Big things on Dew Tour come in smaller packages

Commentary: Matt Calkins

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 

PORTLAND — Tom Schaar has yet to celebrate one of his skateboarding victories with a drink. He doesn’t stay out late either, and has definitely never been spotted at a kegger.

It is this type of self-discipline that will prevent Schaar from losing focus on his long-term athletic goals. More importantly, it will prevent his parents from grounding him.

Twelve years ago, Tony Hawk transcended the sport of skateboarding by landing a 900 at the X Games. One year later, Schaar was born. Now, the 11-year-old is competing alongside his idols as the Dew Tour makes its annual stop at the Rose Garden. Classmates doing arts and crafts at summer camp are having slightly less fun.

You would think peers two or three times Schaar’s age would resent being outclassed by someone who can’t have a say in the American presidency until 2020. The thing is, once they see him skate, their eyebrows rise almost as high as Schaar’s board.

“That’s Mini-Shred. That’s 720,” said 22-year-old Steven Reeves, who is competing alongside Schaar in Skate Bowl this week. “I think it’s cool. It just means that in five years, he’s going to be way gnarlier.”

While Schaar’s gnarliness potential may still be untapped, the Malibu, Calif., resident has been displaying his talent for nearly two-thirds of his life. He stepped on his first board at the age of four, and despite excelling in soccer and baseball as well, ultimately decided to go steady with his first love.

Since then, he has become the only athlete in Skate Bowl to land a 720 (two full revolutions) consistently, and was the fourth-highest qualifier in last week’s Dew Tour stop in Ocean City, Md.

So what does the future hold for the 80-pounder?

“Oh, he’ll be doing 900s soon,” Dew Tour skater Sergie Ventura said. “He’s going to be a contender for sure.”

Most athletic prodigies have an overbearing parent that’s gluing his or her child’s hands to a golf club or tennis racket. But up until a few years ago, Schaar’s parents would have thought a half-pipe was a plumbing term. Not once have either Nick or Regan forced their son to hop on his board — except maybe indirectly, when they’ve taken away Tom’s favorite video game, Call of Duty, because of overuse.

Nope, Schaar literally dove into skateboarding as a 6-year-old, when he was attempting to get into the camp of legendary skater Bucky Lasek, despite being too young. To prove his worth, Schaar jumped into the vert ramp ... and plummeted straight to the bottom. That was good enough for Lasek, who granted Tom entrance.

Nowadays, there are pictures of Schaar surrounded by skating greats such as Hawk and Shaun White. He regularly practices with other pros in California, and as Regan said, “He’ll come home and casually say ‘I skated with Bucky today mom,’ as if every 11-year-old in the country is doing the same thing.”

Added Nick: “It’s like a Dodger fan getting to play catch with Sandy Koufax. All these guys are so nice and patient with him.”

Then again, it’s pretty tough to star-strike a kid from Malibu. One of Schaar’s best friend’s dad is Pierce Brosnan. Still, the SoCal skater lacks the SoCal bravado.

Nick Schaar (who describes himself as his son’s “annoying roommate” while on the road) said that Tom is too young to even be capable of arrogance. And Schaar himself admits that competing at this level “is pretty intimidating,” and that when he is skating with his friends of lesser ability, will not perform tricks that his buddies can’t equal.

Friday, Schaar will continue his progress in the Skate Bowl semifinals, which begin at 4 p.m. There, he can continue to grow his name — even if his talent is already established.

“Tom Schaaar? I think I know who that is,” said Dew Tour skater David Gravette. “I’ve seen some little kid doing some crazy stuff. So if it’s not that kid, well, I hope there aren’t more of them.”

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email matt.calkins@columbian.com

IF YOU GO

What: Dew Tour Portland Invitational

When: Noon-11 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday; Noon-6 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Rose Quarter and Rose Garden Arena, Portland.

Cost: Grounds pass $15; reserve area $35; action zone $100. All-session passes $35/$90/$250.

More online:www.allisports.com/dew-tour/event/portland-2011

TV: 1:30-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Channel 8