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An Extreme Spectacle

Television's Bart Simpson, the ultimate skater dude, will be honored in a Long Beach competition that could crown a new record jumper.

October 26, 2000|LAURIE K. SCHENDEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Brian Patch was a kid growing up in Indiana in the 1980s, his parents, teachers and guidance counselors worried about his preoccupation with skateboards. They tried to persuade him that there was no market for daredevils in dingy T-shirts and baggy shorts who were masters of moves on wheels.

"I heard it every day," says Patch.

But not anymore. Now 28, he is a top professional, one of only a few skaters known as ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), who compete in street, vertical ramp, long jump and "whatever they put in front of me." He enjoys a six-figure income, owns a home in Orange County and counts five sponsors on his team.

And his parents? They no longer worry about their son's future. "They're super stoked," he says.

Thanks to television coverage of extreme sports competitions such as ESPN's X-Games and NBC's Gravity Games, which promote skateboarding, in-line skating and BMX acrobatics, these athletes have reached new heights in popularity, with competitions or exhibitions almost every weekend. The premier example is skater Tony Hawk, now a millionaire with his own skate company and video games.

On Saturday, Patch and other top skaters will be in Long Beach to attempt to set the world record for long-distance jumping on the "Super Kicker," a 46-foot-high ramp at Bart's Extreme Extravaganza. The event is part of the 10th-anniversary celebration of "The Simpsons" TV show and honors Bart as the ultimate skater dude.

"Ten years ago, Bart was on a skateboard, even before it was really popular," says Donna Graves, spokeswoman for event sponsor News Corp. One. "A lot of these [professional] athletes grew up with Bart."

Fans of pro skaters have an advantage over their peers in other sports, notes Patch, because the athletes are accessible. Spectators are so close to the action--standing at the edge of the street course or almost directly beneath airborne skaters on the vertical ramp--that it's easy for a youngster to holler to the athletes before and after a ride. And most skaters, Patch says, happily sign autographs for the kids.

As the sport gets bigger, Patch sees the fan base growing as well--and including more young female admirers. "It's cute and all," he says, "but they're all, like, 12 and 13--that just doesn't cut it."

Patch is thought to have the best shot at breaking the long-jump record of 56 feet, 10 inches this weekend, since titleholder Andy Macdonald is unable to attend to defend his record.

"It's like jumping over a bus," says Patch, who came within a foot of the record in one attempt this year, then knocked himself unconscious in a fall during his second attempt. (He still insists that skateboarding is "one of the safest sports.")

Skaters will start atop the 46-foot-high ramp, roll down into a flat floor to build up speed, then launch themselves to see how far they can travel in the air. "It's quite a spectacle," says Patch.

Along with the jumping, spectators will see demonstrations of FreeStyle MotoX, BMX and in-line skating. Dave Duncan of ESPN's X-Games and Cameron Steele, the host of "High Octane" on the Fox Sports Network, will emcee the action.

Though males dominate extreme sports, the games aren't limited to them; two of the top female pros will take part in the in-line skating exhibition--Fabiola da Silva and Angela Arrujo.

In between competitions and exhibitions, riders--or anyone who wants to look like a rider--can check out numerous sponsor booths for the latest in skate shoes, boards, clothing and other accessories.

Music will play throughout the event, courtesy of DJ Revolution and others.

The festivities will take place in the parking lot next to the Queen Mary. Parking is $7, or take the free shuttle that runs from parking lots in downtown Long Beach. The shuttle makes stops at the Queen Mary, the Aquarium of the Pacific, Shoreline Village and other attractions.

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BE THERE

Bart's Extreme Extravaganza, Queen Mary parking lot, Long Beach. Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Free admission. Parking $7. Information: (310) 369-4145 or http://www.simpsons.com.

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