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Scooters Take Flight--Again

June 26, 2001|LESLEE KOMAIKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Scooters are so last year. Remember the frenzy. Every school kid had to have one of the shiny foot-powered vehicles. Yuppies glommed on (a kiss of death if ever there were one for a youth trend). Articles appeared showing advertising execs and computer programmers commuting to work or cruising around their offices on scooters.

Then scooters ceased to be a hot topic. But that cooling off may be only a lull. Today, extreme athletes like Jarret Reid, a.k.a. "Flying Squirrel," are helping to put scooters back in the limelight. Reid, a bleached-blond 20-year-old from Anaheim and a natural showman, does all kinds of crazy tricks, including flying 360s and tailwhips (in which the scooter platform, but not the airborne rider, spins). He also does jaw-dropping front and back flips--including holding a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for highest back flip.

Reid, who rides for Razor USA, was one of about two dozen young athletes, and the eldest among them, competing in the scooter category at last weekend's Core Tour held on the Venice Beach boardwalk. The tour, which returns to Los Angeles Sept. 14 to 16, is a spirited, rock 'n' roll affair, a mini X-Games of sorts, for both professional and amateur athletes.

There were two events for scooter riders. The first, called Big Air, had the baggy-shorted fearless launching skyward off a wood ramp. The second, a street course, involved a series of half pipes, ledges, rails and boxes, which each rider maneuvered in his own style. Or in the case of the lone female competitor, "Lady Lamora" Lyons, 15, her own style. Prizes included skateboard decks, CD players, T-shirts and cash.

Although competitions such as this are becoming more common, scooter riders still sometimes feel like second-class citizens to their more established skateboard riding counterparts. "Skateboarders say it's stupid," said Doug Kalagian, 10, of Mission Viejo, a former skateboarder himself who took first place in the Big Air competition in his age group for his 9.5-foot vertical jump.

In addition, many skate parks prohibit scooters. So riders often have to make their own fun. Kalagian, for example, has ramps at home. Lyons' parents are building her a foam pit in their Garden Grove backyard to practice flips and other treacherous moves.

Extreme scooter riding can be brutal, even with proper safety gear, which includes a helmet. "I get so many injuries I'll barely be able to walk," said Lyons. Nevertheless, her parents, especially her father, John, a former BMX rider, encourage her. "Crashing is part of the sport," he said. "She's a tough girl. She gets up and keeps on going."

Not every parent is this blas e. "I turn my head for a lot of stuff," said Anitra Kalagian, Doug's mother. "He [Doug] wanted to jump over a flaming box once. I drew the line there. He jumps over his little sister. That's bad enough."

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