"It is not about T-shirts and boards," Shippy says. "It is about talking to the guy who is looking for that rush, the guy who will try anything for a thrill. It is about telling him about the peace of Jesus."
There are other stories, too. At the extreme-sports Epic Tour in Montreal, Wylie first demonstrated his tricks on a ramp, then used his board as a pulpit.
"As much attitude as I get [from other skaters] about not wearing skulls or horns, people respect you for the tricks you pull," Wylie said. "People started crying [in Montreal after he told them about Jesus]. This was not a mellow crowd. There had been fights. I was blown away by what God did."
The skateboard subculture has a hard edge to it. After the extreme events, many competitors drink or party heavily.
"Drinking is second nature to those in the sport," Wylie says. "Sure, it is tempting sometimes, but I try not to be around the people who offer temptations. I know how important it is for there to be people like [Jamie Thomas] and others who go out and make a difference."
Shippy favors outreaches in secular venues, such as one held at Ontario Mills Mall in Ontario, California.
"We set up our ramps, get their attention, then they start asking about what 777 means," Shippy says. "We don't have to say a sermon or a big testimony, we just answer their questions, and it goes from there."
The 777 core team also does demonstrations at churches and Christian events. Tommy Tenney, evangelist and author of The God Chasers, saw them earlier this year.
"Some chase God from pulpits, some from pews. Steve Shippy and 777 chase God on skateboards. These guys are extreme skaters and extreme worshipers. Their very lives and actions convey that they are serious about the chase," Tenney says.
For most people today skateboarding is an extreme sport--a source for the rush, the thrill, the excitement that charge to the surface when you attempt something daring and fun. For Shippy, Delemeter, Barta, Hackworth and others it's even more. It's a higher calling, with an impact that lasts long after the rush wears off.
"There is a lot of spiritual warfare in extreme sports," Shippy says. "And it is not just attempting crazy tricks. It is the lives these kids live. They come up and talk to me at events. They come from broken homes, violent backgrounds, hopelessness--not all, but too many of them."
He adds: "Someone has to be there for these kids."
Sports Add Punch to Extreme Days Film
The evangelistic movie is loaded with daredevil action
In late September, moviegoers in about 90 markets got an extreme look at a new kind of movie. Extreme Days was produced by Christians, but for a mainstream youth audience and was released in mainstream theaters.
"We are not calling it a Christian movie, but it is wholesome entertainment with Judeo-Christian values," says Victor Vanden Oever, chief executive officer of Providence Entertainment, which produced and is distributing the movie. The idea is to get church youth groups across the country to buy blocks of tickets and make the moviegoing experience an event like a concert or the Young Messiah Tour, Vanden Oever added.
Many viewers will be attracted by the action. Packed with every extreme sport imaginable, the film includes sequences of surfing, skateboarding, BMX, motocross and rollerblading.
Extreme Days was created by video producer Eric Hannah, known to Christian booksellers for his sports and evangelism videos. He has turned his passion for extreme sports into a feature film.
"This is appealing because of the huge explosion of extreme sports in the last five to 10 years," Vanden Oever said. "Extreme sports is a backdrop for the main story. We have to produce films that are relevant to this generation."
Beyond the fast-paced action, Extreme Days does have a story line. Four friends set out to have the trip of a lifetime. Along the way, they meet a woman, portrayed by Cassidy Rae (Model's Inc.). Cassidy turns out to be a woman with morals and a flare for comedy.
"Kids will be talking about what they see," Vanden Oever declares. "It is not preachy, but it talks about abstinence, faith, forgiveness and reconciliation."
Newsboys, dc Talk and Audio Adrenaline provide the sound track.
Providence Entertainment found earlier success when it distributed Omega Code, which surprised Hollywood producers with a long box-office run. Providence teamed with the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which produced Omega Code, to pre-sell tickets through churches and to Christians across the nation. With Extreme Days, Providence has modeled its marketing approach after the success of Omega Code.
"We need the support of the church," Vanden Oever said. "We want this to be an event."
Steven Lawson has never done an ollie or a kickflip, but he does enjoy riding his 6-year-old niece's scooter. A veteran journalist based in California, he recently edited Stomping Out Depression (Regal), a book for youth by Neil T. Anderson and Dave Park.
For more information, write to Steve Shippy, 777 Skateboards, 620 Camino De Los Mares, Suite 452, San Clemente, CA 92673; or visit them online at 777skateboards.com or Zooministries.com; or call (949) 443-5494.
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