|(Posted 8/16/2004) |
(By Krista Larson, Associated Press; Edited by Josh Rabinowitz for SkateboardDirectory.com)
Sayreville, New Jersey * - While the tennis courts at Kennedy Park are bare on a hot afternoon, parents keep dropping off teenagers at the skate park, home to all of the day's action.
A dozen boys sit on the ledge, cooling off while watching others take turns flying downhill * on the concrete slope. Forget Little League: In some areas, skateboarding is the sport of choice.
Clad in helmets and jeans, the teens have their choice of skating in a clover-shaped bowl — resembling an oddly shaped empty swimming pool — or over a series of obstacles not unlike the park benches or railings used in street skating.
"You can just, like, go out here and do your own thing," said Nick Marrone, 13, visiting from Poughquag, New York *. "It's whatever you want; you're just having fun."
Small towns join in
The sport once mainly practiced on backyard ramps and in Southern California * skate parks has found universal appeal. One estimate is that there are 12 million skateboarders nationwide and more than 1,000 public skate parks in the US on top of the multitude of private ones.
The sport is growing not only in the suburbs of big cities but also in small communities like Searcy, Arkansas *.
"There are more and more kids every single day getting involved, and the stereotypes are really being lifted," said Alan Holloway, program coordinator for Searcy Parks and Recreation, which opened its municipal skate park in 2000 * and expanded it in 2002 * because of heavy use.
The core market seems to be in the 10- to 15-year-old group of "energetic, crazy young kids who are fearless" said Miki Vuckovich * of the Tony Hawk Foundation *, established by perhaps the sport's best-known athlete. He also noted that the number of kids who skateboard in American have surpassed the number of Little League baseball players,
"A lot of kids are looking for alternatives now; they don't want to do team sports," said Mark Sperling, founder of Op Girls Learn to Ride, which teaches skateboarding and other action sports to females. "Skateboarding is a way for them to express who they are and their creativity."
New demographic appeal
It's also inexpensive — just grab a secondhand skateboard and head to the streets. And while some skate competitively, others say they have fun without the pressures or politics of team sports.
"There's no coach yelling at you that you bobbled the play," said Chris Li, 16, of Livingston, New Jersey, who is lobbying his hometown to build a municipal skate park.
The sport's popularity dates to the 1960s and has surged in the last 10 years thanks in part to the X Games, the action-sports competition broadcast on ESPN * and ABC.
And its appeal these days is ever wider. Some parks have an "Old Man's Night;" and girls and women account for about 20 percent of skateboarders. There's even a California-based International Society of Skateboarding Moms.
Relatively safe, healthful
Skateboarders and some statistics maintain skateboarding is no more dangerous than football or soccer.
Skateboarding-related accidents accounted for 113,180 emergency-room injuries in 2002, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That's about a third of the bicycle injuries suffered by kids younger than 15 and about half the number of injuries from playground equipment.
This article was originally entitled "Skateboard popularity spreading nationwide" and was found at http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/nation/2733206
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