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Airy Tales: Skaters in Palo Alto access one of the county's rare skateboard parks.

When there's nowhere to skate, anyplace will do

By Traci Hukill

'THERE'S ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do in San Jose," declares Jim Manz. " 'Cause if you skate anywhere downtown you get hassled." He gestures at the parking lot in front of Go Skate on Almaden, where he works. "We had a quarter pipe over here, but the neighbors complained. I go downtown. I don't care. They can give me a ticket."

At 20 years old and over 6 feet tall, Manz is something of a hero to the younger kids who hang out in the store. He knows their names. He can Ollie over a couple of stacked-up milk crates. He moves with that languid intensity peculiar to surfers and skaters.

Someone mentions the San Jose Ramp Club, and Chad Gonzales, 21, in knit hat and baggy pants, steps in.

"It's all right," he shrugs. Gonzales works at Go Skate, too.

"You gotta know how to skate a ramp," Manz adds.

Max, 14 and a store regular, chimes in: "They're hella good skaters over there."

Manz shakes his head. "Street skating's the best. We usually go late at night."

A discussion ensues about cops, the cost of tickets, the sketchiest places to skate. Plaza de César Chavez, in the high-risk redevelopment zone, is the runaway favorite with this crowd. A ticket downtown costs $76. At the university it's $250.

"They should just build a downtown skate park," Gonzales reasons. "If they take something away, they should give us something. If we can pay for a $50,000 statue ... you know?"

When I ask where the girl skaters are, Max and his friend Tyler, who wears his Independent shirt and buzzed hair like he's been skating 10 years instead of two, give the question some consideration.

"Girls snowboard," Max says.

Then they name some of their girl friends who skate and shrug. Girls aren't as dedicated.

"They'll skate with us if they have time to," Tyler says. "They're not the same."

"Chick skaters. They like to be called chick skaters," Max offers helpfully.

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From the Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 1997 issue of Metro.

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