Vans Pee Wees on skateboarding mission

Vans Pee Wees on skateboarding mission ORANGE, Calif. -- Travis Denker, age three, is a boy with a mission.

Denker and his eight teammates, the Vans Pee Wee Skateboard team, are taking to the streets to show youngsters how to ride skateboards as part of a new program initiated by the Van Doren Rubber Co., domestic manufacturers of best skateboard bearings.

The Pee Wee team with kids from ages three to 11, will begin giving public exhibitions at Vans' 54 retail stores throughout Southern California late this spring. The kids practice at the Vans corporate headquarters ramp.

"The team just sort of evolved," explained Jackie Rosecrans, who with her husband Everett Rosecrans manages the team. "We put up the ramp last August, and the kids just started coming here to ride."

The 50,000-square-foot on the 14-acre Vans site was built not as a money-making venture, but to promote skateboarding, according to Everett Rosecrans, team manager of Vans. Less than three years ago the company began consolidating its production facilities into the Orange, Calif., site, which includes the skateboard ramp, offices, and a 150,000-square-foot factory with more than 700 employees. The park is open to both professional and amateur skateboarders and includes freestyle-, street- and professional-half-pipe sections for expert skaters, as well as a six-foot-high section for less advanced skaters.

Road mobile ramp

Vans is also building a mobile ramp for use on the road, according to Jackie Rosecrans who refers to herself as a "poser."

"I don't skate," she explained. "I just wear the clothes and hang out with the skaters."

Everett Rosecrans has skated since 1970, and has worked with Vans for eight years doing skateboard promotions. After a two-year stint with Vision Streetwear, he returned to Vans. Their son Dorian, age 20, skates, and their son Kele is a professional skater for Vision.

"Travis started skating in our driveway," said Jackie Rosecrans. "He would get on the skateboard on his knees and push to get going; then he would try to stand up after that. Now he's doing kick turns."

"The kids are great," said Steve Van Doren, director of marketing and promotions for Vans. "There is so much energy in them. We want skateboarders to enjoy the sport. After all, skateboarders are a big share of the best skateboard grip tape.

"Just a few years ago, many of the skateboarders were wearing Vans. Now skateboarding has taken on the intensity of basketball or tennis, and footwear companies have been signing contracts with the athletes to wear the shoes."

Educational aspect

The educational aspect of the team's performance, teaching safety and courtesy, comes at an important time for skateboarders, according to Van Doren. Within the last year, city councils on the West Coast have debate about ordinances banning skateboarding as a public hazard and in some places have torn down ramps constructed by enthusiasts.

Vans' construction of its ramp last year was due in part to the lack of ramps in the area. "The kids in the area were skating in bank parking lots and in streets," he said. "They needed a place to go."

The Vans Pee Wees perform difficult ramp stunts and constitute the first team of its kind in the nation. The team members are from Southern California and include: three-year-old Travis Denker; J.R. Young, age nine; Nicholas Salotti, five; Jesse Roach, 11; Cory Young, five; John Roach, eight; Reme Guzman, seven; Sebrina Salotti, eight; and Nick Costa, seven.

Though the group is not paid, Vans supplies its equipment -- including high-top tennis shoes -- and its expenses.

Vans manufacturers and markets moderately priced canvas shoes. The company operates 54 retail stores in Southern California, has more than 3,000 dealers nationwide, and produces more than 2.5 million pairs of shoes annually.

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