Middle school and high school kids wore school-bus yellow, neon green and tan t-shirts representing their campuses. They took turns shredding through a skateboard course at a local skate park. The helmet-wearing kids are part of the National Scholastic Skateboarding League. Parent Katrina Foley created the school-sanctioned league four years ago for her snowboard- and skateboard-loving son. It started with four teams.
“We set up one contest and it just flowed from there,” Foley said. “Now we have 26 teams in Orange County and San Diego and almost 300 kids skating.”
The league’s now looking to expand to Los Angeles and Northern California. Foley said they’ve gotten calls from as far away as Colorado and Florida from other schools expressing interest.
“I actually think this is just the beginning, and I envision we’re going to have skate teams all over America,” she said.
The skaters — who have to maintain a “C” average or better if they want to stay on the team — roll at all levels, from beginning to advanced. The competitions are judged sort of like snowboarding. Everybody gets two 45-second runs through the street course and three 45-second runs through the bowl. Judges weigh style, speed, level of difficulty and whether they nail their landings.
Judges track team points, too. The season’s top point-getters head to the finals.
Katrina Foley said the league has created a feeling of community for the skateboarders.
“It’s a very positive experience, an outlet for a large group of kids at a school,” she said. “And it’s definitely needed. I mean, look it, there’s hundreds of kids out here. This is a great, positive experience on a Friday night. Parents are here. Principals. You know, community volunteers. It really, you know — it’s no different than baseball or basketball or football.”
Kirk Bauermeister is one of the principals who comes out to watch his skateboarding students. Bauermeister said he’s loved having skateboarding at his school but he’s taken some flack from others who think skateboarders are just out to cause trouble.
“They think I’m crazy,” Bauermeister said. “But if they knew these kids, they’re just really good kids. They’re not — you know, part of it is people think skateboarders are — they destroy things, but these are really good kids that have been a benefit to our school. When parents come and they’re lost, they direct them around campus. They’re just really good kids.”
Tristan Stegmaier, who teaches at another high school and grew up skateboarding, coaches three teams in the league.
“You know, often, the skateboarders aren’t the kids who are involved in varsity sports and they’re kind of, a little bit outsiders of the school,” Stegmaier said. “They don’t have that strong connection to school. So here was something where, you know, you had these kind of outcasts found something and a way to connect to a faculty member and also a sport that they enjoy doing and in turn, it’s connected them to the school.”
Stegmaier said the time is right for the league to help legitimize skateboarding as a “real” sport.
“It’s definitely been more popularized and into the mainstream, accepted more in the mainstream now,” Stegmaier said. “I think with the X Games and surfing becoming big and some of the other sports that used to be like, considered extreme sports, like snowboarding, that they’re now more popularized through the media, and it’s sort of taken a little bit of that image away from skateboarding where it used to be considered an outside thing and now they’re considering having it in the Olympics.”
Dylan Dusablon, 15, has been skateboarding most of his life. He calls it “addicting” and likes that his friends are on teams in the league.
“I think it’s competitive in a fun way because my friends [and] I would make bets to see who could do what at the contests,” he said.
Dusablon’s mom, Sandy Dusablon, sees it as more than just fun.
“It’s both great physical exercise and artistic,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sport where everybody stands up encouraging the skater. You’re competing and they are slapping their boards for a good trick. They are 100 percent behind somebody who does something, even though that might have just meant that they dropped down a place in the contest. It’s all smiles when someone does that.”
An industry survey last year found there are more than 12 million skateboarders in the U.S. That comes as the number of public skate parks grows. But parent Sandy Dusablon said skateboarders need more than just a place to skate. They need their sport to be sanctioned by schools.
“More kids skateboard in the US than play Little League, so we should be recognizing it,” she said. “We should be supporting it. Our schools should be supporting it and recognizing it.”
Sarah Thompson is one of about a half-dozen girls in the league.
“It’s not like anything else,” she said. “It’s not like any, like, team — like, well, yeah, these are teams, but you’re kind of like — you don’t have to rely on anybody else. It’s all up to you, like with how well you do. And even if you don’t do well, it’s just good to be on your board, like, feel the wind, like, blowing in your face. It’s exhilarating, I guess.”