lot of support at a skate park when you're trying to learn something because the skaters have all been there themselves, and they want to see you succeed," Hawk said in the June issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids.

Bob Der, assistant managing editor of SI for Kids, said skateboarding's creativity draws kids to the sport.

"Even at its highest levels, the drive is to create and invent new tricks rather than win events," Der says. "I think kids are giving the sport a try because it seems different, fun and cool."

Skateboarding has come a long way since the 1970s, when in-your-face skaters were riding the wave of Los Angeles' punk music scene.

In Venice and Santa Monica, Calif., the 12-man ZephyrCompetition Skate Team -- soon to be known as the Z-Boys -- showed far more could be done with a board than just the odd handstand. They developed their tricks in empty swimming pools, and as for police trying to arrest them for trespassing, that only added an adrenaline rush to their fun.

To this day, skateboarders and punk music are still joined at the hip -- consider the skateboarding element of the recent Vans Warped Tour. Corporate America has gotten into the act too, pushing products from deodorant to Bagel Bites with images of thrashers.

Michael Adno, 10, left, of Sarasota, Chaz Corrandini, 7, of Hernando and Luke Walker, 10, of Port Richey cool off at Central Skate Park recently.
Advertising "just goes to show how much of a spectator sport that skateboarding's become," said Michael Wood, vice president of the marketing firm Teen Research Unlimited.

Said Hawk: "There will inevitably be companies that latch on to skating's popularity for the sake of marketing, but they are quickly discredited by today's savvy kids. It's obvious when a company doesn't get it."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

Some Tampa Bay area skateboard parks:

(Note: Most skate parks require participants to wear helmets and sign waivers. If the skater is under 18, parents have to sign a consent form.)

Astro Skating Center

875 Cypress St., Tarpon Springs

(727) 938-5778 Fee: $6

Central Skate Park

6140 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater

(727) 523-0785 Fee: Non-members $11.25, members $6; yearly membership is $50.

Stirling Skate Park (Dunedin Recreation Center)

550 Laura Lane, Dunedin

(727) 298-3296 Fee: Dunedin residents must purchase a $5 recreation identification card; $55 for those who don't live in Dunedin

Gulfport Skate Park (Gulfport Recreation Center)

5730 Shore Blvd. S, Gulfport

(727) 893-1068 Fee: Free

Skatepark of Tampa

4215 E Columbus Drive, Tampa

(813) 621-6793 Fee: Non-members $6 Monday through Thursday and $8 Friday through Sunday. Annual pass is $25.

St. Pete Skate Park (Coquina Key Recreation Center)

3595 Locust St. SE, St. Petersburg

(727) 823-4434

Fee: $3 Monday through Thursday, $4 Friday and Saturday

Word of Life Skate Park

13247 Word of Life Drive (off Hudson Drive), Hudson

(727) 856-7575, ext. 2508

Fee: $5

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