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Starting skateboarding young

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | JUNE 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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Six-year-old Cristian Filerio's uncle gave him a skateboard, which made mother Maria Cossio nervous, but she let him try it because he was so enthusiastic about it.

Cristian didn't know how to skateboard — he rode it indoors until his mother made him go outside. Then he lay down on his stomach, pushing himself with his hands. His mother was scared he'd hurt himself.

But Cristian glided through two small traffic cones in Creekside Park on Wednesday, both feet on his skateboard, standing upright. Cossio signed him up for the Iowa City Recreation Division's skateboard lessons because her son was so desperate to learn that there was no stopping him.

"They all seem like they're really eager to just go skateboard," Carly Lippert said. "My son Grant [Bessman] wants to do tricks and I told him, 'I don't even know how to do that. You're going to have to go take some lessons first.' He was so excited, and all these other boys are the same. They're so gung-ho."

The group of boys ages 5 to 8 are learning the very basics of skating. They've learned how to differentiate the front from the back of the board, how to balance their weight, how to propel themselves with their foot.

They skated in shaky lines on Wednesday, struggling to roll in a straight line for more than a yard or two. But when one young skater reaches the other side of the course, he smiled wide — proud that he made it without stumbling.

They're desperate to try riding the ramp and rail that wait in the grass for the more advanced classes. The instructor told the excited kids that they'll have to wait and try to ramp another time.

They all groaned in complaint. "Aww, come on. I want to try," Cristian shouted.

The boys' arms and legs were covered in bruises and scrapes, despite being covered in elbow, knee, and wrist pads. Danger is part of the sport. The young skaters fell. Often.

"Sometimes, I get blood and it hurts," Filerio said. "I cry sometimes. But I just want a Band-Aid, and then I will try again, and again, and again, until I can get it."

Eight-year-old Caleb Coons took a spill straight onto his back on his first try at maneuvering a turn. His board slipped out from under him and skidded all the way across the pavement. His body barely touched the ground before he was up again.

He hopped back in line. "Can I try it again?" he asked.

"I think it's better that Caleb starts to learn when he's young, before he gets to the age when he's too brave — that's when the kids could really get hurt if they don't know what they're doing," his nanny, Kate Boltz, said. "He bounces back pretty fast, and he doesn't have very far to fall, anyway."

Concussions, broken limbs, and road rash are dangers in skateboarding, but the mothers of the Creekside skaters seem to accept the possibility of a little pain. They give in and risk the "ouchies" because their kids are so eager and passionate about learning to ride.

"I'm fine with it, whatever he wants to do," Lippert said. "He's got the helmet, he has the pads … I'm just aware that the danger kind of comes with sports. As long as he has all the protective gear, that's the best you can do."

Grant fell from his board to his knees and sat down for a minute or two. He took off his helmet and walked over to his mother, leaving class about five minutes early with eyes a little wide with fear.

But he said he'd come back next week and try again.

"It kind of hurts, and it's a little bit scary," Grant said. "But you lean how to not fall and how to keep your balance, so it won't be scary anymore."


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