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Zachary Weiss, 11, rolls up a half-pipe ramp at Misawa Air Base's skateboard camp on Tuesday. Pacific Air Forces is sponsoring the camp and other youth programs at PACAF bases this summer.

Zachary Weiss, 11, rolls up a half-pipe ramp at Misawa Air Base's skateboard camp on Tuesday. Pacific Air Forces is sponsoring the camp and other youth programs at PACAF bases this summer. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Kids with quick feet, little fear and a few scrapes and bruises are hammering the half-pipe here this week — on skateboards.

Skateboard camp is among the free youth camps Pacific Air Forces is sponsoring at PACAF bases this summer. Also included are cheerleading, “all sports” and the Missoula Children’s Theater, base officials said.

At Misawa, two professional skateboarders from San Diego are teaching stunts with weird names to 27 kids, ages 10 to 16.

“They all want to learn the kick flip,” said instructor Craig Whitehead.

“And stalls and grinds,” chipped in 11-year-old Jeff Glover.

Stalls and grinds?

Boarders “stall” before dropping back into a ramp, Whitehead explained, and they “grind across the metal bar at the top of the ramp” on the trucks, to which the wheels are attached.

Most of the Misawa campers, appearing less than half the age of their instructors, fearlessly glided up and down half-pipe ramps, some trying to flip their boards with quick feet; a few took a spill, but nothing serious. At Misawa, all skaters are required to wear helmets.

Whitehead said learning to skateboard is about building self-confidence. Practice is important too.

“It’s showing them that they have the skills. It just takes practice to learn. You have to do it every day, you know, that’s how you get good.”

Ashton Dummitt, 11, said he liked learning “tricks that you couldn’t do before.”

Glover said camp is “just like hanging out with my friends but we’re hanging out with (professional) skateboarders. It’s just really cool.”

Whitehead said he works for an agency that contracts skateboard instructors to Air Force camps around the world. The camp is open to youth ages 10-16, beginner to expert; Misawa’s camp is full.

Whitehead and his training partner are to lead a camp at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, next week.

Yokota Air Base near Tokyo also holds a skateboard camp next week, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Sign up in advance at the East Youth Center; call DSN 225-7422 for more information. The camp is limited to the first 20 participants. Campers must bring a skateboard, helmet, knee and elbow pads, a water bottle and towel.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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