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Seamus Sheridan "ollies" a step at the Athens Skate Park. 

Athens skate scene lives on

Skateboarders on and off of campus keep the skate scene alive.

Neil Hamrick started his freshman year in a daze.

Hamrick suffered his worst skateboard-related injury prior to his arrival at Ohio University in 2012.

“I broke my skull and had a traumatic brain injury,” the current senior studying aquatic biology said.

Even after his accident, Hamrick still skateboards and cited the sport as an outlet and part of his life where he “feels no pressure,” rather than just as a means of transportation on campus.

“When I picked up a skateboard, I felt a great sense of freedom, and there’s absolutely no pressure to follow any rules or be good at it or to succeed,” Hamrick said.

The “skate scene” in Athens, as Hamrick described, involves a tight-knit group of people due to the lack of designated skate spots.

“You have to be really creative, and you have to have a sense of humor and interesting mindset if you’re going to have fun with it,” he said. “So, the people that skate in Athens tend to be pretty interesting people.”

It took Hamrick about his entire first semester to recover from his traumatic brain injury, but he said it didn’t affect his skateboarding.

“I think that it didn’t affect the way I skate or make me wear a helmet because, to me, skateboarding is outside of real life, and it’s the one thing that I don’t apply logic or rules to, and I don’t want to lose that,” he said.

Once Hamrick was back on his board, he became more involved and networked with other skaters in Athens. Hamrick came into contact with Moss Miller, the owner of the local skate store The FlipSide Skateboard Shop, 14 W. Stimson Ave.

“(Miller) is the glue that holds the skate scene together,” Hamrick said.

Miller has owned FlipSide for 16 years and sometimes refers to himself as the “skate dad” of Athens.

Although Hamrick and other local skateboarders see Miller as a guy that holds Athens’ skateboarding culture together, Miller doesn’t credit himself as the only one to do that.

“Skateboarding is so much bigger than one person,” Miller said. “I’m just trying to instill skateboarding roots in Athens.”

The Athens Skate Park on East State Street near the Athens Community Center, Miller said, has a lot to do with connecting skaters and keeping the scene alive, as well.

Rich Campitelli, the director of Athens Arts, Parks and Recreation, said since the park’s construction in 2004, there has always been waves of traffic, but a recurring amount of skateboarders using the facility are locals.

“We’ve got the older guys that skate on Sunday mornings, so nobody sees them,” Campitelli said. “The young kids are out there after school till about darkish, and then we’ve got our college and young adults that pretty much skate till we turn the lights off at 11 (p.m.).”

A lot of maintenance is required to keep a facility like the skate park up and running, Campitelli said, adding that many of the people responsible for maintaining the park are volunteers.

Keeping up the space, Campitelli said, includes concrete work, power washing and sweeping. Volunteers, community service workers and skateboarders alike split the responsibilities.

Campitelli added that a majority of the park’s traffic is in the summer.

“We get a lot of groups that come in with a van. Some of your bigger skaters … come in with a tour bus — we’ve had Tony Hawk here just recently,” he said. “But some other skaters that stop in … they’ll come in and ride for a weekend and go to the next destination.”

Miller has lived in Athens for more than 20 years and said skating was different “back then.”

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Due to their sparked interest from Michael J. Fox’s skateboarding in Back to the Future, Miller said he and his friends started skateboarding in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and had a “pretty strong group of skateboarders back then.”

However, Miller said there are always waves of popularity and then dry years when there aren’t as many people interested in the sport.

Over the past couple of years, Miller said Athens’ skate scene has lost its noncollege aged, younger following and is relying mainly on college students.

The number of skateboarders ages 6 to 17 has decreased from 5.78 million to 3.48 million from 2007 to 2013, according to the 2014 Outdoor Participation Report by the Outdoor Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on promoting participation in outdoor activities to future generations.

Though the number of 18- to 24-year-old skateboarders decreased from 2007 to 2009, the report states there was an increase from 2011 through 2013, with 1.23 million stating they skateboard — up from fewer than a million in 2010.

Even though Miller, 38, is older than the standard college student, he said he still connects with skaters of every age.

“I’m blessed,” he said. “They keep me youthful.”

Miller and Hamrick both described Athens’ skate culture as “unique.”

“Everyone is so united here,” Miller said.

Hamrick said he doesn’t believe Athens’ skate scene is connected with some stereotypes, such as getting in trouble with the police and other adolescent behavior seen at skate parks.

Aaron Mains, a sophomore studying civil engineering, said Athens’ skateboarders are mostly amicable.

“We’re mostly college students,” he said. “Everyone gets along.”

OU Police Department’s Lt. Tim Ryan said in an email that he’s “not personally aware of any issues recently with skateboarding on campus.”

Mains said he doesn’t seem to see too many police officers confronting skaters and has never personally encountered the police.

Hamrick said he has had a few small confrontations with the police but they were mostly related to the section of the Ohio Revised Code that prohibits skateboards, roller skates or in-line skates on certain sidewalks — such as on Court Street and on Union and Washington streets between Congress and College streets — and other designated areas.

“There are (business owners) that if you’re skating down the sidewalk will run out of their shop and try to block your path,” he said.

Skateboarding, Miller said, takes on a different role for every person that owns a board. For Mains, skateboarding “feels good” and is “stress relieving.”

Hamrick said he chose skateboarding over biking or rollerblading because the culture is different. He prefers the feeling of skateboarding, describing it as “loose,” “swervy” and “fun.”

Miller said skateboarding is a form of art, a sport or an individualized expression.

“Everyone looks at skateboarding differently,” Miller said. “You go out there and do your own thing as an individual.”


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