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FOR THE KIDS : A New Mode for Perpetual Motion : Youth Takes Up Snakeboarding and Comes Out a World Champion

March 16, 1995|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's all about busting some "big air." And Jay Beatty of Ventura can do it better than anyone in the world.

Jay, 14, took up the new sport of snakeboarding only two years ago, and last September he jumped, whirled and carved his way to the world championship in England.

He has won every snakeboarding competition he's entered since then, and on Saturday he hopes to continue his roll when the 1995 Krazzy Kouch Spring Tour lands in Oxnard for the second of nine national competitions.

The event will be held in front of Sportmart in the Rose Shopping Center, beginning at 11 a.m. There, hotdoggers such as Jay and newcomers to snakeboarding (and its lingo) will fill the air with big "phat" tricks like rail slides, 360s, even 720s.

So what is snakeboarding? It's a little like skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing all rolled into one. Except it really isn't on a board at all.

You strap on two short, independent platforms, connected by a swiveling crossbar. This lets you use an in-and-out snaking motion to gain momentum. Unlike skateboarding, you never have to push off with a foot.

"It's just like snowboarding or surfing," said Jay, practicing with some buddies in the street. "But it's a lot more fun, there's more freedom, and so many tricks. It's harder, totally harder. It's the hardest thing I've done."

With that he slalomed gracefully down the street, rolled up a ramp and shot into the air, reaching forward to execute a "nose grab" before sticking the landing.

"You can get crazier than anything else," he said.

Jay, a Buena High School student, had been a skateboarder previously. Then, his younger brother got a snakeboard for Christmas. Their mother, Renee Beatty, bought it from Brandon Eifrid, who heads Ventura-based Brand X, Snakeboard USA's West Coast distributor.

Eifrid, impressed with Jay's talent, helped him get into the world championship. Jay, a wild-card entry, stunned the 34 competitors there. Most of them were older and more experienced.

During the competition, he landed a 720, a jump with two complete revolutions. "That's how he won world," Eifrid said. He was clocked at 55 m.p.h. on a downhill portion of the course.

Competitors are judged on style, expression, height and level of jump difficulty. Jay came back to Ventura with a $1,000 check and some other prizes. Now he's part of Brand X's team of riders, a dozen or so hotshots who compete on the tour.

The sport got its start eight years ago in South Africa. Three college students, trying to simulate snowboarding, came up with the design, according to Snakeboard USA. The sport spread to Europe.

"In Germany it's so huge it's unreal," Eifrid said. It's been gaining momentum in California the last two years. Here, it's especially hot in Ventura and Oxnard, he said.

"Skateboarding got too boring," he said. "These kids just fly with the things." At a previous competition, Jay went airborne over a six-foot mannequin, executing a 360-degree turn in the process, he said.

Snakeboards, available at sporting goods stores in the county, sell for $99, or $149 for the pro model. For beginners, it takes about half an hour to get the upper body motion down, Eifrid said, and a few hours to really start moving. (Protective gear is recommended.)

Saturday's competition, sponsored by Palm Desert-based Snakeboard USA, will feature riders such as Jay in the pro division who will compete for $300 in prize money and prizes. Winners in the amateur division will take home prizes and gift certificates. The cost to enter is $10.

The course will include launch ramps, quarter pipes (curved ramps) and rail slides for competitors to grind down, much like a ride down a banister.

"It'll be major stuff," Eifrid said. Riders will be judged on their style and abilities. The winners in the different categories will compete in a finals competition May 29 in Santa Monica.

Meanwhile, Jay has his sights set on keeping his world title in 1995, he said. He works out most days with friends, dreaming up more big, phat tricks. What's next? Maybe a backward flip.

"No one does that," he said.

Details

* WHAT: Snakeboard competition.

* WHEN: Saturday, 11 a.m. (Registration at 10 a.m.)

* WHERE: Sportmart, Rose Shopping Center, 2301 N. Rose Ave., Oxnard.

* HOW MUCH: $10 to compete.

* CALL: 645-5365.

* FYI: All participants must wear protective gear supplied at the event.

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