Freedom on Wheels

((PKG)) WHEELCHAIR SKATEBOARDING

((TRT: 05:32))

((Topic Banner: Freedom on Wheels))

((Reporter/Camera: Genia Dulot))

((Map: Los Angeles, California))

((Main character: 1 female))

((NATS/MUSIC))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

So the thing about me is I don’t really see the coping. So it takes me a little bit to drop in. I need to feel it.

((Journalist))

And “drop in” meaning just….

((NATS/MUSIC))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

Meaning you’ll see me do a wheelie and then I bring my back wheels all the way up to….this is the coping, before I drop in, which is pushing myself into the bowl. So I need to feel it in my body before I can go in.

((NATS/MUSIC))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

I kept on having the vertigo and things would happen, like my hands starting not functioning well and I was doing sculpture and I couldn’t hold the tools and I was dropping them on my feet and those are really sharp.

Finally, I am diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. So your brain doesn’t not communicate properly with, let’s say, your eyes or your legs or anything else. So the lady who’s chair I tried, said to me, “A wheelchair is just a tool.” And that made sense to me. It’s just a tool. And when I tell you that it took me probably a half an hour to walk a block and now, I can get around just like everybody else.

A wheelchair improved the quality of my life and it gave me a sport. It is like, I’m going to cry. It’s just, that moment was one of the best in my life.

((NATS/MUSIC))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

It feels like you are flying! When you do this thing without your hands, it feels really good.

The sport is actually called Wheelchair Motocross. These chairs are custom made for the sport. I tend to identify as a skateboarder because for me, it is about the community.

((NATS/MUSIC))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

I picked up skateboarding at age 55. Because you have a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t do an extreme sport. I just want people to see when I am out there, that this is possible. And it’s possible at 17. It’s possible at 20. It’s possible at 30. And darn it, it’s possible at 60.

((NATS: Go, Charlie, go! Come on, get that title!))

((NATS))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

This is a girl’s skate day. It’s a girl’s skate session. The women who started it, Anna and Sandy, asked if I would come. And it’s like I just fell in love because I love kids. I wasn’t able to have them, so I feel like every kid in the world is mine. And that’s boys and girls. But the girls are special.

As girls, well, I can only speak from my experience. I was told, you know, you don’t get dirty. You don’t do this. You don’t do that. But I was the kind of girl who did. And nowadays, girls are not only allowed to come out and shred but they are also allowed to be beautiful doing it. And we can get hurt and we can do extreme sports and we can still be beautiful in the end of the day.

((NATS))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

These girls need somebody besides their parents to tell them how awesome they are. And to be by their side. And just love on them. And I feel like I am a kind of a grandma figure, you know, the old lady in the wheelchair at the skatepark.

((NATS))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

So, you know, how when you stand at the top of things, they look really big? Like when you were standing at the top of the big bowl and you didn’t want to go in? So anytime you think that something is way, way over your head, it’s because you are looking at it from a different perspective. Sometimes, it’s like in life, you are looking at things from a different perspective, you come down to the bottom of it and look up and you think…. Look, it’s probably your height. It’s maybe what? A couple inches [centimeters] over your head?

((NATS))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

Of course, women need to help women. Girls need to start helping girls and we need to do it at a young age. And me, just kind of being here and kind of being out in the field and asking one girl to help another is how it starts. And then you see them later on helping each other and it becomes pretty magical.

((NATS))

((Tracie Garacochea

Adaptive Skateboarder))

Can you stand up? You’re okay? That was a nice fall and that was a really, really good try. I am proud of you.

((NATS/MUSIC))

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Published on 2022-01-14

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Originally posted as: Freedom on Wheels, made available by Voice of America under the terms of the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal license.


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