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Drop in on four wheels

Scott Schlafer
Special to the Snowmass Sun
Scott Schlafer/Special to the Snowmass Sun

Too afraid to attempt his first drop-in at the Snowmass Recreation Center skate park, Jackson Ferraro, 13, was in need of some serious coaching.

“Come on — relax. It’s all in your head. Just breathe, bend your knees, and lean forward,” said Kevin Shelton, former professional skateboarder. Ferraro’s friends were already dropping in, but he did not feel comfortable enough with his skill level to perform the move. After about 20 minutes, four or five wipeouts and some additional advice from Shelton, Ferraro was finally dropping into the skate park with a smile spanning from ear to ear.

With hopes of revitalizing the Aspen/Snowmass skateboard community, Shelton has big plans for the future. Initially appearing slightly past his prime, Shelton said, “This is the peak of my career. It feels like I’m 47 going on 14.”

Having moved to Aspen in August, Shelton has now taken charge of the skateboard program at the Snowmass Recreation Center with aspirations for growth and improvement.

“Believe it or not, my true story is just a two-by-four with wheels on it,” Shelton said.

He is a living testimony to the ups and downs of skateboarding popularity over the past few decades. Originally from Mars Hill, a little town on the western end of North Carolina, Shelton began skating in 1976, when the sport was near an all-time high in popularity.

“I’m from the generation that created street style,” Shelton said.

He continued skating through high school and college, using miscellaneous objects in the streets and helping develop what is now known as “freestyle.” Shelton decided to take his talents out to California once he finished college, hoping to turn his hobby into a career. Shortly thereafter, he returned to North Carolina and crossed paths with Reggie Barnes, the founder of Eastern Skateboard Supply, who realized Shelton’s potential. Shelton then began to get paid for traveling and performing street-style demonstrations throughout the East Coast.

In 1986, Shelton was given his big break to impress a friend of Barnes’, the skateboard legend Bruce Walker, founder of the first skater-owned company, known today as Walker Skateboards, at a competition in Pensacola, Fla. Shelton’s professional career officially began two years later with a full sponsorship by Walker’s company.

Shelton considers himself to be a “jump-ramp pro but (one who) can still ride vertical, slalom or any other terrain. I’m a true jack of all trades.” Shelton also claims to have been one of the founders of street luging on the East Coast. He qualified for the X Games street-luging competition.

“I was really part of the guys that started street luging on the East Coast,” Shelton said. “That’s one of those things I get to say, ‘I am a founder.’”

In 1994, Shelton picked up snowboarding and within five years worked his way up toward becoming the ski and snowboard school director in Wolf Laurel, N.C. During the late ’90s, Shelton also helped pioneer a skate park in Asheville, N.C. Now known as Food Lion Skate Park, it opened in 2001 as one of the first skate parks of its kind in the South.

Shelton eventually became too frustrated with local politics and said he felt he did not get the respect he deserved in his hometown. Then a friend of his, Ben Finch, helped bring him to Aspen to work for Travis McLain and Radio Board Shop. Shelton worked at skate camps and helped around the shop for McLain for roughly a year until he found his calling in an advertisement for the Snowmass Recreation Center a month ago.

Now offering private and group lessons to people of all ages and skill levels, Shelton has taken over the rec center’s skate park as the only available staff member for lessons and maintenance. He said his experience and knowledge of the sport differentiate him from other nearby instructors.

Shelton focuses on teaching basic fundamentals before any tricks or advanced skating. He is already planning on having some professional skaters come to the rec center on Saturday nights for skating sessions. Shelton also plans on promoting “sessions” instead of competitions in order to provide a more comfortable environment for kids to learn and skate in.

During the winter months, Shelton can be found teaching snowboarding for Aspen Skiing Co.

Scott Schlafer is working at The Aspen Times as an intern this summer.


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