Skatermade: Benefit brings Wochatz back to his board

He dips the toe of his worn shoe forward on the nose of his gritty board. His back foot rises off the tail, and his twisted figure is left suspended above the board. As it spins below him, the sunlight lights catch three words scrawled between the wheels: ‘Shred for Ian.’ The trick is complete, and senior Asa Wochatz pushes off the pavement and continues skating.

From the very start, skateboarding has been a major part of Asa’s life. It was introduced to him as a three-year-old, but really began to impact him, and become a passion, when he was in elementary school.

“I started skating because my brother skated,” Asa said. “We just did that together, like all the time. I’d go skate with him and his friends. I was a really little kid skating with all these high schoolers.

As he got older, his brother Ian would show Asa new skating videos, which, he said, is one of the main ways skaters learn their tricks. He would also watch Ian and his friends while they were skating, which helped him figure out the elements and timing of the moves on his own.

Asa, however, wasn’t comfortable with every move he tried right off the bat. One lazy summer day, Asa, Ian and his friends were at the lower parking lot of First Baptist Church. The whole group took to skating on a rail the church lent them, save for seven year-old Asa, who was, to say the least, hesitant to try it.

“All my brother’s friends were sitting down on the bench, and I would not skate the rail because I was too scared, and they were like, all right, we’ll pay you. We’ll give you a quarter each if you do it within 15 tries, but I did it within five,” Asa said. “Everybody was really impressed, and they paid me like a dollar each. I made like seven bucks that day.”

Eventually, though, Asa was not as welcome to skate with his brother.

“Once [Ian] got to be 13, it wasn’t really cool to hangout with your eight-year-old brother,” Asa said.

Asa never engaged his friends in skating because he always went with Ian. Once he closed him out, Asa lost his motivation and took a break from the sport.

Two years later, all opportunity to be with his brother was taken away, when, after fighting an especially vicious strain of brain cancer, 15-year-old Ian passed away.

Asa was, in his most comfortable realms, left alone, and left with an even further detachment from skateboarding. Companionless, his lapse from the sport only grew longer.

To commemorate Ian, his father, Volkmar Wochatz, created SkaterAid, a fundraiserto support families who were dealing with pediatric cancer.

SkaterAid’s mission is to illuminate the importance of being young, something that skateboarding taps into well.

“Ultimately, SkaterAid is a place for teens to celebrate their youth. Whether flying through the air on a board, playing music, or hanging out with friends,” the SkaterAid website states, “you’re only 15 once.”

It wasn’t until the second year of Skateraid, as Asa himself neared age 15, that he realized how much he missed skating.

“This kid was doing tricks [at SkaterAid] and I said, ‘let me see your board,’ and he gave it to me,” Asa said. “I did a kickflip, or I got really close to doing a kickflip, and all of a sudden I just felt like skating again.”

Around the same time, one of Asa’s closest friends, senior Luke Browning, took up the sport and, for the first time since his brother died, Asa’s had someone to skate with.

“We’ve always been friends, ever since we were kids, but I think skating is the thing that has kept us friends for all of these years,” Browning said.

Together, the two delved further into the sport and kindled a love for every facet of it, seemingly beyond reason.

“You definitely have to love skating [to be good at it] … Most people try it for a day, a month or a year, but after they fall a bunch of times, they’re just like, ‘You know what, I’m giving it up. It’s just over,’” Asa said. “But, to me, if you’re still skateboarding after two years or so, then you’re probably hooked on it, because you fall a lot … You kind of have to learn to love falling.”

In a way, Asa has come to appreciate injury, and it has worked in his favor. In his sophomore year, Arif Ghalib, the mastermind behind skating company Invazion Skateboards, saw Wochatz in action at McKoy Park and was impressed enough to ask him to be a part of the Invazion team.

“I think the most essential aspect of a skateboarder is being extremely comfortable on the board and making the tricks look relaxed and natural,” Ghalib said. “Asa is those aspects.”

Thanks to his connection to Invazion, Asa has been able to enhance his skating and, by virtue, influence the people he’s with.

“I wanted to sponsor [Asa] because he is an excellent skater as well as a positive influence on others around him,” Ghalib said. “Asa is noticeably more mature and wise than most high school students I meet. I think his skating is always progressing and is very powerful.”

Asa, though, doesn’t see himself reaching a professional level. As he said, more people are skateboarding now, and the people being sponsored and going professional are only “like 15 years old,” but that doesn’t discourage him.

“I definitely will never stop skateboarding. The thing is, I don’t really plan to go professional or make it in that area, but if it happens, cool,” Asa said. “That’s just sort of how the industry goes. It’s nothing like any other sport. You can’t get a scholarship for skateboarding.”

For Asa, the reason he skates isn’t obvious, but he does see some connection to his brother and another friend of his, Mark White, who also passed away.

“On all the boards I get I’ll write ‘Shred for Ian,’ ‘Shred for Mark,’ and [they] definitely [act as] motivation. It’s just like, I say I’m not trying to go pro, but I go out there and kill myself for some reason, you know? I don’t know why I go out and skate, but it’s just the best,” Asa said. “I feel like it’s the closest connection I probably have with Ian, because even though he can’t skate anymore, I can.”

Browning has seen Asa’s determination first hand, and agrees that it is extensive. “[Asa] has so much drive, and when he sets his mind on a trick he’s going to keep trying it until he lands it or he can’t stand up,” Browning said.

Although skateboarding has been an essential part of Asa’s life, he can see himself going in a different direction as far as his career. He has considered broadcast journalism or theatre, but as of yet, all he knows is that he will never stop skating.

“Over time I’ve found other things I like to do, but it always goes back to skating,” Browning said. “I think thats the way it for all of us – especially Asa. That’s when you see that dude really shine – when he’s skating.”