A Safeco and skateboard quest

My last hurrah of the summer was a memorable one to be sure. For my 13-year-old son’s birthday we loaded up the mini-van and headed to Seattle to catch a baseball game. Four 13-year-olds and me.

The crew in the shadow of the Space Needle at the Seattle Centre outdoor skatepark.

My last hurrah of the summer was a memorable one to be sure. For my 13-year-old son’s birthday we loaded up the mini-van and headed to Seattle to catch a baseball game. Four 13-year-olds and me.

The parents of this crew were surprised at my bravery. Who in their right mind would journey for four days with a group of rambunctious early teens? I assured them my maturity level is only slightly higher than that of my travel companions. This seemed to both comfort and worry them.

Needless to say the boys were giddy with excitement when we pulled out of Nelson on our quest to Safeco Field. All four are keen baseball players and for a couple of them, the Mariners game would be their first Major League Baseball experience.

Though baseball was the main reason for the seven hour journey west, there were plenty of subplots.

Seattle itself is a huge lure for small town boys used to our six-stoplight burg. Pike Place Market, sweet shopping malls, skyscrapers and the general bustle of the big city always makes for an exciting time.

The day before the baseball game we were lucky enough to attend a PGA Champions Tour event at Snoqualmie, a totally unplanned and spur of the moment decision. All four boys are regulars at Granite Pointe, so this bonus sporting event was memorable. We spent an afternoon observing up close the likes of Fred Couples, Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer, Tom Kite, Nick Price and Mark O’Meara. For anyone who doubts how talented these golfers are and what great athletic ability the possess… go see a live golf event. It will quickly change your views.

Baseball, the big city and golf legends were not nearly enough to satisfy the 13-year-old appetite for adventure. It turned out that just as important as all these experiences was one they could create and control themselves — skateboarding.

Both mornings of the trip we were up at 6 a.m. As anybody with a teenager knows, rousting a kid from bed in the summer is a chore. But the lure of taking in some of the Puget Sound’s best outdoor skateparks made the job easy.

Two of the crew were avid skateboarders. The other two hadn’t spent much time on a board and were simply along for the ride… at first.

The first stop was Seattle Centre. In the shadow of the Space Needle, the boys skated for two hours straight. There were plenty of wipeouts and even more laughs.

As easy as it was to get them up in the morning, it was much more difficult to pull them away. By the end of the session the veterans were thirsting for more and the newbies were totally hooked.

Over the next three days we hit three other outdoor parks with equal zeal. Had I left them alone to their devices they would have likely blew off all the other awesome experiences and simply skated for three days straight.

The point of this tale isn’t about how I spent my summer vacation — though I enjoyed reliving this chapter. It’s about skateboarding and how the sport is still perceived by too many.

Too often I’ve heard people put down skateboarding as an outlet for punk kids — young people with nothing better to do than thunder down streets, smoke pot and get into trouble. Like any sport, that element is in the mix, but it’s certainly not what skateboarding is about.

This crew of 13-year-old boys I took to Seattle are all involved in hockey, baseball and soccer. They love those sports and the team aspect is vital to developing successful adults. They also love skateboarding. The freedom to do what they want without anybody telling them how to do it. To experiment with tricks and fail. To practice hard and succeed. The thrill of rolling down a hill with nothing but four wheels between you and nasty hard pavement.

The push to raise money for Nelson’s outdoor skatepark is currently underway. Young skateboarders and their supporters are working hard towards their goal for a facility that’s long overdue. Whether you understand the sport or not, it’s time to support skateboarding and all it provides to our youth.

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