MS. REBECCA SHEIR
So, thus far in our on the move show, we've talked about, what, getting around on foot, by car, by train, but our next story focuses on a whole different kind of locomotion, skateboarding. Now, it's not a news flash to say skateboarders have been a fixture on D.C. streets for quite a while now. But long time enthusiasts say, the sport is really taking off, right now. And appealing to a broader base of boarders than ever before. Lauren Landau hit the streets and the skate parks to bring us the story.
MS. LAUREN LANDAU
Skateboarder, Daniel Kim, chuckles as his two youngest students sit on their boards and ride down a skate ramp. Milo and Iyad are 3 and 4 years old, respectively and thrilled by their new skateboards which they mainly use as sleds. Kim grabs their attention and flips over his board exposing it's stickered and scratched belly.
MR. DANIEL KIM
So this is the board, these are the trucks and these are the wheels. Iyad, do you know what this is called here?
The trucks. And what is this called right here?
Kim has been skating in D.C. for about a decade. He says, in recent years, the local skate scene has become younger, more diverse and much larger. And so he recently started Street Smart Skate, a school dedicated to teaching proper skateboarding skills and technique.
Everywhere I go, I see a lot of new younger kids. And a lot of them really are just sitting on their skateboards, you know, on their knees and just pushing with their hands. They like skateboarding but they just don't know what to do on the skateboard.
Today he's at Shaw Skate Park teaching kids how to turn on their skateboards.
Put your weight on the back of the board, on the very edge and then when you turn, you have to turn with your hips and your shoulder, ok? Like this. Can you try that?
One of his young protégés is 9-year-old, Cordell Green who hopes to one day become a professional skateboarder. He's only been skating for two years but Cordell is landing tricks that guys twice his age struggle to perform.
MR. CORDELL GREEN
My brother's really good and all these other people are teaching me how to do like bigger ollie's and all these different tricks. Daniel Kim and Darren Harper and Bobby Worst (sp?) , they all help me when I a difficult tricks.
Cordell comes to Shaw Skate Park every day, usually with his Dad. Kevin Green says skateboarding has a positive effect on his kids.
MR. KEVIN GREEN
I've watched how this whole relationship with skateboarding have brought them into focus in a way that, as a parent, I probably would not of been able to see, so early. Skateboarding has allowed them to take on something that gives them a desire to try something, fail at it, but continue to work until they get it.
New skate parks, along with events like National Go Skateboarding Day, have increased local interest in this sport. But Kim says, pop culture is also a factor.
I feel like the influence of that was through rap, hip hop, you know, a lot of prominent rappers these days like Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, Odd Future, they all kind of started wearing skateboarding clothes, putting some shine on skateboarding. They even rap about skateboarding, so I guess once kids started hearing about that they're like, OK, they felt like it was cool.
Just a few years ago, most D.C. skaters were white men in their teens and 20s but Kim says, that's no longer the case.
Nowadays, you'll see a bunch of young black kids around 9 to 17-year-olds. It's completely different. Like, I would say about, like, 75 percent of the skateboarders in D.C. are black males.
Pro-skater Darren Harper is known as the "Obama of skateboarding." I met up with him at Freedom Plaza, where we talked about D.C.'s evolving skate scene. He says he encourages kids to defy stereotypes and embrace skateboarding.
MR. DARREN HARPER
The kid who lives in the hood, he's going to have to face his peers, as far as like maybe looking at them, like, Yo, we don't do that here. Like, we in the hood, nobody ride no skateboard. You know what I'm saying, so you got to face that. My thing is, I try to dedicate my skill, my swag, to just showing them, like, you can do it. I'm -- I'm as real in the hood as they come. You know, it don't get no real-er than me.
In the late 80s, Harper was living in a rough neighborhood in Southeast when he found a discarded skateboard. He now says skateboarding saved his life. And is a healthy way for kids to stay out of trouble.
For the most part, this skating keeps them active and I know, when I came up, you know, when there was negative things going on, half of the time skateboarding kept me away from that because I was down here, I was able to leave the neighborhood and the block and get away from the violence and everything that was going on.
Ironically, skateboarders are often regarded as rebels and rule breakers. And to be fair, some of them are, but Kim says skateboarders are often misjudged.
Most people kind of misinterpret skateboarding. Like, if we're skateboarding in the downtown area, in the buildings, security guards or just random pedestrians would freak out. They just look at it, like, we're doing something horrible when really it's just us, just purely, just trying to have a good time and just trying to skateboard and we don't have any bad intentions.
Kim predicts that schools will eventually promote skateboarding as a serious sport like football or baseball. But for now, skate school is held wherever Kim and his students role take. I'm Lauren Landau.
After the break, it's Book-end, our monthly conversation with D.C. writers. This time we'll hear from Pulitzer Prize winner, Edward P. Jones.
MR. EDWARD P. JONES
You find, of course, that so many people that wake up in the morning have an idea for a story and they go with it before they even know what the conclusion will be. I don't particularly like asking myself, what should come next.
It's coming your way on "Metro Connection" on WAMU 88.5.
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