Skaters Take Cues from Ms. Manners

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Laguna Beach’s downhill skateboarding junior world champion Evren Ozan, as well as adults Chad Gibbs and Vicki High, took on the task of teaching local youth skateboarding etiquette last Friday.

The informal workshop came a week after a proposed skateboarding ban in Laguna Beach was rescinded and a new ordinance proposed that would impose vehicle code rules for bicyclists on skateboarders, rules more restrictive than in most cities. A vote is not expected before November.

“Laguna Beach potentially could be the perfect place for downhill skateboarding if we do everything the right way. But we really have to be careful, make sure we stay in our lane, and make sure we live up to the expectations that are on us,” said Ozan, mentioning that another local resident and 2003 downhill world champ, Mark Golter, hopes to win approval for a race on Park Avenue that would be part of a sanctioned world cup race tour.

About 35 skaters and parents heard the admonishment of “walking the talk,” as Gibbs put it, after a city parking, traffic, and circulation committee rejected a request by some residents to ban skateboarding and devised a compromise. Aside from requiring skaters to wear safety gear and follow vehicle rules, the committee will recommend the City Council keep skater’s rights to use the streets largely intact and allow skateboard groups to apply for permits to hold street events.

“We have been the focal point of an issue that has gotten statewide recognition. The eyes and the future of skateboarding are all on you guys. Other cities are going to see our example and try and follow if you can make this work,” said Gibbs, who added that Laguna Beach police were invited to speak about road safety but declined.

The meeting was held at Gibbs’ house, a hangout for his son Wyatt’s skateboarding club, Laguna Beach Alpha Groms. Local surf and skate companies donated raffle prizes, like the Sector 9 skateboard deck won by Avery Crowl.

High encouraged moderation. “You guys have an opportunity right now to educate Laguna Beach drivers that you’re not a bunch of mess ups, that you’re going to be courteous. A lot of you are really competitive skaters, but you are going to have to cut back because everybody is watching,” she said.

“I don’t want you guys and girls to get a false sense of security that just because we held off a potential ban for now, we can all go out and mob the hills and skate without worry,” Gibbs said. “We all know when a skater, a biker, a moped or a motorcycle have an encounter with a car, the car will win every time.”

Ozan reiterated this sentiment: “Communicate with other riders and cars. And know that even if you know you are in control, it’s easy for it to look like you are completely out of control riding down some of these hills, so signal to the car to let the cars know what you’re doing.”

Gibbs cautioned skaters. “Drivers are more distracted than ever, talking on the phone, texting, eating, late for work. It is up to you guys to keep your ears and eyes focused on them. I’m out on the street watching you guys and I see a lot of room for improvement,” he said.

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