Southern California is the place where alternative sports flourish because on any given day, thanks to wonderful weather and diverse geographic offerings, the sports options are overflowing.
Let's count the diversions: surfing, roller hockey, motocross, ice hockey, rugby, cricket, boxing, rowing, bowling, sailing, rock climbing, skiing, fencing . . .
So there I was Saturday morning in Culver City seeing the adventure spirit of teenagers exploring, experimenting and enjoying the adrenaline rush of skateboarding.
This was the Southland at its best, kids 14 to 18 from seemingly every ethnic background showing the magic of what can happen when diversity and ingenuity converge.
They came from Los Alamitos, Palmdale, Venice, Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Santa Monica, Riverside and Long Beach to represent their high schools and compete as individuals in the fledgling National High School Skateboard Assn.'s Future AM Series, where by the end of June, the top 20 individuals will be invited to skate this summer in an X Games "best trick contest" on the X Games street course.
Last season, the top individual was Jeremiah Bohnet, a 5-foot-9, 130-pound junior from Palisades High whose shiny braces can be seen each time he flashes his friendly smile as he maneuvers his skateboard among the rails, banks and ledges on the concrete course.
"I love to skateboard and do tricks," he said.
"It's never-ending, a lot like video games, but you can never beat it."
There were free snow cones and free energy drinks, a DJ playing loud music and even some parents sitting in bleachers.
But mostly, there were kids from different stripes and communities, some with short hair, some with long hair, and all committed to engaging in a day of fun and games in a sport they cherish.
"When I skate, it's not for money or product," Bohnet said. "It's for the love of skating. All my troubles go away. It's almost another world."
Sports are known for bringing together people from different backgrounds, and the diversity among skateboarders is striking. And they even follow directions, such as putting on helmets when asked.
"A lot of people think skateboarding is about destruction and vandalism of private property," Bohnet said. "I think it's an art form. You're expressing yourself in a different form."
Jeff Stern, the founder and president of the National High School Skateboard Assn., started with seven high schools three years ago and has 40 schools represented this season, and it continues to grow in participation and sponsorship.
"The mission is to give the best 14 to 18 skateboarders a chance to reach their full potential, whether that be getting to the next level in skateboarding or understanding there are other opportunities," Stern said.
Listed among the areas putting together four- and five-man high school teams are Frazier Mountain and Ontario. Now that's commitment considering their transportation issues, but they're making it to the competitions, and it's not just to get a free snow cone.
The next competition is this weekend in Fillmore. The championships are June 20 at Los Angeles High.
Skateboarding isn't a sanctioned sport in high school, but no one seems to care.
"Everyone is friendly, outgoing," Bohnet said. "Everyone is trying to have fun."
A Printz sighting
Chris Printz, who resigned as boys' basketball coach at Santa Clarita Golden Valley to spend more time with his family, is apparently reconsidering after lobbying from his three kids.
"It might be the shortest retirement in the history of coaching," Printz said.
They'd celebrate his return at Golden Valley after he guided the team to a 27-4 record last season.
Revenge of the left-handers
La Verne Damien (17-5, 7-4) and Glendora (14-7, 6-5) were the favorites to win the Sierra League in baseball, but Chino (18-5, 9-2) has a surprising two-game lead behind senior left-hander Taylor Jimenez, who is 7-1 with two shutouts, and sophomore left-hander Alec Cordova, who is 6-2 with two shutouts.
New football coach?
Jeff Steinberg, who built successful football programs at Ridgecrest Burroughs and Fontana Miller, is the leading candidate to take over at Corona Santiago. If it happens, Santiago quarterback Brandon Connette will be doing cartwheels because Steinberg is a passing guru.