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Ready, Set, Skate - Beginners Grind In Class
Wobbling and uncertain at first but gaining confidence every day, a dozen beginners took skateboarding lessons at the Riverbank Skate Park this past week under a city sponsored program.

Their instructor Daniel Garbez of Riverbank showed admirable patience, care and concern in teaching the boys of ages six to 12 the fundamentals of the sport, even just the courage to "lean forward, keep your shoulders straight" and push off down the ramp.

"They're just getting the feel of it, he said. "Some of them told me they'd only stepped onto a board a few weeks ago. Now after just three days, they are getting comfortable. They're rolling," he said. "Besides the ramps, I'm teaching them a kick flip and few other tricks like the 360 and the melon."

Skateboarding seems to have its peaks and valleys in popularity, he said. He doesn't see so many skaters on the streets but parks are always popular. Maybe they just prefer to be safe and legal.

Skaters could always do with more parks. There are parks in Modesto, Ceres, Riverbank and most recently Patterson.

"Oakdale has one but it's falling apart. The ramps are still in place. But it is only a skeleton of metal with no wood on it. I hear talk the locals want to rebuild or restore it. It's not weatherproof. The wood warps in wet weather."

Originally a Modesto resident, Garbez has been skating a few years and has won several competitions in Riverbank. He learned to skate himself just by watching better skaters but suggested the idea of classes and a camp for beginners to Recreation Supervisor Kerrie Webb.

"Skateboarding is the most free of sports. I did team sports for many years and if I had a bad day, it would affect my team's performance. But with skateboarding, there are no teams, no rules, no coaches, no uniforms - and the possibilities for creativity are endless. The sport's been around for years and new tricks are invented every day."

Nine-year-old Reece Ramirez, conspicuous in a red shirt, was probably the most talkative among the boys who were concentrating too hard on learning to chatter much. Ramirez has been skating four years. By the way he was rolling down the ramps and jumping out of the bowl, he appeared to be one of the most skilled in the class.

"I like to learn new tricks," said the student of Riverbank's Mesa Verde School. "It's difficult. I fell a lot when I started learning. It was kind of hard. But I tried and tried until I got the hang of it."

Alex Sastokas, also nine but from Modesto, said he enjoys doing all kinds of sports like baseball and basketball besides playing video games - and doing math. Now he intended to learn skateboarding.

Anthony Blair, wearing green with a "flamed out" helmet, spent a long time deciding to let go and roll down the ramp toward his instructor but he went in the end and stayed on his feet.

"I'm ready to try," was his favorite phrase.

Gabriel Key was the youngest and also didn't rush into things. He had the most unique one of the helmets, which sported a toothy animal's grin and a ridge of blue tufts imitating the animal's fur.

The learner group also included brothers Andrew and Caleb Eddington, Anthony Blair, Adam Pimentel, Caid William and Andrew Towe.