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Still, he adds, there are lots of places far from California with vibrant skateboarding scenes, and Minneapolis certainly counts. "It's a lot harder to be a skater in minus-30 degree weather. In Toronto, or Minneapolis, there aren't that many shops. Everybody's pretty tight. You're at war with the elements, with a city council that doesn't understand skaters. There's a camaraderie that builds up out here. It's beyond blood. It's telepathic."
With the pervasiveness of the World Wide Web and digital video cameras, it's easier than ever to showcase your skateboarding talents to a large audience, even if you are in flyover country. That's how Peterson got picked up by Consolidated, a small skateboard maker in Santa Cruz, California. The company, formed in 1992, sponsored Peterson for a year and a half before offering him his own board model. "I had a catalog or a magazine or something with a picture of him, and one of the other guys on the team asked, 'Who is that?'" recalls Todd Bratrud, Consolidated's art director.
Bratrud has a first-hand familiarity with Minnesota skateboarding. Originally from Crookston, he lived in Minneapolis for four years before moving to California two years ago. He knew Peterson from his days here and had kept in touch. Intrigued, the crew at Consolidated looked at some of Peterson's videos. "Everyone that saw his tapes couldn't believe it. They were blown away," Bratrud says. "He was really good. It was just a matter of time before he got noticed."
In the four years since he graduated from Stillwater High School, Peterson has spent his winters in California. Although he could probably still live here and make it as a pro, it would be easier in California, so this fall he plans to relocate there, possibly to Sacramento, permanently.
"You could totally pull it from Minnesota, but there's no photographers, no filmers," explains Bratrud. "There's plenty of skateboarding going on, but there's nobody recording it. It could happen, but he'd have better luck out here."
But even though the Minneapolis scene is small compared to California, it's becoming increasingly well known. "It seems like the ones that are good in Minnesota, it's the real deal," Bratrud says. "You've got to want it in Minnesota, you know? You've got the winters. In order to be good there, you've got to stick it out in the winter. You've got to really want it.
"When I first moved here, it was like, 'Minneapolis?' They'd never heard of it," he continues. "Now people know. You mention Minneapolis, and people will mention, you know, Seth or Steve or Clint. They're really making a name for Minnesota, you know? They're doing it on their own."
Of all the places he's skated--east coast, west coast, Arizona, Mexico--Nicollet Mall is still Peterson's favorite. With its plazas and statues, storefronts and fountains, Nicollet is something of a magnetic matrix for street skaters. "At night," he muses. "There's just the marble ledges all in a row. Smooth ground." During the day, he notes, it can be relatively easy to stay hidden out in the open, lost in the crowds.
"I love the summers here," he says. "It feels like home. Three months of paradise." But the winters he hates. If only, he says, he could get his mother to move someplace warmer. For now, he's concentrating on turning pro, moving to California, and going to Spain this fall to film a Consolidated video. Next year, when he's a pro, he will probably return to Europe to compete.
For your average 22-year-old, life seems like a mere elongation of the present, and possibilities seem limitless. Amid a posse of Peter Pans who usually seem unable to plan for tomorrow, let alone that undetermined void of the future, Peterson emits a calm and confident maturity--albeit slightly scatterbrained. "You know, I probably shouldn't tell you this. I don't get as stoked as I did when I was their age," he says, describing some of the younger protégés he skates with. "It's just I've done a lot. It's not as fun the second time around, you know?"
And though he can't think of anything he'd rather be doing now, Peterson knows his skateboarding career won't last forever. "My doctor says I have the ankles of a 40-year-old," he quips. One day he might go back to school. In fact, he'd like to be a kindergarten teacher, he admits with a gleam in his eye that conjures up scenes of an older Slice skating around the schoolyard followed by a gaggle of tots trying to master the ollie.
But that's for later. Until then, Peterson will ollie and grind and kickflip and lipslide.
"I tell my kids to do all this stuff when they're young," Karen Kramer says (her two younger children, Frankie and Hattie, twins who are almost 19, are both in college). "I'd just as soon be doing what he's doing than going to school every day. I know him. If he needs to be responsible for another person, if it's time to settle down, he will."
Kramer pauses a moment, remembering her son's childhood. "When he was a baby, my husband would pick him up and throw him all the time. He loved it," she says, standing up and spreading her arms out to describe the way Peterson would float through the air. "You know how birds, when they fly, their wings kind of point? His fingers looked like wing tips."