By Jay Young
Mikey Berdis of Erie is not what you would call an average high school student. Sure he goes to class, has homework, and enjoys spending time with his friends, but his recreation is little bit different.
Mikey Berdis shows off his skateboarding talent at Jamestown Skate Products during a recent competition. The 17-year-old from Erie is carving out his own niche in the world of competitive skateboarding.
Photo courtesy of Jay Farnham
While so many teenagers seem content to spend their free time lazing about with the tenacity of toll-booth attendants, Berdis, 17, has other interests. For instance, performing well at the X-Games.
Yeah, those X-Games.
Over the past several years, Berdis has carved out his own niche in the ever-expanding, ambitious world of competitive skateboarding. As if his age, ability, and event record were not impressive enough, take a moment to consider the young man's origins. Western Pennsylvania and New York have never been described as a mecca of skateboarding culture.
Berdis grew up 3,000 miles from the pristine parks and unwavering sunshine of Southern California. If you take a casual walk through downtown Erie, the only public reference you are likely to see about skateboarding is a sign with a menacing red line through the middle. And yet, Berdis has risen above.
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Four years ago Berdis teamed up with Pete Scheira, the owner of Jamestown Skate Products (then Suburban Blend), and decided to take his skating to the next level. Berdis joined the local skate team for JSP, which is made up of 10 of the best riders in the region.
"The kid just has so much natural talent," Scheira said. "He can take it as far as he wants to."
It was in 2010 that Berdis first made his mark on the global skating scene, when he was invited to compete in the Hometown Heroes meet at the X-Games, a competition that features some of the best amateur skaters from around the world.
Since then, things have only gotten better for Berdis and his career. Now he has sponsorship deals for all of his skating equipment, as well as monetary backing to travel for competition. He has become the face of the Jamestown Skate Products team, and continues to bring new business and skating interest into the local area.
Keep in mind, we are talking about a guy who hasn't even finished high school yet.
"These guys are a reason that we are able to bring in new business, and they help bring skating interest into the area when they get sponsored by the team," Scheira mentioned.
In 2012 Mike qualified for the Gatorade Free-Flow competition in Atlanta, one of the country's top amateur circuits, and ended up taking home first prize in the event despite barely being old enough to drive a car.
This year Berdis has continued his elite performance with a win at Philly Am, another national event annually held in the middle of the burgeoning Philadelphia skate scene.
"He was one of the youngest guys in the 'sponsored' class," Scheira said. "That's where the top skaters are and he showed he has what it takes to compete at that level."
Berdis also claimed local King of the Ramp honors this year, an annual competition held at the bowl above Scheira's store that decides the area's top local skaters.
A big part of his success at such a young age can be attributed to the people around him, especially his parents.
"They completely support what he loves to do, and have been all around the country with him for competitions," Scheira said.
Of course, Scheira deserves plenty of credit himself. He has helped to build and grow a culture of skating in Jamestown over the past several years, and continues to help kids from around the area enjoy and improve their skating.
Scheira reminded area residents that JSP's recent sale has nothing to do with business problems.
"Some people thought we were closing, but we are just moving some old inventory out and trying to feature different brands," he said.
You can usually find Berdis riding around his hometown in Erie, if the weather is cooperating, or inside the bowl Pete has above his shop in Jamestown during colder months. That is, of course, if he isn't halfway around the country skating against the best guys in the business.
It seems clear that the sky is the limit for Berdis moving forward. It's a good thing he doesn't mind defying gravity.