SOUTH BEND -- Jonathan Harms drove from St. Louis to compete Saturday in a slalom skateboarding competition in South Bend.
Between races at the Pinhook Slalom Open, Harms explained how he defies the stereotypical televised image of popular skateboarders who perform tricks while airborne.
He has 33 years of experience -- having raced slalom for the first time at age 14 -- and has remained loyal and hooked to the sport all this time, even when it fell out of favor with other enthusiasts.
"You're not going up in the air, so it's not so good for television," said Harms, referring to slalom racing. "But I like the challenge of the course and the race against the clock."
No matter the gray in his hair -- many slalom skaters are half his age -- Harms quickly speeds down the ramp and carefully maneuvers his board back and forth as it weaves among the orange and green cones at Pinhook Park.
"Nobody looks funny at a 50-year-old skier or tennis player," he said. "I'm a lifelong skateboarder and really see no reason to quit."
Peter Metzger of South Bend organized the day-long event that attracted 19 skaters from across the country, including Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan and Mississippi.
"The goal is to raise the bar of professionalism a little bit with this event, because many of these competitions are so grass-roots," Metzger said. "They bring everyone together, everyone who just loves skating."
He and his wife, Caitlin, also rounded up about 40 local volunteers, including many members of their church. Some filmed the competition to use for future online promotion.
Envision Skate Collective, Metzger's company, sponsored the event that is expected to be held annually.
Family friend Kevin Lockwood, owner of Crown Metal-Fab in South Bend, donated not only his time Saturday, but also metal plates for the base of the homemade starting ramps.
The decision on whether to help out proved to be easy when Lockwood learned that 50 percent of event profits would go to "charity: water,'' a non-profit organization that works to bring drinking water to those in developing countries.
"I've already been thinking of ideas for what we could do next year," Lockwood said.
Harms plans to add the Pinhook Slalom Open to the half dozen competitions he attends from March to October each year. It is one of the few competitive slalom events in this part of the country, Harms said.
"It is an attraction being here in South Bend, and could attract others who don't want to travel far from home, he said. "I'm hopeful it could hit 40-plus racers."
Staff writer Heidi Prescott: