NORMAL - Kyle Hallam, Robert Tucker and Tyler Phares spent Thursday afternoon with about 75 other teens doing what they like best: skateboarding. | Photo gallery
"It was a free movie, and we heard a bunch of people would be up here for a skating event," said Hallam, 15, of Normal.
"I thought it would be fun," said Phares, 16, of Hudson.
Timing was perfect. Phares leaves today for a mission trip to New Orleans with Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and wanted to get in a day of skateboarding before he left.
The movie at the Normal Theater and skateboard opportunities were part of the Twin Cities' first-ever celebration of international Go Skateboarding Day.
"I'm pretty happy with the turnout," said David Gucwa, owner of Street Tribe skateboard shop in Normal. "It's the first time, and it's a really good turnout."
Gucwa helped organize the event with Normal and Bloomington parks and recreation departments. He arranged to get a copy of a new skateboard movie, "This is My Element," which premiered worldwide Thursday.
About 95 youths and others showed up for the movie shown at 11:30 a.m. at Normal Theater.
Then about 75 youths grabbed their skateboards and rode north on Constitution Trail to the west detention basin, where they had a cookout and could skate on a variety of equipment. About 3 p.m., the group moved to the Fairview Park skateboard park for a teen skate and best trick competition.
"It's something to do, and everyone's here," said 15-year-old Marshal Shepherd of Bloomington, who has been skateboarding about a year. "The movie was good."
Shepherd said while many people look down on skateboarders, "we're not all the bad people they think we are."
While Shepherd said he skates for fun, Max Danosky, 14, of Normal said: "It's my life. I like the feeling you get when you land a trick."
Danosky wanted to see the movie and decided to go to the detention basin to take advantage of the skateboarding equipment.
"I have fun with no pressure," he said.
Sixteen-year-old Normal residents Jordan Noonan and Henry Topham also are avid skateboarders and BMX bikers - and they have the scars to prove it.
"I twisted my ankle pretty badly," said Noonan, who was sporting an ankle brace.
Both had scars on their chests. Topham got one when a skateboard flew up and hit him.
"We like railings and stairs," Topham said. "It's for the thrill of it."
Noonen's skateboard ended up breaking about an hour into the event when he came down on the tail after coming off a ramp. Luckily, a friend let him borrow his for more tricks.
He planned to save the wheels and just get another $50 board.
Only a couple of girls joined the mass of boys skateboarding. Mary Puzauskas, 10, and Abby Thompson, 11, both of Bloomington, have been skateboarding about two years.
While Thompson said she could keep up with the boys, Puzauskas was afraid she would mess up a trick.
Not everyone succeeded at their tricks, but the camaraderie among the skaters seemed to stop anyone from making fun of those who fumbled.
And there always seemed to be a high-five for those who accomplished a tough trick.