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Pro Skateboarder Teaches Local Kids
Smiling benevolently at the children grouped around him, pro skateboarder Andy Roy doesn't look like the wild young man high on drugs and fights he was once rumored to be. Only heavy tattooing, a baseball cap worn nonchalantly backwards and innuendoes on the Web hint at a devil may care past.

Still a legendary performer, who was paid to tour the world on the strength of his skills at riding the rail and half pipe, he freely confesses he was a 'bad boy' when younger but at 37 has reformed and spends much of his time giving lessons to kids.

Brought up in Santa Cruz, the surfing capital of the West Coast, he tried riding the waves at first but has been skating since he was six years old and become a pro right out of high school.

"I'm paid to skateboard. I never had a real job, thank goodness," he said. "Skateboarding is a way of life. You don't need a wet suit or even a wave. You step outside, put down your board and go skating for free. I saw older guys doing it and fell in love. It's not like other sports. It's individual. It comes from your own head. Everyone has their own style. Nobody judges you. And it's all good."

Now a Modesto resident, Roy frequently visits the Riverbank skate park and the surrounding area to observe and give lessons. He also hangs out at the neighboring Woodpushers Board Shop to talk equipment with owner Ladonna Asseng, who has just moved her store up the street to the intersection of Atchison Street (Highway 108) and First Street.

San Francisco based sponsors like Anti Hero Skateboards and Spitfire Wheels pay Roy to advertise their products at demonstrations and competitions both at home and abroad. During his competitive career he has visited Australia, New Zealand, Canada and most of the United States.

He fills in with giving lessons, individual or group, at skate parks or at private homes, wherever he's wanted.

The children gathered around him at the local skate park the other day were full of praise for the art of skating while their parents expressed admiration for Roy's kindness to kids and the good influence he has over them.

"In skateboarding I can express myself with my own tricks. It's more fun than playing football at school. I fell a lot when I started. But Andy says that only makes me a better skater," said Kyle Dalman, a student at Bernard Hughes Elementary School in Modesto.

"It's not the same as when I started skating," said Roy. "We were chased out of everywhere. There weren't enough parks and we had an ugly reputation. But we just continued skating and looking for a place where we didn't bother the business people. Nowadays there are more parks and skateboarding keeps the kids out of trouble."

"I want to be really good, maybe become a pro and travel and get paid for it," said Josh Bjorge, who attends Cloverdale Elementary in Oakdale. "I'd rather skate than play football. I don't like group games with all those rules."

"I came across Ladonna's shop four or five months ago and thought skating would be good exercise for him," said Josh's mother, Loretta Bjorge. "They get so much better so quickly. He's tried many sports. But this one he took to. I've had to drag him away from parks, literally. We have a half pipe in our back yard now."

Roy charges $30 per hour for lessons but will come to any public park or even a home ramp and spends way over the hour in instruction.

"He has a very positive influence on the kids. They become like family with him," said Ninon Lapan-Dalman.

"I've become friendly with the parents too," said Roy. "We build ramps together. We enjoy barbecues together."

Roy recently proposed to his girlfriend Erin at the Riverbank skate park. All the kids attended. They gave the pair a dozen red roses. Now they are married.

"I try to teach the kids to stay in school, get an education, make a good future for themselves, not go down the same path I did," Roy commented.

There's a skateboarding and rollerblading contest coming up on Nov. 8 at the Riverbank park. The city hosted one skating event in April and was going to drop the second in the year generally held in September.

"But the local kids came to us and insisted," said Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick. "So we've set another event for Nov. 8, even though it may be on a smaller scale this time."