SUMMIT, NJ- While skateboarding is often associated with negative connotations, the Summit Police Athletic League has a different view about it. On Sunday, Oct. 21, in the parking lot at Celgene Corporation, they held their third annual Downhill Skateboard Derby.

The race featured downhill slalom races in three divisions: middle school boys, high school boys and girls in all grades. Also, new this year was a freestyle competition event. There were trophies, prizes, T-shirts for every competitor and more. Tito’s Burritos has been a sponsor since the Derby began.

Safety equipment is required for all participants, including helmets, knee pads, wristbands and gloves. All entrants must have a signed permission slip from a parent or legal guardian to participate.

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John Daab, one of the board members of the Summit PAL, said the event started a few years ago when the organization and Tito’s Burritos owner Marc Reiter wanted to do something different for the kids in the community. There used to be a soapbox derby in town, but children outgrew it, he said.

“Marc thought it would be a good idea to turn it into a skateboard derby tournament,” Daab said.

While most towns don’t hold this type of event, Daab said it’s really a great thing for the kids. It provides them with exercise and something fun to do.

As teens in Summit began to skate more, Daab said it was easy to see that a derby would appeal to them. Each year, 30 to 40 kids participate and they all have fun, he said. More importantly, injuries are kept to a bare minimum, he said.  

“Everyone’s realized skateboarding is not a crime,” Daab said. “A lot of kids think it’s a hip event.”

One of his fellow board members Matt Deegan, said this is a great event for the community. His son, Seamus, who is in ninth grade has been skating for a while and has participated in the derby since its inception. Because there is no organized skateboarding league in town, the PAL wanted to change that, Deegan said.

“So we try to put an event together for those kids who enjoy skateboarding,” he said.

Chip Rorrisun, a 13-year-old from Summit, was nervous because he had never skated before. But, once he did it, he loved it and wants to skate again, Rorrisun said.

“It was easy,” he said.

One youngster, who sped down the steep hill at a lighting fast pace, was ninth grader Gus Haralampoutis from Madison. It was his first time participating and he thought it was a really cool event, he said.

He has only been skating for a year, but said it’s awesome. Haralampoutis said navigating the steep hill was a lot of fun.

“I like to go fast,” he said. “It’s kind of tough at first but once you get hooked on it, you’re just kind of on.”