Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Extreme Wheelchair Skating In The Works For Upcoming Fallbrook Skate Park

Tony Thogmartin wheelchair skating at Alex Road Skatepark in Oceanside. March...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Tony Thogmartin wheelchair skating at Alex Road Skatepark in Oceanside. March 2, 2021.

Skateparks are often filled with skaters of all backgrounds and ages. But not every skater uses a skateboard.

Tony Thogmartin is one of those skaters.

Thogmartin was an avid skater and snowboarder before he had a bad snowboarding accident in 2017.

Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.

“When I broke my back the doctors said I would never be able to skate again. And I wasn’t going to let that happen. I was like no, there’s no possible way,” he said.

Determined to skate again, Thogmartin began researching wheelchair sports and met Troy McGuirk.

Reported by Tania Thorne , Video by Matthew Bowler

McGuirk also uses a wheelchair and considers himself a “sports junkie.”

During a trip to Puerto Vallarta in 1991, McGuirk dove off a cliff and broke his neck. The accident left McGuirk in a wheelchair, but he went on to play wheelchair rugby, earning several national titles. He now coaches wheelchair rugby, mentors challenged athletes, and organizes events for the wheelchair community.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Tony Thogmartin wheelchair skating at Alex Road Skatepark in Oceanside. March 2, 2021.

McGuirk helped Thogmartin get a specialized wheelchair for skating.

“Our biggest problem is the price of a chair to really come out here and have a lot of fun. People have destroyed their everyday chairs. So there’s different foundations out there that give grants for wheelchairs,” McGuirk said.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

From left, Tony Thogmartin and Troy McGuirk at Alex Road Skatepark in Oceanside. March 2, 2021.

Skating wheelchairs can run around $5,000. Each chair has to be customized to the person, is handmade, and has special shock mechanisms that help it withstand the heavy wear and tear of skating.

Thogmartin was awarded a grant for his first specialized wheelchair and has never looked back. He is now sponsored by Colours and hopes to go pro.

“It took a lot of practice, a lot of time, a lot of effort. Just committing to myself, going out multiple times a week, pushing through the pain. Not really caring about the fear of falling. Putting that into the back of the mind and just going for it,” Thogmartin said .

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Tony Thogmartin wheelchair skating at Alex Road Skatepark in Oceanside. March 2, 2021.

Although the adrenaline rush of skating keeps Thogmartin coming back to the skate parks, the camaraderie of fellow skateboarders is the real catch.

“When it comes to the wheelchair, they've been very open arms about it. Skaters love it, because a lot of people don’t see this everyday so when they do see it, it kind of gives them a step back and go, 'Woah,'” Thogmartin said .

Aside from coaching, Troy McGuirk is also the organizer of SOCAL-WCMX or Wheelchair Motocross in Southern California.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Skateboarders helping Tony Thogmartin out of a skating bowl at Alex Road Skatepark in Oceanside. March 2, 2021.

McGuirk puts together events for the wheelchair community to get together and skate.

“I put together a flyer and put it out. Whoever shows up shows up and we just skate and have fun,” McGuirk said.

Most of McGuirks’ meet ups happen at Southern California skate parks. Although the skate parks appear to be a perfect destination for a wheelchair, one problem not visible to the naked eye is accessibility. It’s easy for wheelchairs to get into the pits and bowls of the skate parks, but not so easy to get out.

It's one of the problems being considered by Terry Newhouse, who sits on the committee for Fallbrook Skatepark Inc., the nonprofit organization in support of the new upcoming Fallbrook Skatepark.

Newhouse is a skateboarding instructor with The Push Posse and also works with challenged athletes. While planning for the skatepark in Fallbrook, he wanted to make sure the skatepark included ADA accommodations.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Skateboarders helping Tony Thogmartin out of a skating bowl at Alex Road Skatepark in Oceanside. March 2, 2021.

“They [wheelchair skaters] want to be self sufficient just like everyone else,” Newhouse said . “There’s going to be a way for them to get in and out the park on their own without the use of somebody pushing them out all the time or waiting for somebody to help them.”

Newhouse said the minor modifications to make the skate park ADA friendly will make all the difference for wheelchair motocross skaters.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

The 6.8 acre site located on East Fallbrook Street, between Golden Road and Morro Road, for the future Fallbrook local park. March 2, 2021.

This will be the first skatepark for Fallbrook. Newhouse said it has been in the works for more than 15 years.

“This is a needed thing in Fallbrook. There's so many kids here in Fallbrook that have nowhere to go. They’re skating in back alleys of apartments and stores trying to find some place to skate," Newhouse said.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

From left, Troy McGuirk and Tony Thogmartin at Alex Road Skatepark in Oceanside. March 2, 2021.

The 6.8 acre site will be located on East Fallbrook Street, between Golden Road and Morro Road. Backers of the park hope to “facilitate safe skateboarding recreational opportunities in the Fallbrook area (Fallbrook, Bonsall, Deluz and Rainbow) for skateboarders of all ages and abilities including challenged athletes.”

Newhouse said the Fallbrook skate park is expected to be complete by the end of this year.

Until it is open, Thogmartin will continue to practice wheelchair skating and has one piece of advice: “Come to a skatepark, have some fun. That’s what it's all about.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story referred to the "city of Fallbrook." Fallbrook is not a city.

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Tania Thorne

Tania Thorne
North County Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI love hearing from the community and listening to what's important to you. No story is too small. If it matters to you, more than likely it matters to somebody else too.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.