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Riding a Hard-Driven Passion

Skateboarding rewards diligence, not age

Wayne Cox, top, became a competitive skateboarder in his forties. Joey Jett, 18, has grown up as a career skateboarder.

Skateboarders of all ages are grabbing their decks for a new era of the perennial sport. In Calvert County, 18-year-old Joey Jett and 46-year-old Wayne Cox represent opposite poles in a new skateboarding brotherhood supported by Joe Smialek’s Prince Frederick shop Aggro Joe’s. With hard-driven passion, all three have turned their love for skateboarding into careers.

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    At Walker Mills Skate Park in Prince Frederick, a half-dozen skateboarders attacked the cement bowl, working their tricks over and over again. The heat didn’t seem to dull the energy. They kept at it with tenacity and passion, congratulating and encouraging one another as they alternated filming and skating. For outlaw skaters, these kids were pretty friendly. One even offered me his spare board.
    “Anyone can skate,” the teen told me. “You just have to start.”
    Among the sweating teens, one skateboarder stood out. Wayne Cox —age 46.6, he laughs — is old enough to be the other skaters’ dad.
    Since he was 6, Cox has skated. Skating as a career came with age. By then, he says, his life “was half over.”
    He’d been a painter for 15 years, when, he says, “I woke up and realized that I needed to find a way to make life more meaningful. Immediately I began to search for a deeper fulfillment, which meant actively following my dreams.
    “I had let my biggest dream of becoming a pro skater just die, and for no good reason other than life getting in the way,” he says.
    Transformed, the 42-year-old applied himself to skating as he’d never done before.
    With devotion came maturity’s aches and pains. Minor hurts turn into week-long injuries, and a sprained ankle hurts not only the body but also the wallet. So he’s devised creative safety precautions.
    “I figured out the best place to stretch is in the shower,” he explains. “It saves time and the water adds a level of deep muscle relaxation and allows me to multitask so I can spend the time necessary to take care of my body.”
    Correct care of body and mind are his middle-age enablers.
    “Age does not matter,” he says. “You are never too old to follow your dreams no matter what they are.”
    Along with skateboarding, Cox has found fulfillment in videography and photography, two hobbies common to skateboarders looking to catch their friends’ sickest tricks on film.
    Here, too, the beginning was difficult because of his age. “Few companies want to hire a 46-year-old intern,” he says.
    So he pitched his advantages. At his age, he knows what he wants to do in life, and he has developed the skills — and gained the life experience — to be a good business investment. Now he works as a videographer and actor. Best of all, he is a sponsored skater.
    Aggro Joe’s was the means to his end.
    Joe Smialek, 47 and himself a skater, opened his shop to fill a void in the community.
    “I’m definitely a skater, but I’m no Joey Jett or Wayne Cox,” Smialek says. “I wanted a place for kids to be able to get their skate gear without their parents having to take the day to go to the mall.”
    At Aggro Joe’s, skaters can get everything they want, gear and more.
    Today’s sport demands gear and skills beyond those Smialek and Cox grew up with. “Gear has become more specific,” Smialek says. Apparel and boards are much more advanced. With more technically advanced gear comes more complicated tricks.
    As well as the latest equipment, he offers guidance and an open ear to the life struggles of teens outside of skating.
    Smialek also offers rare sponsorships, the hallmark of skateboarding certification.
    “I’ve never met someone his age so enthusiastic and in love with skateboarding,” Smialek says of Cox. “How could I not give him a chance?”
    Smialek bases his sponsorships on the skaters’ heart and mindset, meaning someone who skates for love and is focused only on the sport — not fame or money. Thus, Cox was the perfect candidate.
    On the other pole is Joey Jett, 18, who has grown up as a career skateboarder. (Follow him on Instagram at joey_jett.)
    Like Cox, Jett started early. He got his first skateboard at age six; by seven, he was the youngest child in the world to land the 540 on the vertical, an aerial twisting trick. He was featured in The Washington Post as one of the top young skaters in the world and at age nine was named one of the top 10 athletes in Maryland — along with Michael Phelps.
    Before graduating from high school in May — at the top of his class with high honors — Jett had to balance his place in competition skateboarding with maintaining his GPA. He succeeded — while also winning Calvert County golf championships, a talent he keeps more to himself. He’s also a rider for the Street Plant team.
    While their ages come with their own struggles, Cox and Jett agree that their sport demands as much as they can give.
    “It has become much more technical now,” Jett says. “The tricks are much harder and more complicated since the sport has grown.”
    “You can’t just flip your board anymore,” Cox agrees. “You have to do a sweet grind and a flip and then shove out of it.”
    In turn, the sport gives them destiny and a community.
    “I can go to any skate spot in any state and walk up to some skaters. As soon as we’ve spent some time skating together,” Cox says, “I’ll be able to sleep on someone’s couch that night.”