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Skateboarding in West Virginia, Episode 1
by Jason Swiger

Ahh how times have slipped by. Almost two years since I last wrote a column for this webzine. Anyhow, this is first in what I would like to call a "mini-column series." A collection of short stories, experienced while skateboarding here in West Virginia, through the eyes of one skateboarder, myself, in order to update you somewhat of the happenings here in this sleepy state.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in my columns are the views of myself and may not represent the views of others in the scene, or the views of anyone other than myself for that matter. Also, these stories probably won't be in chronological order because I can't write like that.

The Skatepark:

How can I describe the skating scene in West Virginia? Small. The nearest skateshop is a 45 minute drive from my house. The nearest skatepark also was about the same distance from home, but why go? All the ramps and rails were homemade. I had the same things in my driveway. So, it was big news this summer when Clarksburg (the town that taught me to skate), a 10-15 minute drive from my house, decided it was going to get a skatepark professionally installed under a bridge in town. Wonderful. Now we have a place to go after we get kicked out of all the spots.

So, jump ahead a few weeks and we have a park. The place is packed with kids everyday for the first week. We're having fun watching our skatepark skills multiply daily, due to years of skatepark deprivation. After a couple weeks, all the youngsters got sick of coming to the park and realizing how hard it is to actually skate like they see on TV. So, the park by this time is becoming a source of controversy as neighbors complain about kids smoking, swearing loudly, makings lots of noise, littering, and loitering all day (not to mention we aren't wearing the required pads and helmets!). So, the place starts to die down. People get sick being hassled by the police and/or the skatepark attendant that may or may not allow you to skate sans helmet.

One day though, the place was packed. It felt as though it might be one of those great days of skating, as the attendant was nowhere to be seen, and everyone was there skating, having a great time. It was too good to be true though. The park attendant showed up and kicked us all out for not having the life-saving pads that we so needed. Ack. So now there are about 20 of us on the sidewalk arguing about what spot to go skate. Some of us just start pushing around, practicing kickflips and the like. I borrow a helmet and go back in the park and climb to the top of one of the ramps.

Enter surreality. Tail on the coping. Dropping. Dropping. Climbing. Kickturn. Stop. I don't feel like skating anymore. I turn and start to walk towards a bench when I hear someone yell "You're gonna get hit!" I turn around in time to hear tires screeching and see a kid in the street bent over look up right at the instant a man in a pickup truck barrels into him, knocking him out of his shoes and flying backwards as the truck skids to a stop. I rush out of the park along with everyone else and run down the sidewalk to see the boy laying their as a puddle of his own blood grows around him. Everyone flips out. He was only trying to save his skateboard from the oncoming traffic. I walk around the block and come back. The ambulance still hasn't arrived, though the firemen from the station up the street are on the scene. My cousin and I decide we don't want to be there as the police who are now on the scene tell us that we need to either fill out a witness statement or leave. We don't want to be there when a helicopter lands in the street to lift the boy away to the hospital in Morgantown.

On the way to my cousin's house we get stopped by a newspaper reporter. "What's going on up there boys?" "A kid is dying. Bye." We return to the safety of my cousin's house, crossing as few streets as possible. I keep hearing the sound of those tires screaming on the pavement on top of the screaming of the people on the sidewalk.

The noise still haunts me today. I can still hear it. As for the boy? He lived. Awesome. And as for me? I haven't been back to the skatepark.