Over at the Mission Skatepark there seems to be a bit of new movement afoot, and this growing trend runs on two wheels.
Dozens of local youths are hitting the ramp in the emerging sport of freestyle scootering.
Participants use stunt scooters to perform freestyle tricks similar to those used in skateboarding and BMXing.
One of the superstars on the local scene is Heritage Park Middle School student Jayden Riddell.
The 13-year-old picked up a scooter around two years ago, and has been developing his skills on the Mission Skatepark ever since. He’s grown an Instagram following of over 1,000 followers who check out his antics on two wheels, and has also competed in freestyle events all over the Lower Mainland.
“I used to bike but when my buddy got a scooter I wanted to do it too,” he said. “I just found it more fun than anything else. It feels like my sport and it was pretty easy for me to progress.”
Riddell began with some of the more basic moves like spins, tail whips and 180s, but has not advanced to doing more extreme tricks like a complete backflip.
His mother Laura Riddell has seen his growth in the sport firsthand, and said it’s been exciting to see her son learn new skills and also compete against some of the best in B.C. But she admitted she was a little surprised when he first asked her for a scooter.
“At first I thought – isn’t this for little kids,” she said, laughing. “So we got him one for Christmas and he started doing tricks and then he began showing me videos of bigger tricks – now he’s better than some of those people. If he has his mind set on something he will do it.”
Laura said there are some dangers in the sport, with the risk of concussion and other injuries. She said Jayden originally practiced the backflip move by landing on a mattress.
“It can be dangerous but I trust him that he won’t do anything that he’s not comfortable doing,” she said.
His skills were most recently recognized at a competition in March, which saw Jayden place fourth overall in the advanced rider category.
But despite some of the risks on the scooter, Riddell said he faced a lot of adversity from other users at the park. He said that many skateboarders don’t enjoy sharing the park with scooter riders, and it has caused some tension at the Mission Skatepark.
“There’s always been a bit of bullying towards scooter riders,” he said. “Skateboarders tend to look down on us a bit, and sometimes don’t give us much respect.”
Riddell said his first five months sharing the park with skateboarders was a bit of struggle, but said once they see he can do backflips and other impressive moves that they began treating him with more respect. He said he wants to get rid of the negativity and make sure everyone can enjoy the park.
“I got through the name-calling and just began progressing as fast as I could,” he said. “It was my passion to keep doing it, but it’s just a respect thing for everyone. Little scoot riders can sometimes get in the way, but we should all be able to get along.”
Riddell said he wants to try and make scootering fun for everyone, and has become a mentor of sorts to younger riders.
“If I see someone struggling with a trick I remember what it was like for me learning,” he said. “I like to try and help them.”
He said he wants to continue in the sport, and sees a future in it.
The inclusion of freestyle scootering in the X Games has been a controversial topic within the extreme sports community since the X Games began in 1995. The sport has never been part of the event, but that may change. Both skateboarding and BMX events are a part of the Games at the moment, and inline skating was included in the past. It’s unclear if scootering will be added, but if the popularity grows enough it could happen.
Riddell said he’d like to become a sponsored athlete eventually and also compete in the International Scooter Association’s big event known as the ISA World Championship Final.
That event runs every July in Barcelona, and North American riders qualify for the event by excelling at one of six regional events. The closest one for Riddell is the Air Rec Centre in Maple Ridge, but there are also regional events in Ontario, Calif., Arizona, Mich., and Pennsylvania.
“I want to be like the people I look up to,” he said.
Until then, he will continue perfecting skills at the Mission Skatepark, which he hits up nearly every day.
For more on Riddell, visit his Instagram page – @jayden_riddell_10 or his YouTube page by searching his name.