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Young skateboarder learns in IC

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | JUNE 18, 2012 6:30 AM

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Max Salemink was 3 when he saw a skateboard for the first time. He sat in his grandparents' lawn and stared at the object on the sidewalk.

Six years later, he got his first skateboard of his own — just a "cheapy thing from Walmart," his mother, Joanne Salemink, said. The young skater then started taking skateboarding classes through the Iowa City Recreation Division every summer and fall.

Max is now 11 — his birthday was Saturday — and he's skating better than his 23-year-old Parks and Recreation instructor.

"Max is pretty good for a little guy," said Max's instructor, Nick Fetty, who also works for DITV. "I pretty much told him on [June 13] that Max is probably better than me, and I don't know how much I can teach him. I can coach him … but I think for him, it's more of just a chance to skate on the equipment that we have. That part is fun for him."

Max uses up a skateboard deck per year, and he has two snapped boards hanging up proudly in his bedroom. He skateboards nearly four hours per day over the summer.

"He's not a real organized-sports kind of kid," Joanne Salemink said. "He doesn't like baseball or basketball or any of those sports, but he really enjoys skateboarding … I'm just so happy that he's finally found something he loves to do, and I support him in it in every way I can."

She had never seen Max ride the rail until his skateboard lesson on June 13 — even though there's a portable rail stowed safely in their garage.

The youngster chooses to keep some of his new tricks secret from his mother because he knows she worries.

"Max gets mad sometimes when we're at a skate park, and I see one of the big kids fall. I gasp," Salemink said. "I know I'm supposed to be used to it, but I'm still a mother. It will always be a little scary."

But she isn't scared enough to keep her son from his passion. Max comes from a family of athletes, so she understands that injuries are part of sports, no matter what the sport is.

And the "worried mother" knows that skateboarding can be linked to delinquency — at least in society's opinion— but seeing the passion her son has for the sport, she doesn't fret about his decisions.

"He hasn't gotten into the hoodlum part of it yet — spray-painted anything or run over any little old ladies walking their dogs," Salemink said. "But, even so, motorcycle gangsters have mommies, too."

The benefits Max has found in his alternative sport greatly outweigh the risks, anyway. The young boy's self-confidence has skyrocketed since he started landing tricks.

Max embraces everything he's learned about courage and effort.

"After I've gotten close to falling, I'm always a little shaken," he said. "Half my mind wants to try again, to redeem myself, but half my mind is thinking, 'No, you're just going to fall again.' "

But he always gets back up and plants his feet back on the board.

"I just know that for the rest of the day I'm going to hate myself and feel guilty if I don't try it again, so I might as well do it now and get it over with," he said. "I've learned a lot about persistence and the confidence it takes — not just to try something new and scary but then, keep trying it over and over."


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