Jacob Snyder and Brendan Bischoff, both high school juniors who live in Salisbury, came to the Marsh Creek Skatepark on Saturday to see the “old school” skateboarders – including the iconic Tony Hawk – display their bags of tricks.
“I want to see what they can do,” said Snyder. “It will be cool to see the people that changed the skateboarding world.”
Hawk, the first skateboarder to land a 900 – an aerial spin that spans 900 degrees, or 2-1/2 revolutions – headlined a daylong event Saturday in memory of his late friend, pro skateboarder Ray Underhill, who lived in Wilmington. Proceeds from the Get Rad for Ray event at the skatepark on North New Hope Road went to the Ray Underhill Foundation, which supports North Carolina families affected by chordoma, a rare spinal cancer.
Underhill died from chordoma in 2008. He would have been 46 on Saturday.
“He and I kind of grew up skating together,” Hawk, who turned pro when he was 14, said in an interview Saturday. “We ended up on the same team and became best friends.
“He was an excellent skater. It wasn’t like he was the best skater. But his vibe resonated – and his character,” Hawk said. “He was one of the most genuine guys. Really creative. Funny. Honest. The one guy in your life you could never imagine something happening to.”
Hawk, who at 46 has retired from competition but continues to give exhibitions, has wanted to host a fundraiser in his late friend’s honor for years but couldn’t find a venue in Wilmington where he could do it up right. So he cast a wider net and discovered the Marsh Creek Skatepark.
John Morgan, co-founder of the Ray Underhill Foundaton, hopes that Get Rad for Ray will become an annual event and raise awareness of the little-known disease.
“This is really going to get us in the public’s eye,” Morgan said.
The tally of how much the free event raised for the foundation from sources such as corporate sponsorships and a raffle wasn’t available Saturday.
In addition to a skate jam featuring Hawk and other well-known skateboarders, Saturday’s lineup included a how-to clinic and an amateur contest.
Skateboardese was spoken freely at the clinic.
At one point, Atticus Sauls, 12, of Raleigh, approached an instructor and asked about a couple of tricks, including a boardslide.
“First, we have to get our Ollies down,” replied instructor Trey Womble.
For those in need of a translation: An Ollie involves jumping in the air with the board still clinging to your feet. To do a boardslide, you have to Ollie up onto a rail or ledge, slide along it and then pop off at the other end.
For Rico Holden, 20, of Wendell, getting a new trick down solid typically takes three or four weeks of practice.
Holden, a student at Wake Technical Community College, spends up to seven hours a day on his skateboard. He’s willing to sacrifice sleep to get in more skateboard time.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” he said.
Ask Holden about the appeal of skateboarding, and he’ll paraphrase skateboarder Mike Vallely.
“It’s like an art form, as I see it,” Holden said. “The board is your brush, and the entire city is your canvas.”
Alas, not all of the hundreds of people who came on Saturday got a good look at Hawk and his cohorts practicing their art. The crowd overlooking “the bowl” where they performed – which is below ground level – made it difficult for many who thronged the perimeter to see what was happening.
Dylan Sutera, 24, and his girlfriend Victoria Mahoney, 30 – who both recently moved to Raleigh from New York’s Rockland County – walked around the bowl a few times during the amateur competition that preceded the headline event and concluded they weren’t going to get an up-close-and-personal view.
“It’s first come, first served,” Sutera said. “You have to get here early to get a spot. We came a little late.”
But he and Mahoney still were glad they came.
“It’s also about the benefit,” she said. “I lost a close friend to cancer. … The fact that you can’t see is a good thing. It means there are a lot of people supporting this.”
Hawk said that when he was starting out as a kid, he never really thought skateboarding would become as popular as it is today.
“Nowadays, more kids skate than play Little League,” he said. “In a lot of ways, skating is bigger than baseball, which is the national pastime. I feel we have come of age.”