Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Skater grinds away last year as a grom

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When many kids are looking ahead to the newest gadget, Daniel Crowe is embracing the past.

‘‘I’m kind of like a 40-year-old in a 12-year-old’s body,” Daniel said, taking a break from a practice session Friday at the Skate Park in Mount Airy’s Watkins Park.

Daniel is enjoying his last year as a grom – slang for a skater who’s 12 or younger – frequenting skateboard parks in the region to perfect his tricks, competing nationally and advocating for a park to be built in Howard County for the community to use.

The Glenwood Middle School seventh-grader picked up a board after seeing his cousin ride it and first competed when he was eight.

He said he wasn’t very good at team sports and connected with skateboarding because of its individuality and how it continues to evolve. ‘‘There’s always something new to skate.”

After ‘‘a lot of perseverance,” he progressively mastered tricks at skate parks, earning the nickname of Silver Bullet from the other skaters – because of the silver color of the helmet he first wore and his speed – along the way.

He said he’s only had one skateboarding lesson because he prefers to watch skateboarding videos and then go out and try tricks on his own. The method works for him, as he competes at the expert level in the three areas of skateboarding – ramp, bowl and street.

His talent and hard work can be seen in the ease with which he starts at the flat top of a ramp, tips his board down so he rolls on the board along the slope of the ramp, called dropping in, or grinds across the metal coping that edges the top of the ramp on his board’s trucks, the metal pieces that hold the wheels to the board deck.

The foundation for many skateboarding tricks is the ollie, Daniel said, which is an air, or jump, in which the skater and board stay connected while airborne without the skater holding onto the board with his hands.

That his favorite event is bowl is appropriate because it was a form of skateboarding that developed in empty California swimming pools in the 1970s and Daniel’s style of skateboarding uses tricks popularized before he was even born.

‘‘A lot of people don’t do old-school tricks,” he said.

Others have also noticed Daniel’s old-school technique.

‘‘He’s an oddity,” said Jason Chapman, owner of Charm City Skate Park in Baltimore where Daniel often skates when he needs an indoor place to practice and works out with the Charm City Team.

‘‘He picks an older style of skating,” Chapman said. ‘‘It’s neat; he’d be perfect in 1981.”

Though an anomaly for someone his age to be throwing out tricks from 30 years ago, Chapman said it works for Daniel because he does well in skateboarding events.

Excelling in skateboarding does have its perks. He has won T-shirts, board decks, trucks, among other things, and is sponsored by the Red Bull energy drink company.

His passion for the sport has led him to try and bring a skate park to his community. He has given testimony at Howard County Parks and Recreation meetings and worked with others to get signatures of support for a petition to show that there is a local interest in bringing a park to the area.

‘‘It [has] kind of been an interesting experience,” said Daniel’s mom, Susi Crowe, who added that it is also educational for the skaters to attend government meetings. ‘‘They’re getting involved in politics.”

Susi said that because there isn’t a park in Howard County, have to spend money outside of their community or skateboard on the street or sidewalks, which is mostly illegal.

In order for Daniel to practice, the Crowe’s have to travel from Woodbine to Mount Airy, Baltimore, Olney or even places in neighboring states, and while Susi said it was good that skaters have the opportunity to work on different skills at different parks, it would also be an asset to have a park in the community.

Local parks with ramps, railings, stairs and other elements would also be a benefit to athletes who inline skate, she said.

Daniel said he wants to move to San Diego and open up a skate park to continue to give skateboarding to the community in which he lives, whether that be on the East Coast or West.

Before then, he will be skating this weekend in a competition at Charm City and later in the month he will be in Minneapolis for King of the Groms, a national competition for skaters under 12.

‘‘It’s really fun to watch your competition,” he said. ‘‘Really, you can learn so much.”

Though he loves competing and beating a rival athlete, he said new skateboarders shouldn’t let wanting to be the absolute best overpower the enjoyment of the sport.

‘‘It’s about having fun and learning new tricks,” he said. ‘‘It’ll come eventually.”

After taking some time to get warm and talk in the check-in booth in the Mount Airy Skate Park, he finishes his Red Bull drink and goes back out into the cold night.

The low temperatures and chilly wind don’t appear to bother him as he climbs to the top of a ramp that seems nearly double the height of his 4-feet-4-inch frame. He drops in on the ramp, his momentum carrying him up the facing ramp where he completes a full revolution in the air, before landing on the top and calmly skating down the other side.