Extreme kids

Children not immune to desire to go farther, faster, higher

Six-year-old Landon Willey got seven stitches learning how to ride a bicycle but the first-grader hasn't suffered a scratch since he's taken to a pint-sized gas-powered dirt bike.

The waist-high, 42-pound tyke lives and breathes motorcycles -- it's the only reason why mother Katrina Willey can justify watching her son tear around a dirt track reaching speeds of 30 mph.

"He's an adrenaline junkie," Katrina said, shaking her head, looking down at her son.

"I like to go fast and jump and pass people," Landon chimed in.

At the tender age of 4, Landon received his JR 50 Suzuki dirt bike as a Christmas present. Landon's dad, Jeff Willey manually pushed his young son around on the bike for a while until he got the hang of it. Last summer, Landon earned a trophy for winning a race in Craig.

But the ages are getting younger and the tricks more death-defying as more kids lean toward extreme sports.

Television shows that broadcast non-stop, hair-raising tricks on bikes, skateboards and skis, may account for some of the hype, said Director Dave Pike, of Craig's Parks and Recreation.

Craig's Trailbuster program gets young kids on skis and snowboards heading down the Steamboat Springs ski resort. Two 6-year-olds are enrolled in the program, but some youngsters have been known to pick up the sport years before they can tie their shoes.

"Right after kids learn to walk, some are getting up on skis," Pike said.

But getting the hang of sports at an early age helps children develop a wide variety of motor skills.

"Kids catch on quicker and they're more flexible," Pike said. "They don't have to break bad habits from other sports they've learned. It's amazing how fast they improve."

And seeking out new sports seems to be a trend among some Craig children.

Dianne Gould, director of the RAD after-school program for Moffat County Schools, said rock climbing always tops students' priority on sign-up lists for the after-school program.

More than 100 students want to crawl up the climbing wall at Trapper's Health Club, but unfortunately the program only accepts up to about 20 students.

"I think it's just something that's different and challenging for them," Gould said. "It's not something they get to do on an everyday basis."

Paintball is another activity students frequently request but the program is unable to offer it without taking out an insurance policy.

Jumping on the extreme sports trend, Action Motorsports of Craig is experiencing an increase in its sales of kid-orientated snowmobiles.

The store recently sold three 120 snowmobiles and their stock of tyke-sized helmets is going fast, a store employee said.

The push for kids' sports to go more extreme will only continue to grow, Pike predicted.

"There's always going to be somebody or a group of people who want to do it bigger or badder than the last person," he said.

Gould believes kids feel that drive living in a rural environment.

"A think a lot of it is kids' way of getting high because there's not much to do here," Gould said. "They're doing something that challenges them and that builds confidence."

As young Landon Willey tests out his dirt bike skills, a multitude of tricks come to mind that he wants to try someday.

It would be cool to do a "lazy boy," he said.

That involves a rider leaning back in the seat propping the feet on handlebars in a mid-air jump.

The thought makes Katrina Willey gasp, which prompts a quick response from her son.

"She's a chicken," Landon said, to which his mom nodded in agreement.

"I can't wait to go out and ride again."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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