Bucky Lasek, dressed like a typical skateboarder in a plaid button-up and khaki pants, is in disguise.
"I just grew this beard and mustache," said Lasek, pointing to his scruffy facial hair. "I think that's why people don't recognize me."
Over lunch at Costas Inn in Dundalk — Lasek's hometown — nobody seems to recognize the man who is usually a local celebrity.
Lasek, who visits home once or twice a year, hasn't lived in Maryland since 1998, when he moved to Encinitas, Calif., a suburb of San Diego. Lasek called San Diego "the mecca of skateboarding."
Thirteen years later, Lasek is returning to Maryland to compete in the Dew Tour's Pantech Open in Ocean City from Thursday through Sunday.
"I've been competing for so long. Now I just get to be in front of my friends again," Lasek said. "The good thing about doing it at home is, win or lose, you have a good time."
Over a fried softshell crab sandwich with a side salad, Lasek recalled his memories of home.
"I'll have to work out a lot when I go back" to Encinitas, Lasek said with a grin. "Coming home is never good for my diet."
Lasek's skateboarding career started when his bike was stolen. Around that time, the popular Powell Peralta skate video, "The Bones Brigade Video Show," came out featuring skating legend Tony Hawk and his crew, the Bones Brigade.
"That video came out, and that was it," Lasek said. "I wanted to skateboard. I got one for Christmas. Done deal."
Lasek grew up in Armistead Gardens, later moving to Dundalk and then Essex. Downtown Baltimore and Dundalk were frequent stops for Lasek, who credits the halfpipes at Fisherman's Inn in Kent Island for sparking his vert skill. He also listed a mini ramp off German Hill Road as a memorable spot.
Paul Wisniewski, a famous skater in his own right, used to skate at Fisherman's Inn on the "Hell Ramp." It's where he first met Lasek. Wisniewski was 19 at the time, and Lasek was 14.
"He was a little guy, goofing around all the time," Wisniewski said. "He was constantly laughing. Always having a good time."
Lasek wasn't a joke on the ramp. Wisniewski, who lives in Carlsbad, Calif., less than 10 miles from Encinitas, said the young skater would master tricks quicker than anyone there.
"Bucky was so naturally talented," Wisniewski said. "Bucky would show up after school and two tries make the trick. We would work all day on the same tricks."
"Skating was my life back then," Lasek said.
And it's been his life since. He skipped out on college to pursue his skating career.
It's worked out pretty well.
Now he hangs out with Hawk. He also counts Pierre Luc-Gagnon and Bob Burnquist as close friends. He was even featured in the Bones Brigade 1988 skating video "Public Domain." He was a major player in many of the Hawk video games, which he acknowledged he doesn't play much.
"I would play to test out my character, which was pretty accurate," Lasek said. "But I never really got into playing video games."
He's a titan of skateboarding in his own right, amassing 13 Summer X-Games medals (6 golds) and is considered an expert in vert. At 38, he is a 20-year veteran of the sport, which has gained immense popularity during his era.
In his prime, Lasek was considered the best vert skater in the world. His element is gliding along the back-and-forth rhthym of vert, where skaters blaze through a large halfpipe, launching tricks as they soar into the air at each end.
A skater begins by dropping into the halfpipe. Tricks happen when the skater reaches the top, continuing past the safe confines of the wooden halfpipe surface. Spins, grinds and even tricks where the skater grabs the board in his hand momentarily before hitting the surface are routinely seen.
And Lasek has mastered it.
He doesn't consider himself a geezer in the sport, though. He likes to think of himself as "controlled chaos."
"I get wild, but I keep control," Lasek said. "I know my limits, my borders."
Lasek's wife, Jennifer, said she doesn't worry as much anymore about the dangers of her husband's profession. But that doesn't stop her completely from fretting.
"I can't worry about the unknown," she said. "But he keeps me on my toes. I'm a mother, so the worrying never goes away."
They have three children, all girls: Devin (13), Paris (10) and Tenzin (3). All three ridehorses (Bucky Lasek says Tenzin rides a play horse). Paris is picking up skateboarding, and she also does gymnastics. Devin competes in equestrian events, jumpinghorses.
"She's gnarly," Lasek said of Devin's equestrian prowess. "She wins blue ribbons and everything."
They named Tenzin after the Dalai Lama, whose given name is Tenzin Gyatso. The Dalai Lama is the religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism, something Lasek said he and his family dabble in.
Lasek has hobbies outside skateboarding. His most passionate is auto racing, specifically with Rebel Rock Racing, a group masterminded by Grammy-winning hip-hop producer Jim Jonsin.
