By: Brad Nelson
Steven Chinn, a 22 year old and native Eugene-ite, cuts easily and effortlessly across the cracked, graffiti-marked concrete on his skateboard while the younger kids step out of the way to watch. Their excited faces and searching eyes follow him relentlessly, as if they can attain skating knowledge from him through their very sight. You can see how used to the irregular shaped bowls he is: he never slows, ducks with the turns and slashes the wheels over pavement with a learned surety and obvious comfort. The speed at which he cuts from one side of the Amazon skate park to the other is, in a word, impressive.
If you ask, Steven will tell you that he started skating when he was only ten years old. At his house he lived in for a few years in California, he and his dad (who was also a skater) would spend hours in front of the house in the driveway as Steven first started to learn the basics, and his dad would try tricks long since forgotten. “He was pretty much the only reason I got into it,” Steven says, “I didn’t really have any friends who even had a board, so I’m glad that my dad wanted to teach me.” He goes on to say that it was the time with his dad -especially now that he does not see him as often- that was the best part; what he learned was almost a side effect.
Cut to twelve years later: Steven, heading down a giant hill, top speed, from the East side of town towards the park. His long black hair waves behind him as the board, one not even made for large hill riding, careens its way down the decline with Steven perched in a slight crouch. Looking at him, one might ask why he would put himself in such danger so often, and what has kept him going for so long. The answer for Steven, is simple: it’s fun. “You get hurt- it happens. No one would skate for long if they would quit the first time they take a fall,” Steven says when asked, “I’ll do it for as long as I can because the good has always outweighed the bad. A broken bone once every couple of years isn’t enough to scare most kids away.” Along with overall toughness and the acceptance of injury, Steven says that it was back when he started that helps him the most today. The years of falls, stitches, bruises and broken bones, have finally paid off; at least, that’s how he put it.
Back when he was first starting out, 10, 11, 12 years old, Steven will tell you that he couldn’t get enough. Once his dad had instilled his skating knowledge on him, it was only a matter of time until the student surpassed the master. Steven will tell you that his group of friends, the same friends who never owned skateboards, were soon to follow in his footsteps: after one, maybe two years, most of his friends had came to him for help and had asked for a board either for their birthday or for Christmas. And so it went. Steven and his friends spending hours skating, beginning –at least for Steven– something that would continue through his entire childhood and on to adulthood.
Today, besides the obvious enjoyment and satisfaction Steven gains from skating, you can still see other reasons that might keep him going. As he goes for a lip slide along the top of the bowl, or a 360 flip over the concrete divider, he is constantly surrounded by kids his own age and younger who make up the community of skaters who are always there to cheer him on and show off their own skills. “Yeah I’ve gone around skating with him a few times,” Mark Devolle, 19, of the Amazon neighborhood says, “he’s showed me a couple things, and most kids know to give him space when he’s really into it.” This group of skaters, of likeminded kids, is not lost on Steven. He says that one of the main reasons he makes his way down to the park every day is just to see friends or hang around; sometimes he doesn’t even bring his board. “It’s just a cool place to spend your day, you know. Better than your room,” Steven says, smiling.
The sun begins to set under the western trees bordering the Amazon park as Steven and a few others hold on to the remaining light: the shapes of their bodies, seen from a distance, look almost ghost-like while the smoothly cut through the shadows. Though Steven must leave soon to go home and study (he is a U of O student), it will not be long until he returns. With his battered skateboard and nothing else, he will make the short skate from the East Side and towards the park, as summer strengthens it’s grip on the formerly soggy Eugene. Steven, when asked, thinks of the future: “It’ll be weird getting old someday and not being able to skate,” Steven says, looking down at his skateboard, “It doesn’t seem possible.”