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Friday's child;Features and arts

Cassandra Hilland on the joy of skateboarding

Scott used to be a mere grommet, but now he's a fully-fledged hardcore who really spins the board. No, this isn't the jargon of obscure London DJs. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of skateboarding.

Scott's been "skating", as he calls it, for as long as he can remember. When he was a kid he used to hang around the old car park, watching his big brother and the other older schoolboys "drop" "backslide" and "slam" their boards along the concrete ramps.

That was back in the bad old days, before the planners gave way to skater pressure and built them their own "session" area. Things are different now. What with their own "half pipe" (the curved U construction they flip about in), a wider choice of kit, and more and more of Scott's mates taking it up, things are looking brighter. And Scott's girlfriend, Tara, is into it - she's formed an all-girls' team.

Skating enables Scott to make new friends and meet old ones. They don't waste their Saturdays. Why sit glued to your Gameboy or the telly when you can be out skating?

Scott has no time for people who dismiss it as a fad. It's a challenging, demanding sport. It takes ages to learn how to balance, to learn to "catch the air" and grit your nerves so that you achieve a "180" (spinning around before you land). Scott's one of the more experienced skaters. He laughs at the nearby in-line skaters as he does a "180" or a "360" with ease. Last week he managed a double "360" - two full turns! His goal is to achieve a "900". He treats his scars and cuts as marks of strength rather than weakness.

Skating has made Scott a happier, more outgoing lad. He's not afraid to take risks, to push it, aim high. But he also knows his limits. Skaters are a close knit, supportive group and Scott feels he belongs. They offer advice, encouragement and tips on how to perform some of the numerous manoeuvres.

The public is a bit wary of skaters - as Scott knows. They've been banned from skating on pavements and some shopkeepers hate the way that kids have found favourite "skate points" outside their shops.

All the skaters wanted was a couple of good ramps and a firm surface and that's what they've got now. It's not as if they don't take their sport seriously. They've all saved for their own boards (lovingly maintained), their own distinctive boots, T-shirts and baggies. It's more than a fashion statement - it's a lifestyle.

But it's something else besides. Scott and his friends are proof that, even in the derivative, retrospective nineties, youngsters find new forms of self-expression. They've created a new image and and a new jargon. Like the bikers, mods, and rockers before them, skaters have a lot to say about "their generation". Doubtless in years to come they will be recalled with nostalgia. So next time a pupil tells you that he'll be "dropping in for some baker backslides, cabalernos, and a couple of alley-oops this weekend," don't worry. He's not scary. Just hardcore.

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