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Skateboards changed his life; inspires new business , cancer benefit

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Skateboards changed his life; inspires new business , cancer benefit

Vida Loca Skateboards co-owner Frank Alvarado shows off one of the skate decks that will be included in Friday's Vida Loca Skateboard Art Show at the Main Street Café to benefit breast canc...


POSTED July 30, 2009 1:50 a.m.

The friendship between Frank Alvarado and Katie McKenzie almost seemed destined – both of whom are the children of best friends and spent their formative years within arms reach of one another.

So when McKenzie was diagnosed with breast cancer, Alvarado – instantly feeling helpless – scoured the Internet for ideas before deciding to assemble a team to participate in the “Skate the Lake” breast cancer ride around one of America’s most pristine areas.

Getting prepared for the 29-mile trek that he made on a longboard – a skateboard with a longer deck that allows for greater speed with less effort – was something that he remained absolutely committed to as the date for the ride itself actually approached.

“Sometimes I’d have friends on bikes riding with me, and sometimes I’d just be out there on my own,” Alvarado said. “But I knew that this was something that was going to mean so much to her, and since I’ve always loved skateboarding it wasn’t as much training as some people would think.”

While he was prepared for the grueling course, there was one eight mile section that was completely uphill that almost mentally defeated him – until he got some words of encouragement from a participant that put the entire ordeal into perspective.

“She told me that I get to go home after this and get up tomorrow morning knowing that I’m healthy, and that’s not a pleasure that these people have,” he said. “Thinking about that gave me motivation I needed to get through the last portion of that hill, and then into that home stretch where I saw all of those people lined up and waiting – and then I saw this frail girl step out onto the track and I just became overwhelmed with emotion.

“It’s something that still makes me emotional to this day – seeing her there ranks right up there with having my own kids.”
The cancer would claim the life of McKenzie in December.

But for Alvarado – a lifelong skateboard enthusiast – the loss of a dear friend was far from enough to deter him from both paying tribute to her memory and pursuing his dream at the same time.

While his older brother excelled at sports at Manteca High School, Alvarado – who tried his hand at both football and baseball – never really found his true calling in organized sports.

At a time when skateboarding was just starting to take up roots in small towns throughout America on its way to becoming the massive behemoth that it is today, Alvarado was lucky enough to have a local shop right in his hometown that allowed him to find something constructive to do with his spare time – all at the urging of his father.

“He told me just to get into the car and that where we were going was a surprise,” he said. “When we walked inside he told me to pick out what I wanted.

“I was 10 years old at the time, and that was really a moment that changed my life forever.”

Without organized sports to keep him occupied, Alvarado turned to skateboarding as his escape from the pitfalls that often befall youth with too much time on their hands. He dedicated his time to perfecting his tricks and imitating heroes like professional skater Christian Hosoi rather than getting caught up in the scene that could have likely landed him behind bars.

He’d be out there every day trying to learn new things after meeting up with the group of skaters that Manteca had at the time. It was a group that consisted of people from both Manteca and East Union High that were constantly being harassed by those who didn’t take too kindly to the kids who looked, acted, or appeared different.

The group experience, however, would be one of most important things that he ever participated in.

“I wrote something a while back about how skateboarding really saved my life,” Alvarado said. “If I didn’t have that passion and that outlet, it would have been easy for me to get caught up in the things that other kids I knew were getting caught up in, and fortunately I had found something that I loved.”

Growing up and
branching out

Just like most people, Alvarado soon found himself realizing the harsh realities of the real world by having to hold down a full-time job, and his first son – Indio – didn’t follow too far behind.

Newfound responsibilities would have to temporarily cut back if not sidelined his love for behind on the board.

At  just about the time that Indio was old enough to step onto a board of his own, Alvarado’s second son – Ezra – joined the world and once again forced the skateboard junkie to take on his full-time responsibility of being a father.


With business partner Geanette Floyd on board, Alvarado began searching for distributors that would sell him the decks necessary to outfit them with his own hand-crafted designs – forcing him into the business world in the mold of the “trial by fire” tactic that can either prove a business will sink or swim.

This Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., Vida Loca Skateboards will be unveiling their new products at the Main Street Café located at 1351 N. Main Street – offering T-shirts, decks, and stickers.

While some have called him crazy for doing so, Alvarado says he’s giving all of the revenue generated that night to the “Skate the Lake” foundation to keep the memory  Katie McKenzie alive and help others battle such a horrific disease.

“Looking back on it now, I had no idea walking into that skate shop with my dad as a 10 year old that it would forever change my life,” Alvarado said. “And that’s exactly what ended up happening, and I’m very fortunate that I was able to discover something that I love so much.”

For more information about Vida Loca Skateboards contact Alvarado at 482-2115, or e-mail him at Friday’s event will run from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Main Street Café – located at 1351 N. Main Street next to Casino Real. Live music will be provided from local artists like defeye. All proceeds will benefit the “Skate the Lake” breast cancer awareness event.

To contact Jason Campbell, e-mail
, or call (209)

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