Connor Juneau, 12, and Jaxon Hernandez, 10, both celebrated a birthday on Friday the 13th, but that’s not all these two skateboard enthusiasts share.
The two were among about 50 campers ages 6 to 14 who are taking part in Extreme Sports Camp this summer, which covers BMX bike riding and skateboarding. The camps are organized by the Recreation and Parks Commission of East Baton Rouge and have become popular, said Jason Hoggatt, area supervisor for extreme sports at BREC, and have something to offer for all skill levels.
Beginners start off with safety and etiquette, Hoggatt said — how not to get hurt, how not to hurt other people. All campers in both camps get a free helmet.
“Karen Ahmed over at Our Lady of the Lake helped us with those,” he said.
While skateboarders line up at the ramps on one side of the camp, BMX campers line up at the other, on the park’s dirt BMX track. They take turns leaving the narrow gates at the top of a hill, go down the hill and hit two smaller hills before circling back and starting the process over again.
Charles St. Romain, 8, is in the advanced class, and is learning to do tricks. His father, a competitive racer, taught him a lot already, but he loves the camp, he said.
“I like it. The track is a little bit longer, and the jumps are big. Plus, the skate park and the track are right beside each other. You can skateboard, and if you want to ride, you can be over here in 30 seconds,” he said.
Sam Cole, 11, is new to the BMX camp, and while he’s not ready for racing just yet, he did learn to do things — like leaving the gate with a lot of other people behind you — that would have been hard to do for the first time in competition. He’d recommend the camp to anyone looking to learn more about BMX.
Across the way at the skateboarding camp, students learn the first rule of skateboarding: Never, ever snake someone else’s line.
On second thought, maybe the first rule is learn to speak standard skateboard.
Snaking someone’s line means skateboarding into their path, and the faster one is moving, the more dangerous that can be.
An ollie is a jump achieved by tapping the tail of the board with your foot to make it fly, and a nollie (or fake ollie) is doing the same thing by tapping the nose. A kickflip is an ollie with a spin of the board before it lands, and air is anything that involves being on a board with all four wheels in the air, sometimes achieved by grabs, or grabbing the board with a hand during a jump. There are many kinds of grabs, whose names indicate in part what part of the board is grabbed and which direction the board turns, or if it turns. But you’ll still have to know the code to know what you’re seeing — the frontside grab, the indie grab, the Madonna grab, the melon (short for melancholy) grab, the mute grab and the method air, just to name a few. Trying to describe the moves without a visual aid will not necessarily get the idea across, but, thankfully, all one must do is ask.
Juneau, Hernandez and Gordie Simon, 11, are quick to demonstrate and quick to say the teachers are good at teaching tricks. “They’ve really helped me,” Hernandez said.
And Simon said the moves he’s practiced at skate camp have helped develop his balance in other areas — he rides in rodeos on the weekends.
Helping people who want to learn more and embracing everyone who comes to skate are part of the lessons camp teaches, Hoggatt said.
“This is a place where all ages, races, religions are welcome — you can see it every weekend when the park is full,” he said. Passing along that culture is part of what the camps were intended to do.
Juneau and Hernandez are both in the advanced group and have got the safety part down, as well as the basics of riding. Now they’re learning new tricks.
“I like this camp. (The teachers) know a lot of tricks, and they can help me.”
Hernandez said he can do a mute grab, and he can rock the fakie almost like a pro.
“Yeah, yesterday he did like 50 in a row,” said Juneau, whose favorite tricks are the melon grab and the indie melon, a melon grab variation.
For more information about BREC programs, visit its website at brec.org.
Click here to see a video about the camp.