Extreme Wheelchair Skating In The Works For Upcoming Fallbrook Skate Park
Monday, March 8, 2021
Photo by Matthew Bowler
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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