What if Jeff Spicoli actually got a varsity letter for skateboarding in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Back in the 1980s this would sound ludicrous, but today this is exactly what kids are doing in Orange County, CA with the birth of the Orange County Skateboarding League.

The OCSL was started by Katrina Foley, an attorney and former city councilwoman and mom to a skateboarder and snowboarder, in order to expose kids to action sports in a way that would still allow them to compete against one another like those on more traditional “stick and ball” teams. The OCSL started in March of 2010 with only 4 schools, but now that number has grown to 20 – with 80 kids competing and school numbers looking to double next season. Each of the 20 participating schools has a varsity skateboarding team and skaters are recognized for their participation with varsity letters.

The league is funded by corporate and in-kind donations from both endemic and non-endemic companies.  Wells Fargo and Volcom have been some of the largest supporters. Read the full story at Shop-Eat-Surf.

With skateboarding’s possible debut in upcoming Olympics and as the 3rd favorite sport of 6-24 year-olds who participated in outdoor sports in 2010 according to the Outdoor Foundation, one might wonder why this didn’t happen sooner. I think with skateboarding, a lot of the allure and what attracts kids to the sport is that it isn’t composed of a set of rules and run by a stuffy sport governing body. A lot of kids get into skateboarding as a way to escape the rigidity of sports like football, baseball and soccer. Snowboarding has followed a similar growth path as well – when kids got sick of the formality of ski racing, they put on snowboards and headed for the halfpipe. Now, as we’ve seen, there’s a serious concern within the snowboarding community about the how the sport is growing – mainly surrounding the possible debut of snowboarding slopestyle in the Olympics. As we’ve seen, with growth in participation comes the desire to compete on the national stage, but at the same time, comes a conflict – how do we protect the essence of the sport as a “non-traditional” or “alternative” sport without stifling its growth as a lucrative commercial sport? I think the answer here is to continually assess who is involved. Terje has been stressing for years that snowboarding should be run by snowboarders – not skiers. And now, with the debate on skateboarding as a potential Olympic sport, it looks like the governing body might actually be a cycling federation. Yes, bicycles and skateboards both have wheels, but that’s about all there is in common (unless we’re talking about freestyle BMX, of course).

It is great to see the OCSL taking flight – encouraging participation in the sport, allowing kids to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and growing organically in a way that does not threaten the integrity of skateboarding. I only hope the global competitive skateboarding community can follow the same path. Olympic skateboarding (if it happens) should be governed by skateboarders, not cyclists.

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