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More Work is Available for Skateboarders With Skill

Skateboarders are finding work as apparel, equipment and park designers. They're also becoming consultants. And they're producing high-profile sporting events, videos and magazines.

Aaron Spohn is president and CEO of a company that designs, builds and installs skateparks across the U.S. He says he's definitely noticed growth in the industry. "We're looking to hire people," says Spohn.

Spohn combined a career in construction with his love of skateboarding to form his company. He says city councils are starting to consider skateboarding a legitimate sport. And they realize the importance of providing a space for these athletes to ride. "Cities do not have a single facility for these kids to go to, and often times they get ticketed for skating in the streets," he says.

More and more parks are being built throughout North America. That means jobs for skateboarders with an eye for the perfect course.

"The fact that most cities are now taking a look at building at least one [park] has meant that there's a tremendous glut of opportunity," says Spohn. He adds that small design and consulting companies are springing up to meet the demand.

When Spohn built a couple of half-pipes in his backyard as a teenager, friend Kirsten Bradford was often around to watch. As soon as magazines and event promoters started showing up to shoot commercials, Bradford became the on-site assistant.

Today, she is the chief financial officer of Spohn's company. She has worked on such special events as the X-Games, the Warped Tour and MTV Sports.

Bradford agrees that opportunities in the skateboarding industry are huge. "There are a lot of different types of companies that have sprung up to support skateboarding," says Bradford. "Clothing companies [and] equipment companies, promoters and athlete management companies. Skateboarding has...its fingers in just about every industry."

Even the plumbing industry. "We're doing a demo for Kohler Faucets next week," says Bradford. "I think there are opportunities all over the place."

She adds that skateparks and special events are areas that "are growing really rapidly."

Communities around the globe have embraced skateboarding. Heidi Lemmon, the mother of a skateboarder, is the founder and director of the United Skateboarding Association.

According to Lemmon, industry reps from Argentina, Guam, Hong Kong, Europe and South Africa appeared at the most recent Action Sports Retailer exposition. They arrived at the show either "wanting to get skateparks or open skateparks," says Lemmon.

From Subculture to Superstars

To some skateboarders, the industry boom is simply a dream come true. To others, it's a lesson in frustration.

After years of public denouncement and disrespect for skateboarders, many industries are reaping large rewards from the sport. It's tough for some skateboarders to reconcile the fact that they're working professionally with the same people who tried to keep them off the streets.

David Brown is a landscape architect who has worked on several skateparks. He has been the target of some of this frustration. Brown is an educated architect and he hasn't stepped on a skateboard for years. However, his knowledge and experience are useful when it comes to building skateparks.

He encourages young people to appreciate the knowledge that everyone brings to the table in the skateboarding industry.

"You really have to be respectful for all of the players that are involved, even if you don't like the project, don't like the idea, don't like [the people]."

Landing a Career in Skateboarding

Loving skateboarding is the easiest part. But to work in the skateboarding industry, says Spohn, you should be prepared to operate a legitimate business. If you're building a skatepark, for example, there are insurance and bonding requirements to consider.

"It takes a lot to be able to work with the government on a project, especially something that's potentially a high-risk project where people could get hurt," says Spohn.

Jerry Mazur is the production manager at a skateboard manufacturer. He says the demand for his company's boards is increasing. The company's success is due partly to the fact that they set up the business properly.

Failure, says Mazur, is common for skateboarding start-ups. "If there were 10 new companies that we manufacture for, there's probably maybe three of them that are still around -- that made it through the year," he says.

"Whenever anybody calls and wants to do this stuff, I'll just tell them to get in contact with the chamber of commerce....They'll give you booklets [on] the things you need to do to start a business. They sound really generic, but they're really good," says Mazur.

And if you're not into starting your own business, there's probably someone who's looking to hire. "We have 20 employees at all times," says Spohn. "I'm hoping, within 10 years, that I [could] hire 100."


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