CROSS CREEK — As skateboarding interest grows nationally, two problems particular to the niche sport have emerged — not enough places to skate and few stores to purchase equipment. Donna Downes of Creekwood was interested but skeptical when son Michael, then 11, suggested opening a shop catering exclusively to skateboarders. She had never owned a business. But after some research, Downes took the plunge and opened D-Bordz in the Cory Lake Isles Shopping Center two years ago. The 900-square-foot shop carries about 100 different decks (skateboards), including popular brands such as Plan B, Zero and Baker. All the hardware for repairs and upgrades are available. Wheels, trucks (axles), the works.
According to the Tony Hawk Foundation, Hawk being the sport's most famous icon, there are approximately 13-million skateboarders nationally and only about 2,500 skate parks. That's about one park for every six skaters from ages 5 to 24.
Locally, Skatepark of Tampa general manager Ryan Clements said about 800 participants per week come through his doors on Columbus Drive.
Skaters also scramble to find equipment. Before D-Bordz opened in 2006, the closest skate shops to New Tampa were the Skatepark of Tampa and Cove Skate and Surf in Brandon. "There wasn't anything around here," said Downes, 55. "A lot of skaters and no skate shops."
That convinced her to follow her son's advice. Today skateboarders from Zephyrhills, Lutz, the University area and Brandon frequent the shop.
The family-run business relies on Michael's advice to stay ahead of equipment trends. D-Bordz also carries clothes, backpacks and many styles of sneakers for skateboarding that have flat, tacky soles.
Business slows in summer, when kids are away at camp or on vacation, picks up in August and again around the Christmas shopping season. This year the shop should get an added boost with plans in January for a 15,000-square-foot skate park next to the New Tampa Community Center in Tampa Palms.
"It's been a long time coming," Donna Downes said. "With so many kids skating there should be something around here."
As things are now, Michael says the kids skate in empty lots and sometimes are hassled by business owners and neighbors. A park in South Tampa at the Perry Harvey complex and another one south of Ybor City in a park at Palmetto Beach are available for those who can make the trip.
Michael and his friends played organized sports such as soccer and baseball, then switched to skateboarding for its constant movement and action. Now they watch the semiannual X Games rather than the World Series, Super Bowl or NBA finals. Rather than Kobe, Big Papi or Tom Brady, they speak in reverence of the exploits of 18-year-old Ryan Sheckler, a California skateboarding legend.
"It gives you a feeling of freedom; it's more fun than other sports," said Michael, who also tried karate and swimming. "They're boring to watch."
Alex Miranda, 16, said the sport has become more technical since it started, with different size and weights of boards.
But it all comes down to personal preference. Many skaters prefer a more concave board, which provides maneuverability and "pop," allowing for more air on tricks.
"You can do the tricks with any board," Miranda said. "It's just the different landing space for your feet depending on the size of the board."
Downes appreciates the camaraderie among skaters, who help each other learn the sport.
"It's competitive, especially during tournaments, but they all want to see the sport grow and they teach each other new tricks," she said.