In a move to go from an armchair extreme sports fan to one that actually gets some "air," Matthew Martin took the America Inline "Weekend X-camp" to get over the jitters he experienced the first time his skateboard wheels left the ground intentionally.
This was the second weekend camp for Matthew.
"You learn a lot of stuff. If you were scared the first time, it gives you courage," he said.
Kyle Martin, 12, learned a lot also.
"You learn how to get a lot of air. It doesn't matter if you get hurt," he said.
Robert Gregory, 10, laughed in the face of asphalt.
"You're sacrificing your skin, but it's worth it," he said.
"Sacrificing skin" may have been a bit of exaggeration from the youths, who were all decked out in layer upon layer of clothing, helmets, knee and elbow pads and gloves. They learned how the pros on extreme sports do it, courtesy of Greg Keim, the owner of America Inline camp.
Keim's company specializes in skateboard, aggressive in-line, roller hockey, mountain bike, BMX biking, surfing and snowboarding training. The camps are given at area parks such as Wakefield Park, Spring Hill, Lee District and South Run. America Inline's truck has a trailer full of the mobile equipment, which includes launch ramps, kicker ramps, rails, grind box, fun box, a mini quarter pipe and more, according to its brochure. Tricks they teach included ollys, front side switch and back side switch, dropping in, grinds and air.
Keim and several helpers set up ramps, rails and balance bars for the skaters to practice on while he provided guidance. He set up two ramps, side by side, for the riders to manipulate.
"A little more knee bend and you would have had it," Keim said.
The camp took place on the outdoor basketball court at South Run Park on Sunday, Dec. 1, in freezing temperatures. It was a makeup day from a November date that was rained out. Keim thought that the skaters showed dedication in the cold.
"I'm surprised," he said. "There's about 20 registered, and they just about all showed up. These are the kind of kids that want to be here."
Although the sport involves a fair amount of falling and smacking the pavement, Keim does stress the safety aspect.
"As long as you wear your protective gear and get some instruction when you start, it's just as safe as swimming," he said.
On the disclaimer each skater is required to provide, signed by his parents, it states, "I hereby acknowledge that skate boarding and aggressive in-line skating is inherently dangerous."
Robert likes the anti-establishment reaction it receives around his house. It's a guy thing.
"My dad likes to see me skateboard, my mom hates it," he said.
EXTREME SPORTS is getting mainstream though, with snowboarding reaching the Olympics. The first Olympic competitions even had a veteran snowboarder providing the play-by-play, complete with the snowboard slang thrown in for effect. Keim noticed that trend and started his camps in 1993 when the extreme sports were in their infancy.
"I think the X-games are definitely becoming mainstream," he said.
Keim's camps have made the recreation center circuit in the area. That includes parks and recreation centers in Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, Howard and Montgomery counties as well as the cities of Rockville, Alexandria, Gaithersburg, Rehoboth Beach and two locations in Florida. Keim is a Fairfax County resident with roots in North Dakota.
Fairfax County Park Authority spokesperson Judy Pederson noted the trend toward participation in extreme sports. She's familiar with Keim as well.
"More and more. we're going to be into the extreme adventure programming." Pederson said. "We're trying to catch up to a trend that's already under way. If we don't provide this, the kids will do it out in the neighborhoods anyway."
Keim's programs are sponsored by Asylum, a skate store that recently opened on Backlick Road in Springfield and has another location in Rockville, Md. The boys like to go in Asylum and swap war stories straight from the ramps.
"They have music and videos. I tell them I can do tricks, ollys. At grand opening, they had a competition," Robert said.
Asylum manager Paul Alem welcomes the skaters and provides televisions and a leather couch for them to hang out, watch skating videos and swap skating stories.
"They come out just to hang out. Some bring their homework, It's just a hangout [for skaters]," he said.
They even go as far as ordering pizzas for the skaters sometimes.
The boys’ skating idols included Chad Musga, Chet Thomas, a pair of unnamed Korean brothers and Rodney Mullen. Tony Hawk, a big named skateboarder popular a few years ago, was not at the top of the list.
Reed Martinko, 10, of Springfield admired Mullen.
"He created half the tricks," Reed said.
The Park Authority started adventure/extreme camps last year and has scheduled more for next summer, said Pederson.
"All of the adventure-extreme sports are way up. This year, there will be an expansion of that," she said.