BRANDON - Skateboarders are bound only by their imagination and the occasionally unforgiving laws of gravity.
"When you're on the board, you have the freedom to go anywhere you like," said Ben Salazar, 18, of Brandon. Salazar began skateboarding in middle school, lost touch with the action sport during his high school years, and recently picked up his board again.
He was one of countless skateboarders across the world who gladly followed the directive of Go Skateboarding Day, which takes place every year on June 21. The holiday was established in 2003 by the International Association of Skateboard Companies and encourages athletes of all ages to host contests, fundraisers and other organized activities that celebrate and promote the sport.
In the Tampa Bay area, Go Skateboarding Day doubled as a one-year anniversary celebration for the skate parks in Brandon and Apollo Beach, which both opened last summer. About 125 combined skateboarders took part in the local festivities.
"They've both been a great success," said Kemly Jimenez Green of Hillsborough County's communications and digital media services department. "Parents love it because it's gotten their kids off the street."
Each skate park is about 11,000 square feet. The Apollo Beach facility opened in September and is a level one skate park shaped like a three-pointed star with an elevated center. The Brandon facility, which opened in May, is a level three park featuring an obstacle street section and bowl for intermediate and more skilled skateboarders.
The Brandon park averages about 350 visitors each week, while the Apollo Beach facility averages 200 skaters weekly.
"The wonderful thing about these parks is the way they bring people of different backgrounds, adults and kids together," Green said. "These skateboarders support each other a lot."
Trevor Thompson, 17, of Brandon began skateboarding at about the same time the Brandon park opened. He attended Go Skateboarding Day with Kelon Laudat, 15, of Orlando.
"This is one of the best parks I've been to," said Laudat. "I like to skateboard because it helps get my mind off things."
"[Skateboarding] turned out to be a lot harder than we thought," added Thompson. Salazar tries to stop in at the Brandon park every day after he is done with work.
"This park wasn't around when I first started skating," he said. "I used to have to go to Tampa."
The local Go Skateboarding Day festivities featured free food and trick contests showing off each skateboarder's creativity and bravery.
Green said a new skate park at Jackson Springs Park in Tampa is in the planning stages.
"I think skateboarding has gotten popular because all you need is a board and a place to skate," she said.
For information on the Brandon Skate Park call (813) 744-5319. For information on the Apollo Beach Skate Park, call (813) 671-7635.