- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

SAYREVILLE, N.J. - The tennis courts at Kennedy Park are bare on a hot afternoon, while parents keep dropping off teenagers at the skate park, home to all the day’s action.

A dozen boys sit on the ledge, cooling off while watching others take turns flying downhill on the concrete slope. Forget Little League: In some areas, skateboarding is now the sport of choice.

Clad in helmets and jeans, the teens have their choice of skating into a clover-shaped bowl — resembling an oddly shaped empty swimming pool — or over a series of obstacles not unlike the park benches or railings used in street skating.

“You can just, like, go out here and do your own thing,” said Nick Marrone, 13, visiting from Poughquag, N.Y. “It’s whatever you want; you’re just having fun.”

The sport has found universal appeal. One estimate is that there are 12 million skateboarders nationwide and more than 1,000 public skate parks on top of the multitude of private ones.

“It’s a great rush,” said 14-year-old Amelia Brodka, taking a short break from the vert ramp at the indoor RexPlex Skate Park in Elizabeth.

The sport is growing not only in the suburbs of big cities, but also in small communities such as Searcy, Ark.

“There are more and more kids every single day getting involved and the stereotypes are really being lifted,” said Alan Holloway, program coordinator for Searcy Parks and Recreation, which opened its municipal skate park in 2000 and expanded it in 2002 because of heavy use.

The trend means teens are spending less time on video games.

“The more time that you can limit them from being squatted in front of the TV, and actually get them outside physically doing something, that’s a good thing,” said Mr. Holloway.

Some teens skate competitively, but others say they have fun without the pressures or politics of team sports.

“There’s no coach yelling at you that you bobbled the play,” said Chris Li, 16, of Livingston, N.J. “It’s not like you bobble one play, and you’re benched for the rest of the season.”

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