Polyurethane wheels whir across concrete
as Garry Moore drops into the bowl at Hampden's new Skatepark of Baltimore, just before he flies up over the tiles, printed with a Maryland flag, with a slob air. He comes down with a thwack and roars into the shallow end, where he executes a couple vicious frontside grinds, twisting his body as the metal of his trucks slashes the pool coping. He comes down, pumps and carves across the curve of the deep end and, as he roars back up and hits the hip, his wheels slide and he goes flying forward, landing on his wrist, then his shoulders. "Breakdancing!" a friend calls out from the deck where they are playing Black Flag on an iPhone plugged into a bright yellow Dewalt job-site radio. As the bearded, 43-year-old Moore climbs up out of the bowl, a kid does a boneless on the bank leading up to the platform and rolls back to the larger group of young kids doing street tricks below. Moore takes a drink from a white can with a one-eyed, mustachioed man on it and says of his tumble, "That was entirely uncalled for."
It is one of the first warm days of spring, and Moore, who works in construction, got lucky. He was doing carpentry with a couple skate buddies in Le Garage, the restaurant set to open in what was once Dogwood, when BGE shut the power off and they got to go skating early. A lot of people got the same idea, and the park quickly fills up with people of all ages.
Moore absent-mindedly gives his wrist another rub and puts his helmet back on before he slaps his tail down on the coping and places his back foot on it, ready to drop in again. As he lifts his front foot up off the ground and readies to place it on the board, he is performing an action he's been doing for nearly 30 years. But, for the last dozen or so, that front foot has been a prosthetic.
Moore started skating as a teenager. He was playing on the baseball team, but he and a friend built a halfpipe one summer, and by the next season he had quit the diamond, saying he was tired of authority and the coaches.
This was the mid-1980s, when skateboarding was first re-emerging as a national subculture with Vision and Powell Peralta making skate videos that misfits all over the country imitated. But it was still not nearly as widely accepted as it is now. Moore lived on a farm in Baltimore County, which he describes as "redneck-ville," saying, "I'd be walking along with my arm around a girl and guys would come by and call me fag."
During his first years out of high school, Moore traveled and attempted to make his living with his deck, working out deals with the skateboard companies Zorlac and Vision, and lived "pretty much wherever I could skate." Then he got married when he was 26 and settled down in Ocean City. Three months later, everything changed.
He was working putting in a fishing pier when a piece of it fell. He turned to run, but the 12-foot piece of wood caught up with him and came down on his foot. "I took my boot off, and my foot was smashed forward with bones sticking out of my sock," he says, adding that he wished he had passed out. "We waited for the ambulance, they took me to Salisbury, and the weather was shitty and I couldn't fly and had to take the ambulance to Baltimore."
He spent a week in Shock Trauma and underwent a series of surgeries that he says just kept "cutting back" because much of the front of his foot was necrotic before he even made it to the hospital in Baltimore. Eventually, they had cut off the whole front half of his foot and pinned the rest together.
That didn't stop Moore, who still tried to skate with half a foot, taking a pair of Vans and chopping the top off and wrapping the sole up over his foot. "It was an adjustment with half a foot, but I was still able to do a lot of stuff I did before, like inverts, airs, bonelesses, and stuff like that," he says.
But he was in great pain, describing each step as an excruciating crunch of bones. "It was just two years of horrible pain," he says. "Eventually, I had a friend who was going to school, and she said, 'Garry, this may sound like a crazy idea, but you might want to think about just getting it cut.'''
But cutting at the ankle would give a lot less flexibility for the ankle, so, after a lot of deep thought and a fight with the insurance company, he decided, "If I want to try to keep skating and do things that I like, I should" do an amputation up above the ankle. On the operating table, he thought: "
Holy fuck, what am I doing? This is serious,
but 14 years later, with the benefit of hindsight, I'm glad."
It wasn't easy at first. His first prosthesis "was awful, it just felt like this shit hanging off my leg." After two years, he got a prosthetic foot that used a vacuum system to fix it to his stump. Because he was skating, he would inevitably break his prostheses and send them back to the companies, who began providing them for free, to study. "I'm fortunate that I get to try it out. I tell the pro skaters, you get free shoes, but I get free feet."
For a long time, Moore didn't know any other skaters who were amputees. Eventually, he met a guy named Rob Nelson, who had a paralyzed arm. Later, they started a group called Amped Riders, which held a camp for amputee kids and their families. "I like the grass-roots thing. You don't have to be a rock star, just do it," he says as he steps up to the lip and drops in again, busting another even bigger air.