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Hundreds flip for skateboarding at ‘Go Skate Tacoma Day’

VIDEO: Go Skate Tacoma Day celebrated at Tollefson Plaza

Kids took their first spin down a skateboard ramp Saturday, while grown-ups who have been skating since their own childhoods brought their kids.
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Kids took their first spin down a skateboard ramp Saturday, while grown-ups who have been skating since their own childhoods brought their kids.

Teens, tots and parents on skateboards filled Tollefson Plaza in downtown Tacoma Saturday, all in search of the perfect ride.

It was “Go Skate Tacoma Day,” the fourth since 2011, sponsored by Alchemy Skateboarding. Alchemy is a Tacoma nonprofit group that operates an indoor skate space near Opera Alley in Tacoma and also works with area students to develop both life and skating skills. Organizers estimated Saturday’s crowd at between 400 and 500.

Some kids took their first spin down a skateboard ramp Saturday, while grown-ups who have been skating since their own childhoods brought their kids.

Lucien Tamminga, 11, was there with his dad, Justin, and sister, 8-year-old Dahlia, along with friend Jericho Allen, also 11.

“It’s kinda cool,” said Lucien.

Dahlia was pleased to see the plaza full of skaters and “kids learning how to skate.”

Jericho, who describes himself as a midrange skater in terms of skills, couldn’t put his finger on any one appeal the sport has for him.

But 23-year-old Khrys Ross, who traveled from Puyallup to take part in the celebration and skate with friends, said skating is something that stays with you.

He’s been skate boarding since he was 12.

“It’s hard to let go,” he said, after performing a series of flips, twists and turns.

Alchemy has worked to spread the skating gospel, and helped lobby the City of Tacoma to remove the “no skating” signs from the plaza.

“Kids can re-use spaces in ways that architects never dreamed about,” said 32-year-old Ben Warner, executive director of Alchemy.

We are normal kids. Not criminals. Not bad kids.

Skater Bailey Walker

Warner, who wrote his master’s thesis on skating as an urban subculture, said skating can teach kids more than balance and fitness. This summer, Alchemy is running a series of skate camps. In the coming school year, Alchemy will be working with Tacoma students, teaching them how to write grants.

“These kids are incredible and beautiful, and they are able to do so much,” Warner said.

He was cloaked in a graduation gown left over from his own commencement from University of Washington Tacoma’s graduate school. He and others from Alchemy were preparing to honor recent grads among the skate crowd.

These included 18-year-old Bailey Walker, who graduated from Puyallup High School Saturday, then headed to Tollefson Plaza to work as a staff member teaching younger kids skating skills.

Walker, who has been skating for seven years, said his parents have always been supportive.

“They were happy that I was going out and doing something, instead of just playing video games,” Walker said.

Some people automatically assume the skaters they see on the streets and sidewalks are up to no good.

“We are normal kids,” Walker said. “Not criminals. Not bad kids.”

Tacoma police officer Bryce Clother, a member of Alchemy’s board of directors who attended Saturday’s event, agrees that skating can be a positive activity for kids.

He skated as a kid in Tacoma and remembers, “I got talked to a lot,” in an era when cities sometimes enacted bans on skateboarding. Clother started skating again in his 30s, and his kids, ages 14 and 9, are also getting into the sport.

“It’s positive, and creative,” he said. “Older kids can reach out to younger kids.”

Among the youngest skaters on Saturday was 3-year-old Tiny Larin of Tacoma, who was at the skate boarding event with her mom, Tobi Tommaney, and sisters Lula, 5, and Allessandrah, 3 months. Both older girls took to the ramps.

Tommaney is a big supporter of Alchemy, which not only sponsors events and lessons for kids, but also has both a ladies’ night and an adult skate night for skaters 25 and over.

She attended for the first time last week.

“You don’t have to be intimidated by 9-year-olds who are better than you,” she said. “It’s such a gentle, supportive vibe.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635, @DebbieCafazzo

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