Advertisement

A Skateboarder’s Parking Lot

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mark Mugica’s skateboard is more than fun. It’s more than a lifestyle. It’s his wheels.

Skateboarding is the 15-year-old’s main form of transportation to and from school, he said. But it makes for a bulky companion during the day, as he lugs it from class to class at Cypress High School.

Luckily for Mark, he has a principal who believes in the right to commute by board. And luckily for them both, a local inventor has an answer.

This week, Cypress High becomes what is believed to be the first school in the country to install skateboard racks, locking devices similar to the ubiquitous metal stands for bicycles.

Advertisement

By buying the racks, Principal Norm Fried is aware that he is legitimizing skateboarding as a form of transportation for students, and acknowledging an entire segment of youth culture that often is branded by negative stereotypes.

“People who have cars have parking spots,” Fried said. “People who have bikes have bike racks. I don’t care about what anybody says about . . . skateboarder culture. I think the skaters should have a place to put their skateboards.”

And Mark is grateful.

“When my parents go to work, this is how I get to school,” said the Buena Park teen. “It takes me 20 minutes instead of 30. Until now, it’s like I’ve been punished for doing it. Pretty cool the school thinks it’s OK.”

Advertisement

The racks are the brainchild of Tom Sipe, a Cypress man who said he discovered a niche two years ago at a Cypress City Council meeting, when officials wondered what to do about potential dangers of skateboarding, and skateboards at schools. “So I had an idea and built it,” he said. His patent application is pending.

The rack is made of metal boxes and redwood. Students lock two of their skateboard wheels--one of their “trucks"--into the metal box and lock it. The skateboards, often too big for the typical locker, hang lengthwise from the racks.

Twenty racks are to be installed Tuesday or Wednesday, and school officials plan to charge students about $10 a year to use them, roughly what students with cars pay for a parking spot. In the coming months and early next year, school officials plan to install 40 more. Fried said the racks are primarily about safety; without a place to put their boards, students keep them at their desks, where others can trip over them. The racks, which can be used with a combination or key lock, also will reduce board thefts. The cost: $750 for a rack that holds 10 boards.

Many cities have banned skateboarding on city streets and sidewalks, and schools ordinarily prohibit students from using the boards on campus. Safety for both skateboarder and pedestrian is one issue; another is the perception that youngsters with boards might constitute a troublesome element.

But lately, skateboarding has been recognized by residents and officials as legitimate recreation, if not a form of transportation. Huntington Beach built a skateboard park in 1993, and other cities--including Cypress--are thinking about building them.

“The number of skateboarders out there is starting to change attitudes, and skateboarding is seeing a resurgence,” said Judith Stepan-Norris, chairwoman of the department of sociology at UC Irvine. Skateboard racks “make it more fair for skateboarders.”

American Sports Data Inc. counted 8.2 million skateboarders of all ages in 1997.

Anna Piercy, an art teacher at Lexington Junior High in Cypress who also happens to be mayor, said she favors the racks. Piercy said students are planning a fund-raiser this fall to help buy the racks. She said the racks will help pull skateboarders out of the fringes of youth culture and “give them a place in school.”

Advertisement

“You accommodate kids who ride bikes. You have to start accommodating kids who skateboard,” she said. Sometimes, she said, she has had to find room for as many as 12 boards in her classroom because students have no place to put them. “You have to put racks in because it solves two things: safety and theft.”

Sipe, the inventor of the rack and head of the company Rack-It, said school officials elsewhere are talking informally with him about buying the racks, but he would not say who they are. He said no one else has placed an order yet.

Cypress High students said they are relieved by Fried’s decision to buy the racks, mostly from funds raised by renting out the school parking lots to used-car sellers on weekends.

“Teachers are afraid people are going to trip on them, and I have to carry it around all day,” said freshman Don Hartle, 15. “It’ll be great to be able to put it someplace.”

It heartens him that teachers are looking past what he calls simple-minded stereotypes that boarders make trouble. “Yeah, it’s fun. But this [also] is how I go places.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Rack ‘n’ Roll

This week, Cypress High becomes what’s believed to be the first school in the country to install lockable skate-board racks. How they work:

Advertisement

Wheels locked inside rack, keeping board in place

Source: Rack-It Skateboard Racks


Advertisement