Galveston, May 18, 2008
He stands at the lip of the bowl, which looks like a giant, empty swimming pool, and gazes at the brand-new concrete. He plops down his skateboard and sets his left foot on top of it, rolling it back and forth a few times near the edge. Except for his blue jeans, he’s wearing all black—shoes, T-shirt, cap—and looks like any other skinny ten-year-old, except for the hospital band on his right wrist.
The skate park isn’t officially open yet, but his mom has a friend with the city who gave them special permission to get in this Sunday morning. Today he has one goal: to drop in, skate over to the other side, and return, building speed so he can zoom up the side of the bowl, power his board over the edge, slam the front wheels on the concrete, turn, pivot on the back wheels, and cruise back down. It’s a trick called a rock and roll, and he’s never done it in a bowl. Other kids will have all summer to learn how to do it. Johnny Romano, the youngest professional skater in the world, has 45 minutes. This is his last chance.
Johnny Romano first climbed onto a skateboard when he was two years old. It was 2000, and Johnny and his four-year-old brother, Joey, found their dad’s old board in the garage. Joey lay on it as if he were a surfer paddling out to catch a wave. Johnny stood on it as if he were a skater—and didn’t fall off. Their father smiled. Mike Romano had grown up in Houston, skating every day on the