COLUMBIA – Standing at the top of the mountain ramp at Columbia Skate Park, Zack Shipley ground his Nikes into the top of his deck. Fresh raindrops glistened on his blue helmet.
With Metallica blaring from nearby speakers, Shipley launched down the ramp. Approaching the quarter pipe, he gathered speed and took off into the sky. For a brief moment, everything was right in Shipley's world.
“It’s just a release from everyday life,” said Shipley, 14, of Hannibal. “I come up here all the time. It’s just a really cool place.”
On Saturday, Columbia Parks and Recreation teamed up with Tiger Pilot Club and Parkside Skate Shop to celebrate National Skateboarding Day. Parkside used the event to publicize the grand opening of its store located at 1614 Business Loop West. The day featured best trick competitions in three levels — beginner, intermediate and advanced — and a highest ollie competition. An ollie is a trick where the skateboarder pops the skateboard into the air, effectively jumping with the skateboard stuck to his or her feet. Parkside raffled off skateboard equipment throughout the day.
Chatting with a group of boarders on the top of the ramp, Shipley threw around trick names like "heel flip" and "nose stall" and "50-50 grind."
“Skateboarding is always on your own terms, your own schedule. It represents freedom and purity. It’s a simple art form,” Shane Stander said. Stander organizes events and runs the Web site for Parkside Skate Shop. “This type of group finds each other, and we just try and give them the opportunity to do that.”
As trucks — the wheel mounts on a skateboard — squeaked against rails, Jules Crespy looked on. His gray sleeveless shirt hung off his body, drenched in sweat. He shot down a ramp and slid across a nearby rail. Onlookers banged their skateboards against the pavement in appreciation. Crespy appreciates events like this that promote the positives of the sport.
“Some people are wary of skateboarders because a small percentage of boarders do stupid stuff and act like punks,” Crespy said. “Events like this show people who don’t know we’re just everyday people doing our thing, just like a basketball or baseball player.”
A roofer, Bobby Ferkel is recovering from a work accident that left him with a broken back and a $60,000 hospital bill. Three months out of surgery, Ferkel enjoyed his first day back at the skate park.
“It hurts like hell, but I had to get out here. This is the only thing I thought about in the hospital,” Ferkel, 29, said. “This place is one place where nothing matters. It’s all about freedom, man.”
Skateboarding also served rehabilitative purposes for Kevin Wallace. Wallace, who said he is a former professional in-line skater, values the release that skateboarding provides for him.
“It got me to quit smoking. Every time I wanted a cigarette, I’d go skate. I haven’t had a cigarette in three months,” said Wallace, 36, of Jefferson City. “Plus it gives me something to do with my kid. Skateboarding is great. It gives kids something to do, keep them out of trouble and in shape.”
Gus Eggener, winner of the beginners’ division, echoed Wallace’s statements. Egner won a skateboard, complete with trucks, bindings and wheels, after successfully completing a "Frontside Disaster." A Frontside Disaster is when a skater approaches the top of a quarter pipe, does a 180 in midair and catches the middle of his board, or stalls, on the rail located at the top of the pipe.
“It’s just really fun. It’s the only thing I do or else I’d be fat,” said Eggener, 14, of Columbia. “My dad bought me a skateboard for my birthday, and I just started trying it. I was never really good at baseball anyway.”