Proposed Miami skate park pits skaters against preservationists

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Born and raised in Miami, Stack began riding in 1973, when he was 8 years old. He's considered old-school, a guy who skates only ramps, bowls, and empty pools. "I don't like my feet touching the ground when I skate," Stack explains. "I'm not the greatest and I'm not the worst skater out there. But I can ride on any type of skateboard."

Die-hard skaters such as Stack spend almost every free moment riding a deck. The desire to land a trick is addictive. At a skate park like One Cool World, it's not unusual to see a teenage boy spending four hours practicing a backside ollie over a street ramp or doing a 360-degree turn at the top of a quarter-pipe. For Stack and his young compatriots, skateboarding is a way of life.

Stack began riding when skateboarding was emerging as a sport in Florida and California, birthplace of the Z-Boys, a group of Santa Monica surfer-skaters that pioneered the sport in the early '70s. Stack was part of the South Florida scene that produced legendary Skateboarding Hall of Famers such as vert king Robbie Weir and Mike McGill, inventor of a 540-degree aerial skate trick dubbed the McTwist. Both guys were members of the Bones Brigade, a skate team sponsored by Powell-Peralta, the largest skateboard company during the '70s and '80s. Stack would run into the two Brigadiers and other pioneers such as Alan "Ollie" Gelfand — the Hollywood, Florida skater who invented the ollie — at the Runway in Perrine. Nicknamed "the Kinkway" because of its bumpy transitions, it was the first and biggest skate park in the Miami area until it closed in 1980.

Nine years later, Stack was living on South Beach and running his own company, Waiters on Wheels. "I loved it," he says. "I got to skate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for work, and when I was finished, I got to skate the empty pools of the vacant hotels on Collins Ave. It was a real gnarly experience, dude."

Stack parks the van on a grassy lot near the entrance to Lawnwood Skate Park in Fort Pierce. "Now this park is awesome," he says as he climbs out of his ride. Levy, ready to go after his power nap, opens the side door and leaps out. "Lawnwood is definitely one of my favorite parks in Florida," he says.

Four years ago, during a nighttime downtown Miami skate session he had organized, Stack met Levy for the first time. "We instantly became friends," Stack says. "He is one of the most mature kids I have ever met in my life. You expect college kids who skate as much as he does to flunk out. He is a tremendous workaholic."

Hurtado pulls his Caddy behind the Chevy. "I don't think I am going home tonight," he quips as he surveys the skaters performing tricks on the roller-coaster stone landscape.

If Stack represents the early days of skateboarding, Hurtado embodies the reckless attitude of the modern-day street boarder. He sports a platinum watch on his left wrist and a gold timepiece on his right. He wears baggy black jeans that hang ridiculously below his waistline and an oversize red T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of his skateboard company, Amaxon. "Skateboarding" in neat cursive lettering is tattooed on his right forearm; the other forearm reads, "For Life." He owns a skate shop in Hollywood and, along with Levy, manages the Coconut Grove skate park.

"Skateboarding is my lifestyle," Hurtado asserts. "It is a fantasy world where I can do whatever I want and still be a successful businessman."

As the three skaters don their protective gear, Stack urges Hurtado to try bungee skating. "Have you ever seen a jet shoot off an aircraft carrier?" the regal skater asks his younger peer.

"Yeah, I am not down with that," Hurtado retorts. "I'll stick to handrails and ramps."

When he gets on the subject of skateboarding, Stack speaks with the tender touch of a Buddhist yogi, passing on more than a quarter-century of knowledge to cats like Levy and Hurtado. "Skateboarding has always been considered antisocial by the mainstream," Stack sermonizes. "But every skater rolls with a crew, which is just another four-letter word for team. Just like baseball and soccer, there is a structure to skateboarding that makes it a real sport."

Ten minutes before 7 p.m. on October 15, Stack parks his Chevy next to another white van in the driveway of a single-story house in Pompano Beach. A thin, middle-aged man with shoulder-length brown hair and bushy eyebrows greets Stack and Levy as they put on their helmets and grab their boards. "Wait till you see what is in the back yard," Kurt Massinello says. "You guys are in for a treat."

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.

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