KEESEVILLE — He’s only 5 years old, but his skateboard buddies are calling him the next Tony Hawk.
“I like to skate around,” Matthew Gagnier said, getting ready to roll at the skateboard park in Melissa L. Penfield Park in Plattsburgh.
“I like to grind. I like to drop the half-pipe.”
The Keeseville boy is being raised by his grandparents, Dean and Kim Carpenter, who have had custody of him since he was a month old.
“He’s always been special,” Dean said.
SNOWBOARDER AT 4
Dean brought home the snowboard that first piqued Matthew’s interest.
He works at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, and he had been given a snowboard that, he thought, would be just about right when Matthew was 8 or 9.
But Matthew wasn’t going to wait.
There was a pile of dirt in the yard, and he started practicing there with the snowboard. He got so good that Dean took him to Whiteface.
“He’s a natural,” Dean said. “That’s why we decided to get him a skateboard.”
‘LIVES FOR SKATEBOARD’
Skateboarding and snowboarding, Kim said, have been really good for their high-energy grandson.
“He goes from 6:30 in the morning ‘til 10, 11 at night,” she said. “I have to give him melatonin (for sleep).
“Prescribed by the doctor,” she emphasized.
Over summer vacation, Matthew skateboarded almost every day. And even now that he has started kindergarten at Keeseville Elementary School, he’s been able to bring his board to the park in Keeseville at least a three times a week.
“It releases a lot of his energy and keeps him focused,” Kim said.
When Matthew isn’t riding, he’s thinking, dreaming about boarding. He builds tiny ramps for his Tech Deck skateboards, which are scale models of the real thing that he maneuvers with his fingers.
And he watches others skateboard on Youtube, where a few videos of his own action can be viewed, among them “Little Matt Goes Pro.”
“He lives for the skateboard,” Kim said. “My suggestion to any parent is if you find something a child likes at a very young age, run with it.”
As Matthew has learned the sport, older children and teenagers have taken him under their wings, helping him and teaching him.
“They all try to take care of each other,” said Kim. “He’s the littlest kid on the block, and they all helped him and taught him.”
Matthew’s persistence has also been important to his progress.
“He just doesn’t give up,” Dean said. “He has stick-to-it-ivity.”
Matthew’s skateboarding skills include the half-pipe, as well as the technique called grinding, which involves skating on a narrow beam.
And, he has a request of his grandparents.
“I want to get an indoor pool.”
An indoor pool? What does that have to do with skateboarding?
“He saw a movie where people were skating around in an empty pool,” Dean explained. “So that’s become a thing for him. He asks, ‘Build me a pool, but don’t put any water in it.’”
Dean and Kim are considering taking Matthew to Vermont, or perhaps to New Jersey, so he can participate in skating competitions.
“There aren’t any around here,” Dean said.
They wish the North Country had opportunities for indoor skateboarding during the winter. And they are also interested in new outdoor spaces for skateboarding.
The Carpenters try to bring Matthew to a variety of skate parks in the area.
They have watched eagerly for progress on the Saranac Lake SkatePark, which recently was awarded $25,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation for the project.
Yes, that’s the Tony Hawk — former professional skateboarder — who Matthew’s friends figure he will emulate.
Matthew’s interests are varied — he’s an excellent student, and he loves to play the drums and guitar — but it’s a guarantee that any sport involving a board will catch his attention.
“He’s asked about surfing,” laughed Dean. “I said, ‘We’ll give that another 10 years.’”
— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.