Dog Daze

Summer vacation makes for old dogs. The skatepark pack, usually full of vigor, is haggard and bummed out these days. New tricks are absent as the class lounges on the grass, stoned and strumming guitars. Learning has taken hiatus and personal growth is on recess. What’s needed is a teacher to step in and inspire the lot, myself included, to get off the grass and kick some ass.

Admittedly, my skating of late has been obsolescent. Comfortable in a stagnant zone, I have been cruising blissfully by until the other night, when I was challenged and taken to school. Out of the doldrums emerged an energetic fellow who found it unbelievable that I didn’t know any tricks. Motivated (probably by the lovely lady sitting next to me) to show me a thing or two, this random skater became a surprisingly effective teacher. He assessed my skill level, created a lesson plan, demonstrated his own mastery of the subject, and then encouraged me to try. So, after succumbing to “teacher” pressure, I successfully performed his requirement, received general admission that, yes, I can skate with “Flair” and left the park, grateful for the lesson and the chance to become a student again.

A more recognized teacher of skating is Sarris McComb, this month’s featured ripper. Sarris, a 33-year-old female firefighter from Missoula, has extensive credentials in the realm of extreme sports and can be found at the skatepark or the ski hill instructing students. Growing up in snowboard and skate competitions across the country and abroad, Sarris understands why it’s important to test your limits and expand your horizon. Her entire wardrobe consists of rewards from various events.

Sarris’ first take-home from a competition came in the form of sponsor schwag. After winning a rollerblade event in Arizona, she was bombarded with new gear and clothing, which added fuel to the competitive fire. Yet, her parents weren’t convinced that dedication to extreme sports was worth it, so to this day Sarris aims to demonstrate to parents and kids alike that extreme outdoor recreation is a pastime worth pursuing.

At the age of 18, while fighting fires in Alaska with the Tatanka Hotshots, Sarris became a hardcore skater. After work, under a midnight sun, a happy couple-hour skate session was routine and only until her sprained ankles would no longer fit into her work boots, did Sarris chill out. These days, the sprained ankles are less and less, but the dedication to the sport she loves is still swollen and the work boots are still on.

An interesting initiative that Sarris and her skating role model, Winter and Summer X Games gold medalist Cara-Beth Burnside, are behind is female equal pay. Apparently, despite no difference in the cost to compete, the payouts differ by sex. It seems that despite the progressive nature of extreme sports, some old-world principles are still at play.

Looking forward, Sarris is pumped for Missoula’s expanding skate scene, which includes the First Annual Montana Skatepark Series 2012, a three-part competition to determine “the best all terrain ripper in Montana.” The first event was held July 14 in Helena, the second event was July 28 in St. Ignatius, and the finals go down at the Mobash Skatepark in Missoula on Aug. 11. According to the online flyer, available on the Montana Skatepark Association website, all proceeds will go toward the “China Banks” expansion project at Mobash. Now these are some China Banks I want to invest in!

Time waits for no skater. The summer scorch has lulled many of us to the point of inertia, but with competition ever-present and fall looming in the bye and bye, now is the time to live and learn. To assume the role of student, especially as an older person, requires an understanding that enrichment is an appurtenance of schooling and that because of teachers, us old dogs can beat the heat and keep our noses wet.