Last year, each at the age of 11, Mesa youths Jagger Eaton and Trey Wood dropped in on the X Games stage as the event’s youngest competitors ever. This year, they’re joined by 12-year-old Alana Smith when they compete next week at X Games Barcelona.
The three, along with Jagger’s older brother Jett Eaton, are skaterboarders that, despite their young ages, compete at a professional level. Together, they train at Mesa’s Kids That Rip, located at 1927 N. Gilbert Road, and housed in the same facility as Desert Devil Gymnastics, which the Eaton family owns.
“Skating puts me in my own world,” said Smith, who lives in Mesa. “I can do anything when I’m skating; it at least feels like it anyways.”
Smith began skating at age 7 and has always been a daredevil, said Ryonna Smith, Alana’s mother. At 18-months-old, she managed to climb out of the family’s townhouse balcony and crawl onto a neighbor’s roof.
“We put her in dance at three but she was too hyper,” she said.
While the other girls lined the barre stretching, Alana was doing her own thing, Ryonna said.
“There was Alana doing flips on the barre, the bows torn out of her hair, her blond ringlets flying everywhere,” she recalled laughing.
From there, Alana began a journey through sports worthy of her golden locks; she was too aggressive for soccer, softball was too boring, she hated gymnastics.
But Alana isn’t a girl from a storybook, she’s accomplishing her goals and beating all the odds.
“When she loved dirt bike racing, we knew she was a thrill junkie — at 5,” Ryonna said.
While taking gymnastics classes at Desert Devil Gymnastics, which is housed in the same facility as Kids That Rip, Alana’s interest in skateboarding flourished.
“My mom would make me go to gymnastics before I was allowed to skate,” Alana said.
Pretty soon, Alana was just skating — all the time.
“It’s such an amazing thing — at such a young age to have found their passion,” Ryonna said.
In Barcelona, Spain, Alana will compete during the May 16-19 gathering in woman’s park, which is a bowl section with some elements of vert and street, she explained.
But her goal one day is compete, not just at a professional level, but at the top level.
“When I first started skating, that was my dream, to be the first girl to do this or the first girl to land that,” she said. “But I want to be competing in the men’s X Games, to be noticed as a skater, just a normal skater.”
While she competes against the women, she trains with the boys.
“It’s fun to skate with the guys — they push me and help me and stuff,” she said. “They try to motivate me to do new tricks; they don’t do it the nicest way, but it works.”
And the four are best friends — practicing more than five hours a day, six days a week together. They’d practice more, but the gym is closed on Sundays. And even on Sundays, they’re often over at each other’s houses.
“They’re like my brothers,” Smith said of the three boys.
“Yeah, we’re like a family,” agreed Jagger, now 12.
The four push each other, they said. It’s a friendship that both simultaneously shoves and supports.
“You got to keep up with everyone or (get) higher, you don’t ever want to stop progressing,” Smith said. “You work for all these years and it can be gone in minutes.”
That means working hard all the time, she said.
With the right combination of stretching, eating right, working out and strength training, the kids at KTR started with the basics and eventually worked up to the advanced tricks, said Geoff Eaton, father of Jett and Jagger and the owner of KTR.
The last year has been a lot of learning for the young phenoms, learning how to answer interview questions from reporters, changing from private school to homeschooled, travelling outside the country and discovering the other side of fame, said Stacy Wood, Trey’s mother.
While competing in their first X Games outside of the United States, the kids were constantly accompanied by security guards, who protected them from the rabid Brazilian fans, said Wood, also 12.
“One time I didn’t have security and I was pressed up against a fence for ten minutes,” Jagger said about the fans that swarmed him.
Next up after Spain are trips to China and Sweden for Alana, Jagger, Jett and Trey, Wood said.
“I won’t stop until I reach the highest limits,” Trey said.
But what exactly constitutes the highest limits hasn’t been determined yet, he said.
“There is a point in my life (that I’ll stop skating) — but that’s the point when I can’t walk,” Jagger said. “Then I’ll start rollerskating.”
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