Just then, Jake is announced as the winner of the half-pipe competition (Patty came in third). His team affiliation is announced as “unattached” (Zero Gravity has a demonstration, but it does not compete). Hammer looks interested. “He’s unattached, huh?” he says, then continues, “The second reason for having a skateboard team has to do with the safety factor. Often the kids are already excited about skateboarding, but the parents are hesitant. The sport looks dangerous, and they hear bad things about it.” The Consumer Products Safety Commission has reported that it expects 375,000 skateboard injuries this year. “The kids could care less, of course, but it’s the parents who have the money – they’re the ones who buy the boards. Consequently, we often send the team around to stress safety; we have them demonstrate the helmets, the pads, the gloves – everything. It puts the parents’ minds at ease.”
When the announcement is made that the peewee freestyle contest is about to begin, Hammer excuses himself so he can help his two 14-year-old team members prepare. At this point the Hammers and the Flites are neck-and-neck in the race for the most trophies, but two moves during the freestyle competition put the Hammer team comfortably in the lead. In the first, during one peewee’s routine, the entire team, including Hammer himself, runs out to the middle of the floor and lies down in a row. The peewee gets a running start at the other end of the floor and then jumps over the six of them, landing on a skateboard on the other side. The crowd goes wild.
The second auspicious move occurs late in the intermediate division of the freestyle competition. When Hammer team member Joe Spier is given the signal to proceed with his routine, he places himself not at the standard starting point but next to the judges’ table. Then, in a move that surprises everyone, he leaps up onto the long table (actually three cafeteria tables pushed together) and rides his skateboard the length of it – right in front of the startled judges and right over their scoring papers. With just as much panache, he flies off the end of the table as if it were a ski jump, landing on the floor, where he smoothly performs a 360-degree turn and proceeds with his routine. The entire place, including the judges, erupts in a standing ovation.
When the freestyle competition is over, the floor is cleared for a special event: the Porsche jump. In this, a Porsche 914 is rolled out into the middle of the floor and Michael Gerard, a shaggy teenager with an absurdly long skateboard (he had described himself to me earlier as a “specialist”), gives himself a running start and jumps over the trunk of the car, landing on a normal-sized skateboard on the other side. After much applause, the crowd starts yelling “Over the roof, over the roof,” and after some nervous discussion with a man who looks like his manager, Gerard decides he will jump over the midsection of the Porsche, with the top down. After much preliminary analysis, he finally makes two attempts, both times sailing over the car but failing to land on the board on the other side. But this minor shortcoming disturbs neither the crowd nor Gerard, and after prolonged applause, during which he shakes hands with all the judges, he and his manager roll the Porsche off the performance area.