Volume 19 • Issue 15 | August 25 - 31, 2006

Flipping over the Brooklyn Bridge … well, under

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel
Skateboarders competed Saturday at the Brooklyn Banks, the Lower Manhattan park under the Brooklyn Bridge.

By Jefferson Siegel

Archimedes had it wrong. Instead of using his lever to move the earth, he could have put wheels on it and learned to fly.

There was flying last Saturday in the Brooklyn Banks, the park under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. There was also airborne tumbling, flipping, grinding, spinning, acrobatics and some crashing.

At the second annual “Back to the Banks” contest, 55 skateboarders from around the city and as far away as California flew up inclines, soared over stairway rails and spiraled over ramps.

The objective was to perform the most difficult airborne maneuver possible while still landing on your board.

The competition was held primarily to encourage skateboarders to work with their local city governments to nurture skate parks in public spaces. The Brooklyn Banks had been a neglected area, and when the city Parks Dept. and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation began steps to renovate it a few years ago, Steve Rodriguez of 5Boro Skateboards, convinced officials to accommodate skateboarders in the new design.

“It’s in a real skate spot, that’s the most unique thing about this,” co-organizer Steve Waters said of the day’s competition. “This spot is the oldest skate street around. People skated it in the ’70s.”

Matt Allen, the only skater to compete in all four events, was the overall winner after landing tough tricks throughout the seven-hour competition, according to a jargon-filled e-mail from organizers. Jimmy McDonald won the Bank-to-Wall with a backside nollie big spin to wall ride. Zered Bassett did a frontside-nose-blunt slide across the top ledge and won the Bank-to-Ledge. Judges impressed with Colin Hale’s lofty nollie flip gave him top honors in the Marble Kicker category. All of the winners took home $1,000, except for two skaters who split the cash in the Rail and Stairs event on the strength of their huge hammers – Ryan Bobier’s frontside blunt side to a fakie and Jake Donnelly’s kickflip frontside boardslide.

To most involved, ’boarding seemed second nature. One teen flew off a ramp wearing headphones while another took to the air clutching two water bottles. Yet another kept his balance while wearing a wrist cast.

Brandon Westgate, 17, traveled from Massachusetts to participate. “It’s a good experience,” he said before rushing back to compete in a wall ride.

Professional skateboarder Heath Kirchart, 28, has been boarding for 20 years. “I’m a street skater. I’ll be doing it as long as my body will let me. I enjoy the freedom and individuality of it,” he said as fans passed by, stopping to shake his hand.

There were few nervous parents in sight. One father, Jay Bryant, from Trenton, took pictures as his son Shawn flew off a ramp. “It gets a little hairy but he’s been doing it long enough. He’s surviving,” Bryant said, adding he, too, had skateboarded as a youngster.

“It gets a bad rap, skateboarding does,” Waters observed, “because it’s, by nature, a rebellious activity, but a lot of people thrive on that.” As finalists did their best jumps, gyrating off a rail through the air, several managed to land successfully on their boards. Dozens of onlookers expressed their delight by banging their own boards on the ground.


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