I Sk8 Therefore I Am

'Squirtle' Smith performs a trick on a ramp at the Gilroy Skate

Despite occasional negative stereotype assigned to them,
skateboarders say their sport is a way to get outside and be
Have you hugged a skater today? Or are you one of those who firmly believe all skaters are deviants and delinquents?

“Just because some punk kids talk crap to security guards and old ladies and happen to have skateboards in their hands doesn’t mean we’re all that way,” said Derek Bishop, a 22-year-old skateboarder at Gilroy’s skate park in Las Animas Veterans Park. “I’ve met mean security guards and mean old ladies. Anyone can be mean.”

Bishop and his skating buddy “Squirtle” Smith, 20, argue most skaters are unfairly stereotyped, and when they try to explain why, it’s obvious they’ve spent a lot of time defending their sport.

“Certain groups of kids ruin it for all of us,” Smith said. “Skating is a way to clear your mind, and it’s a way to meet people. I’ve met some really cool people skating.”

On any given day at skate parks in the South Valley, it’s easy to find skaters of varying age groups, multiple ethnic backgrounds and ranging in appearance from clean cut to ultra punk. Bishop and Smith have a number of piercings and tattoos, but neither blames the stereotypes on their appearances.

“There’s just this mindset that we must do drugs, drink and make trouble, but most of the time skating keeps you out of that stuff,” Bishop said. “If you aren’t skating, then you have time for that kind of stuff.”

Many skaters also point out the sport is healthy and good for the environment. Smith doesn’t have a car, so he skates to and from work every day, as does Juan Garcia, a skateboarder who lives in Hollister.

“I go all over this way,” he said. “Sometimes it’s too long to walk places so I skateboard.”

Skating works many muscles, particularly the legs, because the body must be kept rigid and balanced while working against opposing centrifugal force and momentum.

Skaters work muscles every time they push their board forward, and tricks involve a lot of crouching, jumping and even arm strength when skaters perform stunts where they must balance their weight on their arms, Smith and Bishop said.

To learn how to skateboard, Smith recommends watching other people skate, watching professional skating videos and avoiding anything that claims to be an instructional video. Getting on a board and trying it out is the best way to learn, he said.

“Don’t be afraid to fall, and don’t be afraid to ask someone for help or tips,” Bishop said. “It’s an ice breaker – you get to meet new people that way, and everyone’s generally really cool about helping. I have little kids asking me to show them stuff all the time. I don’t mind at all. It’s fun.”

So, have you hugged a skater today?

Glossary of Skater Tricks and Terms

Truck Metal piece that attaches the wheels to the board

Kick flip Jumping into the air, bringing the board up, flipping it over once, and landing on it just as you started.

Hard flip A kick flip that not only spins, but also rotates front to back.

Board slide Sliding down a pole on the middle of the underside of the board.

Nose grind Semi-sliding on the front truck along a ledge.

Five-O A nose grind on the back truck.

50/50 Grinding on both trucks.

Smith grind Grinding on the back truck with the front part of the board pointing down.

– Tricks may also be combined, such as a kick flip board slide, which is a kick flip done while sliding down a pole.

Sources: Derek Bishop and ‘Squirtle’ Smith

Tips for Using a Skateboard

– Give your board a safety check each time before you ride.

– Always wear safety gear.

– Never ride in the street.

– Obey the city laws. Observe traffic laws and avoid areas where you cannot skate.

– Don’t skate in crowds of nonskaters.

– Only one person per skateboard.

– Never hitch a ride from a car, bicycle, etc.

– When buying a helmet, choose one that fits well, has a chinstrap, and doesn’t block vision or hearing.

– Protective padding should not be too tight or reduce ability to move freely. Padding should also not fit too loosely, or it could slip off or slide out of position.

Source: www.nsc.org

How to Fall

– Learning to fall may help reduce the chances of serious injury, according to the National Safety Council. If you are losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so you won’t have as far to fall. In a fall, the idea is to land on the fleshy parts of your body. If you fall, try to roll rather than absorb the force with your arms.

– Even though it may be difficult during a fall, try to relax your body rather than go stiff. Always wear protective safety gear.

Source: the National Safety Council Web site, www.nsc.org