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Extreme sports bring action to Pa.



Published: Fri, June 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.





The move is an intentional change of pace from the usual California locations.

WOODWARD, Pa. (AP) -- The X Games it's not, and that's just how the folks at the Gravity Games like it.

Not that Gravity Games organizers are trying to diss their action sports brethren at ESPN.

However, John Carter, a vice president with the Outdoor Life Network, which owns the Gravity Games, says they wanted to try something different this year. So they're bringing part of the competition, which begins Saturday, to Camp Woodward, long considered to be a mecca of the action sports scene.

The events will look familiar to action sports fans. Freestyle motocross riders will start scooting across a dirt track filled with bumps and hills Saturday, with the finals on Sunday. On Wednesday, skateboarders and bikers take to vert ramps to practice their high-flying flips, spins and turns, with the finals next Thursday.

"We want good, solid competition for athletes. It's a little more about competition and not staging something for TV," Carter said. "We're getting away from building big grandstands and staging events with ticket booths."

Low-key event

That might be an understatement. Camp Woodward is tucked among the central Pennsylvania hills, far from the games' previous two homes of Providence, R.I., and Cleveland, and sits down a two-lane state road from mom-and-pop country stores and Amish farmstands.

Camp attendee Tyler Widdick, 15, of Scranton, is looking forward to the games. With brown hair inching out from under his helmet as he straddled his bike, Widdick pronounced that the Gravity Games "are pretty cool."

"The Gravity Games are more down to earth and lower key," Widdick said.

The location for the second half of the games -- which take place July 11-13 in Philadelphia -- might seem to defeat the purpose of scaling down the event.

However, organizers say even the Philly venue is a little more down-to-earth. More skate and bike events will be held at FDR Skatepark in South Philadelphia located beneath Interstate 95. An OLN release called FDR Skatepark one of the toughest in the country.

'X' Factor

This is the seventh year for the Gravity Games. The X Games have been around longer; X Games 11 will be held this year from Aug. 4-7 in downtown Los Angeles and other locations in southern California, birthplace of many X Games events.

Gravity Games organizers say they aren't trying to discredit the larger-scale X Games and that many enthusiasts have worked and competed in both events.

Kevin O'Grady, director of action and adventure sports for Octagon, a sports marketing firm working with OLN to present the games, likens it to the differences in professional golf championships. "Why can't we have four different major championships?" he asks.

Several phone messages left for ESPN officials Thursday at the company's Bristol, Conn., headquarters and in New York were not immediately returned.

Jamie Bestwick, who is considered one of the world's top BMX vert riders, says he loves the location of Camp Woodward, which has previously hosted X Games events as well as other smaller competitions.

Originally from England, he now lives in Boalsburg, about 45 minutes from Woodward. On one recent afternoon, the muscle-bound Bestwick held court from his bike at the camp as several teens sought tips.

"If you're into action sports, this place is it," Bestwick said as he scanned the distant hills that framed the skateboarders and bikers milling around him. "It's in one of the most beautiful parts of Pennsylvania."




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