The Air Up There
By Mark Munsey , 15th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 16, 2007
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Mention the phrase 'family heirloom' and most would conjure images of some ornate jewelry, maybe a whole lot of sterling silverware or perhaps a cabinet from the old country, whose weight value is a heated subject for debate among friends every time they help you move.
But for the Kays' men, the generation-passing memento is, in effect, plywood. Truth be told, it was actually sawed-off plywood.
When his son turned two, Mike Kays, now Hickam's Sk8 Hangar manager and elder base skate junky, decided he had seen enough. Having watched his son Chris take to a living-room immobile modified skateboard like a kid who was meant to be going places, Mike decided put some wheels in motion.
Two decades ago, Mike put Chris on one of his personal boards, but not before saw met wood.
"I cut one of my freestyle boards down by a third to meet his size" papa Mike said. But that wasn't his own bode to safety. "Chris' first pair of knee guards was an extra pair of my elbow pads."
Fast forward to 1996. Mike, passing the decade mark in his Army career, was assigned to a Hickam tenant unit , the last move he's ever made.
In addition to his Army career, Mike to an active role in the island skateboard community, never more effective than as an advocate for the evolution of the base skate park.
Because sometimes stories work out like this, a father shares his obsession as a 70's teenager with his 80's-born son, only to see that same blood-coursing passion be mutually rewarding, even 20 years later.
Chris is a 22-year-pro skater, his clothes plastered with really cool-sounding brands by those who sponsor him to defy gravity in ways I wouldn't recommend to anyone without a handy parachute or a good health plan.
His dad has a pretty good gig, too, helping the world of base skate and rollerblade daredevils expand their repertoire in safe surroundings.
"It's a great environment for kids looking to try something new," he said. "While safety is continually stressed, boarding and blading allows for a lot of individualistic growth."
Even when they're not hitting the bowl, down time between runs has its own social reward, Mike shared.
"I get a kick out of watching whenever we have a new kid to see how long before they get interactive with complete strangers," he said. "About 10 minutes is usually all it takes."
Just ask Anthony Eischens, 8, son of Tech. Sgt. Aaron Eichens.
Surrounded by a lively crowd of skaters, it was difficult to hear his reply when asked his favorite part of a run. A re-request brought with it an added reward.
His coy smile while sharing "I like stepping off."
The park accepts all challengers everyday but Monday and can be reserved for private functions - a big hit for birthdays - by calling 448-4422. For more info, visit their web site at www.passeries.com/HHangar.htm.