Skate parks across the metro will be buzzing with activity as kids of all ages grind down hubbas, sail high above vert ramps, and zip around bowls while crashing and ditching over and over again as they try to land one more big trick before calling it a day.
Thanks to a proliferation of skate parks small and large, wood, metal and concrete, local skaters have more opportunity than ever to hone their skills and build a skateboarding career.
Oklahoma natives such as Don Nguyen have already found success on the West coast. Oklahoma Gazette sought out the best of what's next and managed to track down a handful of talented skaters forging their talents in and around OKC. To find the up-and-comers, we tapped the knowledge of owners of skate parks and specialty shops past and present, such as Steve McNutt from Altered Skates, Kevin Keef from Locals Only and Jeff Mains from Arockalypse retail skate shop.
Among the names to come up most often were Kyle Walker, 15, from Moore and Taylor Nida, 14, from Edmond. They are working to establish their names nationally in the amateur circuit. Walker already has a bevy of sponsors including Emerica, Volcom, Real, Spitfire, Thunder and Arockalypse. Mains even called Walker the "best skater in OKC." Nida has five amateur competitions under his belt, most recently competing at the Volcom "Wild in the Parks" tour in Houston on May 17.
Both skaters might look lean on years, but veteran status doesn't come with birthdays, but with time served on a skateboard. McNutt worked in the design/retail end of the skate/surf/ski industry for 15 years in California before moving to Oklahoma, and said he's watched the competitors get younger and younger every year. He opened Altered Skates to focus on pint-size shredders.
"What we concentrated (on) for the last six years has been the youth level," McNutt said. "Skater entry level isn't 12 anymore. It's 5 or younger when they first start skating. We wanted a place where kids could safely skate and we could show parents that the stigma attached to skateboarding really wasn't fair."
OKC Ultimate Limits skate park, 1135 N.W. Fourth, also attracts the younger novices because of the size of its beginner section. Mason Coletti, 11, first picked up a skateboard at 6 and is now the captain of Team ULS. He and Ian Davidson, 15, are among the top dogs at the massive indoor complex.
Mason travels to amateur competitions on his own, as well, and like every other young skater interviewed, anticipates going pro at some point. His father, Mike, doesn't see the traveling as unusual, likening it more to his own experience in sports.
"When I was a kid, I played elite baseball, and you had to go search the talent at different competitions," Mike Coletti said. "We go all over the place. He's been to Pennsylvania, to Camp Woodward in California."
Although skateboarding was once seen as the bane of responsible parents across the country, more are coming around to Coletti's way of thinking and treating skateboarding like any other mainstream sport. Going pro isn't the only way to make a living, either. McNutt said that many skaters choose to carve out a living designing or selling merchandising or acting as a representative for companies catering to the skate culture.
Even if it's just a momentary hobby, Keef said parents will get just as excited as the kids when they see the boost of confidence the sport gives their kid.
"You'll have kids come in here for a few hours and learn a new trick," Keef said. "They'll go home excited and tell their parents they did something for the first time today. Parents love to see their kids excited about something."
For their part, the young skaters talked more about the friends they skated with than the competitions, turning pro or even finding a legitimate living in skateboarding. A career sounded more like a distant goal that had little to do with why they trekked out to skate parks for six to seven hours a day. There reasons were often much more personal.
"Skateboarding inspires me. It is something to do, something to keep me out of trouble," Davidson said. "Just recently, my friend died. He was like my brother, he was an inspiration to me. I've been skating more, trying to get better, doing it for him."
WHERE TO GO
Like any scene, the hot spots shift. Veteran skaters are looking to Locals Only, 2301 N. Douglas in Midwest City, as the new stomping grounds for the city's top talent. The indoor skate park is scrambling to fix the roof so it can officially open after the recent downpours left large puddles across the floor of the former garage.
Locals Only co-owner Kevin Keef sees the new park as just one part of the overall skate scene in the metro. He encourages skaters to hit every park they can, whether fellow indoor park Ultimate Limits; the larger concrete parks, such as Mat Hoffman Action Sports Park in Oklahoma City and Mathis Skate Park in Edmond; or the smaller, pre-fabricated metal skate parks scattered across the state.
"Ours is a pretty burly park. It's got some big stuff, it's got some fun stuff," Keef said. "We'll change the park up every year, tear some things down and build something else. That's what good parks need to do."
The site might seem familiar to Edmond skaters. When Steve McNutt shuttered Edmond's Altered Skates to wait out the recession, he gave his ramps to Keef to help him get the new park started.
"Me and Kevin have a history and he is a standup person. I knew he would do it with quality, and I hope they can pull it off," McNutt said, noting that he wasn't worried about the park being located in Midwest City. "That doesn't stop people from going to a skate park. If there is one in the general area, they'll find it." "Charles Martin