The Hiawatha: Secret skatepark of local board legends

Old Timers Club unites select group of skaters over 30

By 2000, Woody was in business with Jensen. He was building mini-ramps at Pearl Jam's practice space, traveling the nation on assignment, erecting skate parks wherever he landed.

Most importantly, Woody found a life in skating even after his body failed him.

"What can I say?" he says now. "I lucked out."

Skating at "The Hiawatha"
Darin Back
Skating at "The Hiawatha"
Left to right: Olaf Gilbertson, Brian Kevitt, Eric Froland
Darin Back
Left to right: Olaf Gilbertson, Brian Kevitt, Eric Froland

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Standing near the curb of the pool, in which Kevitt carves a tight turn, Woody seems discomfited, as if, without a board beneath him, he's invisible. Watching the skaters pump, he reflexively mimics the motion in his own legs, bobbing gently from the knees, bearing into imagined turns in a soft pantomime.

For veteran skaters, Woody is the embodiment of their hopes and fears. In him, the great dream is alive—of an entire life spent on skating, a success by any measure. And in him, so is the tragedy of the sport—the more you love it, the more it can take from you.

"It's hard," he admits, watching the teenagers sprawl through the shallow end of the park. "It's hard to watch, because I don't get to do it anymore." Then he shifts his gaze to the deep end, where his friends Kevitt and Gilbertson are skating, doing stalls and grinds along the coping in the waning light. "But I get to come here and see the kids I knew 20 years ago still riding," he says. "Whether I can do it anymore doesn't make a difference. I'm 44. I've had seven knee surgeries. I wouldn't change one thing."

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