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The Thrashing Popularity of Skateboarding

Tuesday, July 3, 2001 at 7:46 AM

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The economy may be slowing, but skateboards are rolling out of stores quicker than ever. Over the last 40 years, skateboarding has withstood safety concerns, insurance issues and recessions to become one of today's hottest individual sports. Chances are you've seen neighborhood kids jumping off the curbs in area parking lots or taking advantage of the local skatepark. As 90.3 WCPN's Renita Jablonski reports, it's media attention that has the wheels of skateboarding spinning at record speed.

V.O.: The Vans Triple Crown of Skateboarding… one of skateboarding’s premiere events...

Dawn Williams- It’s a three-part series where the top competitors of skateboarding in the world come and compete for over about $250,000 in prize money.

Renita Jablonski- Dawn Williams coordinates the contest.

DW- We target anywhere from ages 10 to about 24… (this) is our target market to try to get these guys out here. It’s the guys out there that are pumping around on their skateboards normally and just want to come out and see the top pros that they read about in the magazines compete for big money.

RJ- That’s exactly why 14-year-old Steve Bughman got his parents to drive more than an hour from Wellington, Ohio to catch the Triple Crown’s stop in Cleveland.

If you missed the event in Cleveland, didn’t make it to Vancouver, and can’t get out to the contest’s last leg in Oceanside, California, no need to worry. You’ll be able to get your share of kickflips, noseslides and other skateboarding tricks when NBC Sports broadcasts the Vans Triple Crown this fall and winter. Williams says it’s the increase in coverage by media outlets like NBC Sports and Fox Sports Net that’s making skateboarding more popular than ever.

DW- The more television coverage they’re getting, the more corporate sponsors that you’re bringing in, it just brings the awareness. You put it on TV, and kids will go, “Wow, I think I can try that. I want to do that. I’d like to get out there and see what it’s all about.” They look for five stairs, they look for handrails, they look for big gaps that they can jump over, it’s really about just finding the best obstacles to grind on.

RJ- Perhaps it’s time for a translation. In the skateboarding world, to “grind” means to scrape one or both wheel axles on a curb, railing or other surface in an effort to do a trick.

For Garfield Heights native Kristian Svitak, turning tricks is a career.

Kristian Svitak- I get paid money to ride my skateboard.

RJ- Svitak started skateboarding when he was 13. And now, at 26, he’s one of the biggest names in professional skateboarding.

KS- There’s a lot of guys that complain that because skateboarding’s always been such an underground thing. It’s always been the thing the rejected kids did that you know, we didn’t want to play football or baseball, or whatever and it was kind of cool being the outcast kids, and now all of a sudden it’s cool to ride a skateboard.

RJ- But that doesn’t bother Svitak. He says he doesn’t see it as selling out - rather, making a living doing something he loves.

KS- It’s always going to be my own deal, whatever I want to make it so it doesn’t matter. And then on top of that it just means, like I said, bigger paychecks for some shmuck of a kid from Garfield Heights for riding a skateboard.

RJ- Svitak has eight different company’s sponsoring him - that means eight different paychecks each month. Before he moved to San Diego to pursue professional skateboarding, Westside Skates in Lakewood was Svitak’s first sponsor. Owner and manager Brian Jules says business is at its best since the shop opened up five years ago.

Brian Jules- It’s always been pretty successful but right now we’re having a pretty enormous success with the TV exposure and the public acceptance of skateboarding it seems nowadays, it’s helped a lot.

RJ- Jules says you can expect to spend around $200 to get into the sport - that’ll cover the cost of a skateboard and pads. But if your child is serious about skateboarding, you could be shelling out cash every few weeks.

BJ- A lot of times you wear through your shoes pretty fast skateboarding and you usually break boards a lot, so shoes are at least $60 and boards are usually $60 a piece so it can add up.

RJ- And Kristian Svitak offers these words of advice to any aspiring pro-skaters.

KS- I always try to tell kids to try to listen to their parents a bit and get some kind of a back-up plan going because if it doesn’t work you got something else to fall onto.

RJ- That is, besides the pavement while you’re trying to master a mongo-foot push and a killer ollie. In Cleveland, Renita Jablonski, 90.3 WCPN News.

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