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If you’re mostly familiar with skateboarders from pop culture, you might have been surprised at how supportive an atmosphere there was at the Day of the Shred skateboarding competition in Corvallis on Saturday.

Skaters watched both their competitors and people in other divisions compete with interest and frequently cheered them on.

“There is a lot of camaraderie and encouragement at every level,” said Vaughn Balzer, president of the Benton County Skateboarding Alliance, which hosted the competition at the Eric Scott McKinley Skatepark.

The event included a speed track course and a bowl competition with prizes for winners that were donated by skate shops. The competition had around two dozen competitors, about half of whom were in the under 12 age category. Balzer said the number of kids in the under 12 category was around double what it was last year at the competition, which he said was a result of the organization offering free skateboarding lessons over the last year.

“The skate school is really bringing in the youngsters,” he said.

Balzer said the skateboarding school has done more than get more kids interested in skateboarding — it has also given the group some momentum after having been less active in recent years. That momentum will have its first payoff in November, when the group and the city of Corvallis plan to do some improvements at the skatepark.

Jasmin Woodside, who helped the group get the skate school started, said the alliance will put in about $7,000 and the city will put in $5,000.

“The city is really behind us,” she said.

She added that the group also wants to add an extended street skating area to the park and a new bowl, which together could cost around $500,000. She said the group is hopeful about getting grants to do that work, but asks for donations as a way of showing that they have community support in grant applications. Woodside said the group pulled in $3,000 in June alone.

The skate park initially was opened in 2000 and was later named for Corvallis resident and Philomath High School graduate Eric Scott McKinley, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Balzer said the upcoming park improvements will include smoothing some rough seams in the concrete and smoothing out the edges in the big bowl currently at the park.

“It will make (the park) more skate-able,” he said.

Balzer added that making some improvements at the park will be a positive sign to some of the younger members of the alliance who had given up hope of ever seeing the park refurbished or expanded.

“We want to at least get something done for at those folks who feel like there hasn’t been a lot of progress,” he said.

Balzer added that skateboarding is a good way to keep active and it teaches kids the importance of practice and work effort.

“There is a little bit of talent in it, but most of it is repetition and work,” he said.

The sport also really builds confidence, Balzer added.

“It’s great to get kids outside, get them active, get them doing stuff,” he said.

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Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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