The way Silas Baxter-Neal sees it, college will always be there; skateboarding won't.
`I don't want to ever feel like, `I could have done this, I could have been that,' ' says the Eugene-bred skateboarder. "I decided to chase this dream."
Baxter-Neal's dream is to become a professional skateboarder, and he's already well on his way. Just back from a three-week vacation in Japan, the 21-year-old amateur was in Eugene recently, shooting a video for a sponsor, catching up with old friends and preparing to move to San Francisco.
"Right now, I'm pretty happy," Baxter-Neal says. "I get to travel and I can support myself."
Skateboarding, a sport that requires a willingness to get hurt and sometimes break trespassing laws, is a young man's game. The body takes a beating and most pros are considered washed up by the time they're in their early 30s, which is why it's now or never for Baxter-Neal.
"I would imagine he's probably going to go pro," says Rain Couture, co-owner of the Eugene surf, snowboard and skateboard shop Boardsports. "It's going to be a few more years, but with the way he's fitting in now and starting to pop up in the industry, I definitely see him making a career out of it."
Turning pro means being able to make a living out of it. One of Baxter-Neal's recent accomplishments was to snare the sponsorship of the Dayton, Ohio-based skateboarding company Habitat. The company sponsors such well-known riders as Stefan Janoski, Fred Gall and Tim O'Connor. Baxter-Neal will be introduced as a member of the Habitat team in ads appearing in next month's issues of Transworld Skateboarding, Thrasher and Skateboard, and he is featured on the company's Web site (www.habitatskateboards.com). He also appears in his own segment in the Thrasher magazine video "Rocket Science."
Boardsports continues to be a big supporter of Baxter-Neal, who has ridden on the store's skateboarding team for years. Couture and co-owner Jon Faulkner also have helped connect the young rider with influential people in the industry.
"They were the ones that always encouraged me that I could make a life out of this," Baxter-Neal says.
Eugene may be far removed from California and other skateboarding hotbeds, but Baxter-Neal says there were some advantages to growing up here. The wet weather only increased his desire to skateboard and, even before the city started investing in skate parks, he always found places to ride.
"For how small it is, there's a lot of really good skate spots," Baxter-Neal says. "Campus was a lot of fun, but they've really increased security."
Baxter-Neal's brother, Leland, believes that Eugene may have helped toughen his younger sibling's skin.
`Until a few years ago, there was only the Amazon (skate park),' Leland Baxter-Neal said in an e-mail sent from his home in Costa Rica. `We had to go and search and would skate anything. Many kids in the industry are from Southern California and (grew) up spoiled and can't deal with cracks in the sidewalk ... Silas will skate it all.'
Silas Baxter-Neil's talent on a skateboard first became apparent to the rest of the world at a Roosevelt Middle School skateboarding demo, during which the then-12-year-old skated furiously.
"He was doing things that other people weren't doing, going a lot bigger," recalls Couture, the Boardsports co-owner. "He was just kind of crazy."
Baxter-Neal's brother recognized his brother's skateboarding ability early on.
"He didn't have the fear," Leland Baxter-Neal said. `So he'd just chuck himself down big stairs or tall gaps. He'd do stupid stuff ... but it impressed everybody like crazy."
For now, Baxter-Neal earns just enough money skateboarding to pay for rent and not much else. He's had a number of injuries, including a broken foot and a broken arm, and continues to struggle with a mild hernia, but does not have health insurance. He hopes to be covered by the time he moves to California in upcoming weeks.
After relocating, Baxter-Neal's goal will be to remain as visible as possible and make his sponsors happy.
For every photo that appears in a skateboarding magazine with his sponsors' logos, he earns extra incentives. He's pictured in the current issue of Skateboard Magazine performing a "backside nose blunt on a hand rail."
Along with Habitat, Baxter-Neal endorses Krux Trucks and receives "flow," the industry term for "free stuff," from other companies. Soon, he plans to travel to London to do a skateboarding demo and a magazine interview.
As much fun as he's having, Baxter-Neal says skateboarding for a living is not quite the same as skateboarding in his free time.
`I guess, as with anything, once you try and make (something) your job, it kind of takes some of the fun out of it,' he says. "It's not as pure. It gets contaminated."
Still, Baxter-Neal says he loves to skateboard. And unlike, say, snowboarding, it's a sport that requires almost no preparation - just open up your front door and go.
"When I'm not skateboarding, I'm usually skateboarding," he jokes. "It's my job and my hobby. Just something I always do."
Job Title: Amateur skateboarder
Job perk: "I get to travel a lot," Baxter-Neal says. "It's delaying the monotony of real life."
Bet you didn't know: Baxter-Neal's other great love is cooking. He cooks Japanese food for fun and has worked in the kitchens of Tasty Thai, the Excelsior and other area restaurants.
Silas Baxter-Neal, 21, of Eugene wants to turn his love of skateboarding into a profession. He already has a couple of endorsements. - SILAS BAXTER-NEAL, ASPIRING PRO SKATEBOARDER
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|Title Annotation:||Recreation; Eugene-bred skateboarder Silas Baxter-Neal hopes to parlay his love of the pastime into a professional career - while he's still in one piece|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Apr 25, 2005|
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