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As skateboarding has matured, so have its fans

Gliding almost effortlessly through the streets of Surfside, Daniel Dietch looks like most other white-collar professionals: white shirt, tie, blue blazer and khakis. Until you look at his shoes. Or rather, what’s below them: a skateboard.

Dietch, a longtime skateboard enthusiast and Surfside’s town mayor, often uses this method of transportation to attend commission meetings. He started skateboarding in 1984.

“I was initially attracted to the freedom that I felt when skateboarding,” Dietch said of his early years on a small plastic skateboard that resembles today’s Penny skateboards. “Freedom of mobility, freedom of expression and freedom from conformity. I was also attracted to the fact that skateboarding expanded my circle of friends.”

Dietch is one of a growing number of professionals and others of a certain age who are reclaiming their youth and just having fun. Many are inspired by the likes of pro skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, 45, Rallycross auto racer Bucky Lasek, 40, and Rodney Mullen, 46, a professional skater who is credited with creating several skateboarding tricks.

Dietch, an environmental consultant who turns 44 in June, takes his skateboard everywhere.

“I skate around town whenever possible, especially at night and on the weekends,” he said. “I run errands in the business district, skate to the community center and to friends’ houses. I also participate in the town-sponsored skate events that teach skateboarding safety and maintenance to kids and adults.”

Earlier this year, Jonathan Strauss, 30 — the treasurer, event operations and unorthodox marketing consultant at the International Distance Skateboard Association (The IDSA) in Bal Harbour — held a safety clinic in Surfside, one of several he holds all over South Florida.

Longboards, Strauss implies, are like the Cadillac of the skateboard world. Usually 40 to as much as 80 inches in length, longboards are “very low-impact. You won’t continue to abuse your knees and back with a longboard.”

Dietch isn’t aware of any local commissioners or politicians who skateboard, but he knows a few professionals who do. Among them is local Realtor and Surfside resident Arturo Beltran.

“I’ve been skating all my life,” Beltran said. “I was 9 or 10 when I got my first skateboard. I loved it.”

At 49, Beltran no longer performs any tricks on the boards because “I don’t want to get hurt.” Instead, he goes swimming more often, but “I still find the time to get on a skateboard.”

Strauss himself started longboarding just three years ago.

“It’s like a new sport that’s giving weekend warriors another opportunity,” Strauss said. “It’s a timeless sport.

While skateboarding is mostly recognized as an extreme sport, Dietch says he has not formally participated in such events. However, in addition to skateboarding, he is “an avid recreational surfer, snowboarder, skier and mountain biker,” Dietch said. “A few years ago, I skydived with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights.”

Back home in Surfside, Dietch skates with his kids all the time. He’ll take them to the skate parks in Sunny Isles Beach and Coconut Grove.

“I built a half-pipe in my backyard for my kids; they and their friends use it regularly,” he said.

Dietch said he would like to see a skate park in Surfside so as to satisfy a desire among residents to enhance the town’s recreational facilities. He’s also excited to see a resurgence in skateboarding.

“It provides an important outlet for kids and adults to expend energy and express themselves.”

Strauss likens skateboarding to a passion.

“I use it as a replacement for a bicycle,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about putting air in the tires or locking it up to a rack or pole. It’s small enough that you can just carry it around with you. It’s totally green. It’s very attractive to those who are getting older.”

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