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Stop Skitchin'

Skitching: all the kids are doin’ it – at least according to the Denver Post.

Last Thursday, a Littleton teenager died after being run over by his buddy’s Jeep while “skitching,” meaning he was riding his skateboard while holding onto a moving vehicle. But those who assume that the death of 18-year-old John Nicolette was an isolated incident have never heard of the trend article. The newsroom logic goes like this: a sensationalistic event, coupled with a discernible subculture and a catchy name – and voila! Three days later the Post issues a front page article about how skitching is apparently “exploding” in popularity among skateboarders.

The only problem is that the majority of longtime skateboarders I know have never even heard of the term, let alone grab bumpers on a daily basis as a way to get around town. It is true that the activity did once explode in popularity – way back in 1985. That was the year Michael J. Fox skitched across the big screen in Back to the Future while trying to escape Biff on the mean streets of Hill Valley.

Since then, snagging a ride alongside vehicles has remained a fringe activity in the world of skateboarding, the kind of thing every skater does once or twice, but not on a regular basis. In fact, skitching is more common among urban bike messengers as they snake through traffic. One thing that has changed in skateboarding is the rise of longboards, which Nicolette and all his friends from Heritage High School were riding during the accident. Like their surfing counterparts, street longboards have wide, extended decks to provide a smoother ride. This, along with the large, soft wheels, makes such models popular among less-experienced riders, who are often derided in the industry as “Longboard Larrys” since the quick proficiency can lead to an inflated sense of ability among novices.

Since longboards are built for cruising on sidewalks or pavement, it’s odd that Post reporter Kieran Nicholson chose the Denver Skatepark – where longboarders tread only under intense ridicule – as the site to prove how skitching was a dangerous new tendency. After listing some national statistics on skateboard injuries, she notes how no one at the skatepark was wearing helmets, and how a helmet could have possibly saved Nicolette’s life. Omitted is the fact that there has never once been a reported head injury at the Denver Skatepark since it opened in 2001, despite the lack of a helmet requirement. –Jared Jacang Maher

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