Yesterday we celebrated my nephew’s tenth birthday by watching him compete in a skateboarding contest. It just so happened that you had to be ten to compete, so he took the fact that the contest was on his tenth birthday, as a sign that he should enter.
My nephew is more accurately described as a brainiac than a skate punk. We all worried that he might be a bit out of his gourd, but he was determined. My mom called the skate park to get more details and make sure that he wasn’t going to embarrass himself. The owner, who knew my nephew from skateboard camp, assured my mom that he could do it.
Having never been to the skate park before (you have to be seven to skate), the monkeys (and their former skate punk dad) were very excited about the competition. Everyone “dressed up” in anticipation: Warren broke out his new leather jacket; Jiro put on his Ramones shirt; and Satchel put on his knee pads, elbow pads, one wrist guard, and helmet. (He also insisted on bringing his skateboard.) Not to be outdone, I put on my black “Smashimi” shirt I made for the roller derby.
We looked hot.
The Skate Park of Memphis SPOM) is waaaaaaay out in Germantown, somewhere between Germantown Road and Shelby Farms. Warren had to consult a big map in order to get us there. If I had been alone, I never would have found it. It was tucked into a warehouse office park and looked like nothing special on the outside.
What it lacks on the outside, SPOM makes up for on the inside. We walked up a flight of stairs to the observation deck, where we sat on old car seats and viewed the park through a chain link fence. The park is about the size of half a football field and has ramps, rails, half-pipes, bowls…and lots of other stuff I don’t know the terminology for. About a hundred guys were whizzing through on their boards, somehow managing to avoid hitting each other.
Warren, Satchel, and Jiro’s eyes all lit up and I said to my mom, “I can see that this is going to be the first of many trips here.”
I tried to imagine Satchel and Jiro out there. I quickly spotted a boy in a Ramones shirt and baggie jeans and decided that was Jiro. It took me awhile to find Satchel in the sea of black t-shirts and baggie jeans, but he did finally emerge in maroon pegged pants and a jail striped shirt.
As the boys sped past us down below, their young bodies often flew off their boards, slid down the ramps, and plopped on the cement. One poor guy crushed his crotch on the rail right in front of everyone. “They don’t have to wear pads?” I asked Warren. “Doesn’t that hurt?”
He was too busy reliving the good ol’ days in his mind to answer my question. Since the boys—even the crotch guy—all got right back on their boards after falling like it was nothing, I had to assume it didn’t.
Satchel looked up at me and said, “Girls don’t skateboard, Mommy.” I looked around the swarm and he was, well, right. I saw one girl hanging out by the DJ but that was it.
What’s up with that?
The actual competition consisted of three categories—beginner, intermediate, and advanced/sponsored. The beginners went first in three minute heats of five. My nephew had been there for several hours “warming up” before the competition and was bright red before he even started. He put his board down on one of the planks and skated down the ramp, across the room, and half way up another ramp without falling down. He continued doing this move for the entire three minute period with varying levels of success. The four other boys skated around and did their own maneuvering, often with better results, but I think my nephew did a good job of blending in.
When my nephew’s heat was over, we cheered from our car seats as the boys rattled the chain link fence with their tiny little hands. To them, he was nothing short of a superstar.