There is nothing more fulfilling than pursuing your passion. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what that feels like or don’t believe they deserve that kind of success. So, I was thrilled to learn about a group of teenagers in Thurmont doing just that by taking their love of skateboarding to another level by spearheading a fundraising campaign to build a skatepark in Thurmont Park.
But first a confession: I am an old skater. I still have my skateboard circa 1976 in the trunk of my car, a Sims 30-by-10 inch “wall board” with Tracker trucks (suspension) and Gyros (wheels) — ideal for empty swimming pools, half pipes, water canals and any unsuspecting embankments or smooth asphalt. My weathered DOGTOWN SKATES sticker on the bottom of my kicktail stands as testament to a brotherhood and sisterhood that is as strong as it’s ever been. Inspired by the three original prophets of street skating, Jay Adams, Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta aka “The Z-Boys.” Their incredible journey and contributions to the sport brought to the big screen in the 2005 film “Lords of Dogtown.”
For sure, skaters are a different breed, often non-conformist, rebellious and outliers — one could say. Back in the day, we would hunt far and wide for places to ride or build our own ramps. We scoured suburbia and the countryside for empty swimming pools at springtime during the brief two- or three-week period when they were being drained and cleaned. You had to play cat and mouse with security sometimes (kids don’t try this at home), but I guess that was part of the game. One of my favorite memories was skating in the Linden Hill Apartments & Hotel pool in Bethesda with my fellow “skate rats” and lo and behold Sonny Bono comes out to watch us hit the tiles. Apparently, he and Cher were performing up at the now defunct Shady Grove Theater that night.
Skating changes lives — as it did mine around the age of 14, being the first thing I ever really excelled at. I lived and breathed it 24/7. It showed me that tireless passion, commitment and lots of practice can really pay off. As primarily a freestyler, I won a few contests and was recruited by a skate shop in College Park. Next thing I knew we were traveling around Maryland doing skateboarding exhibitions and judging contests. Skating is a very personal form of expression, different from team sports which are mostly collaborative personal expressions. With skating, it is just you and the asphalt, cement, or the half pipe.
These Thurmont kids are also showing their entrepreneurial spirit and should be rewarded with a park. The town will reap benefits as well, like raising their street cred in the eyes of county youth. It is democracy in action. Much more than just trying to get kids off the street, it’s building future leaders. When kids see that they can influence the world around them, it does wonders for their self-esteem, and this could be a defining moment in their lives. Having your ideas validated is a powerful message, especially to send to teenagers.
Without other alternatives on where to ride, another option could be for these kids to spend their adolescence like so many other kids glued to their cell phones. Instead, they are out there, pursuing their dreams and getting one heck of a workout. Thurmont Skatepark has a Facebook page where you can link to their Gofundme campaign, as well. So, let’s let the good times roll.
Nelson embraces unconventional wisdom, watches “Lords of Dogtown” about once a year and writes from Myersville. Email him at email@example.com.