Jonsin said when he met Lasek, he didn't have a clue who he was.
"All I knew was that this guy named Bucky was coming to race one of my cars," Jonsin said. "When he walked into the RV, my brother tripped out. He was like, 'Do you know who that was?' "
The two hit it off and kept in touch. Eventually, Jonsin decided to invite Lasek on his team, which has plans to eventually race in the American Le Mans series.
"Bucky's sick, man," Jonsin said. "Better than me. Way faster than I am."
Jonsin said the two are fast friends. He respects Lasek.
"It's cool to know the guy," Jonsin said. "He's a family guy, not just an awesome skateboarder."
Added Wisniewski: "I'm not brown-nosing or anything, but he's one of the best dads … I know," Wisniewski said.
Now settled on the West Coast, Lasek and his family are looking forward to the Pantech Open, which will feature all of the equipment directly on the sand.
"I could honestly care less about the contest," Lasek said jokingly. "In all seriousness, when you're going to a city in their arena, it's just business. This is more pleasure."
Lasek will be in a field filled with his old buddies and some newcomers. Olympic hero Shaun White will compete in the skate vert against Lasek, along with Burnquist and 16-year old sensation Pedro Barros. Lasek and Barros will also compete in the skate bowl, a new event on the Dew Tour.
Lasek is familiar with the bowl. He has one in his backyard.
"I basically built the world's largest skateboarding bowl in my backyard," he said. "I love it. If I didn't have it, I would be so burned out on skating. There's nothing like it in the world. It's so unpredictable."
In the skating world, a bowl essentially is a huge hole in the ground, lined with concrete. Without a rigid ramp or area to jump, the canvas for tricks is immense.
Lasek said it's something that's coming back into style with the new generation of skaters — a generation that he said pushes the limits of tricks. He also said it pushes him to be better.
"[Skating]'s gotten harder. It's gotten bigger, more trying," Lasek said. "It's what keeps me going as I get older."
He hears the catcalls, the wisecracks about his age. He said he'll retire at 40, just two years from now. But he still maintains he can compete at a high level. He last won an event in 2010.
"You always have the smart comments. But they shut up quick," Lasek said. "It's all in good humor."
Thursday, July 21st
Meet Bucky Lasek
Current residence: Encinitas, Calif.
High School: Dundalk
6-time gold medalist in Summer X-Games
Has a bowl in his backyard
5 athletes to watch at the Pantech Open
1. Shaun White
Two-time Olympic gold medalist (snowboard halfpipe)
Nine-time Dew Tour gold medalist (Six winter gold medals)
11-time Winter X-Games medalist
Won gold medal at 2007 Summer X-Games (vert)
2. Ryan Nyquist
13-time Summer X-Games medalist
Two-time Dew Cup winner (dirt)
3. Bob Burnquist
Holds dual citizenship in U.S. and Brazil
19-time Summer X-Games medalist (7 golds)
Carried the Olympic Torch in 2004 in Rio de Janeiro
4. Pedro Barros
Only 16 years old
Won gold at 2010 Summer X-Games in Skateboard park
5. Andy Macdonald
21-time medalist at Summer X-Games (record)
8-time gold medalist
Has won once on the Dew Tour
Pantech Open schedule
11 AM – 6 PMFESTIVAL VILLAGE OPEN
12:30 PM - 2:30 PMSkateboard Vert Qualifier
1:30 PM - 50 PMBMX Park Qualifier
5 PM - 8:30 PMSkateboard Bowl Qualifier
5:30 PM - 7:30 PMBMX Vert Qualifier
11 AM – 7 PMFESTIVAL VILLAGE OPEN
1:30 PM - 3 PMSkateboard Bowl Semi-Final
3:30 PM - 5:30 PMBMX Park Semi-Final
5:30 PM – 7 PMSkateboard Vert Semi-Final
7:30 PM - 9 PMSurf Contest
11 AM – 8 PMFESTIVAL VILLAGE OPEN
1:30 PM - 2:30 PMBMX Vert Semi-Final
3:30 PM – 5 PMBMX Park Final
6:30 PM - 7:30 PMSkateboard Bowl Final
7:30 PM - 8:30 PMSkateboard Bowl Best Trick
7:30 PM - 11:30 PMConcert
11 AM - 6 PMFESTIVAL VILLAGE OPEN
2 PM - 3 PMBMX Vert Final
4 PM - 6 PMSkateboard Vert FinalCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun