Skaters in own league

Dominick Walker graduated from Costa Mesa High last week.

The diploma signifies the work Walker did in the classroom. Anyone who watches Walker on the skateboard doesn't need similar written documentation to be aware of his skills.

He is one of the top Newport-Mesa youth skateboarders gearing up for the OC Skateboarding League semifinals and finals, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Vans Skatepark at The Block shopping mall in Orange.

Walker is definitely one of the more experienced riders in the league. He has been skating for two-thirds of his life, since he was 6 years old. But the opportunity to skate for his school has only come up recently, as the OC Skateboarding League was founded in March, 2010.

"At first I was all about being an individual," Walker said. "I don't know, sometimes it's your peers that help out. It's cool to have it be incorporated with the school. A lot of kids want to get into skating, but school kind of gets in the way of that. The fact that they have [the OCSL] involved with the school, it's easier to double-task. You can make skating a career, and not just something you do on the side."

Walker is entered in both the street and bowl skate competitions on Wednesday night. He has been a key component of the Costa Mesa High team that leads the nine-team high school division through four rounds of competition headed into the finals.

Walker is first in both the individual street and bowl standings.

Team-wise, San Clemente is in second with Newport Harbor a close third. The Sailors feature top skaters like Jon Pena (fifth in the individual street standings) and Gage Boan (second in the bowl).

"It's really fun," Pena said of the league. "Two years ago I'd have to pay to get in contests, but now I can do it for free and I'm with all my friends, too."

Middle school riders will also be competing Wednesday. Ensign Intermediate and Costa Mesa Middle School have both been doing well in the league. Ensign, which has riders CJ Coglan, Sarah Thompson, Eddie Cernicky and Damien Gonzalez invited to finals, won the most recent competition at Volcom Skatepark in Costa Mesa.

One of Mesa Middle School's top riders is Sammy Swanson, the son of OC Skateboarding League founder and president Katrina Foley. Foley, a Newport Mesa Unified School District board member, has worked to see the league expand very quickly. It's reaching heights taller than even Walker can reach, jumping off the halfpipe in the backyard of Foley's Costa Mesa home.

There are 19 high school and middle school teams participating this year, including Earl Warren Middle School of Solana Beach. A next step is to get more schools from the San Diego area involved.

"We want to continue to expand," Foley said. "We're starting a San Diego region with at least five teams, probably more like 10 by the time we pull all the teams together. Next season for the finals, it'll be Orange County against San Diego. It'll be kind of cool."

She is also pushing to get the riders school credits for participating in the league.

"In the San Diego region, they already get P.E. credit for skateboarding," Foley said. "They actually have a skateboarding class at the Encinitas YMCA skatepark. It's a good model. The curriculum is already there. We just have to do the legwork to get a teacher or an administrator to sponsor it here. We want to see [skateboarders] get a team-sport credit, just like you get credit for cheerleading, or surf team, or football."

That sounds good to league board member Jim Gray, a former pro skater. Gray was one of the people who started the Skatepark Coalition years ago, his persistence paying off as the Volcom Skatepark was eventually built.

Gray is in charge of scoring the OC Skateboarding League contests. He said Wednesday night's finals will be counted as another contest, and the season-long point total of each rider and team will determine the league champions. An awards ceremony is scheduled for July 21 at Los Caballeros in Fountain Valley.

It's all pretty official stuff to people like Gray and Ensign Coach Mike Ogas, who runs the OC Skateboarding School at the Volcom facility.

"I wish I could have had this when I was in seventh grade," Gray said. "What really excited me the most was just the overall enthusiasm. Parents, little sisters, brothers showing up, and everyone supporting and willing to help out. There's a lot of brotherhood in the way it's working."

Wednesday night will mark the end of the season, but the OC Skateboarding League's movement appears to be just beginning.

"When I first started I didn't know what to expect," Walker said. "[Now] it's my last year and I kind of wish I could stay in. It's starting to get really cool. It's more broad; there's a lot more kids. The kids are doing so good now. It's competition on every level."

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