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IOWA CITY — Approaching a massive railing down a flight of eight stairs, Jonah Marcussen skids to a halt just before attempting the biggest rail he has ever skated.
Contemplating the possible outcomes of this stunt, Marcussen is filled with fear. With determination in his eyes, he advances to the daunting obstacle.
Every aspiring skater at the park has their eyes on the Iowa City West junior as he flies into the air and lands with the front of his board grinding down the railing. He falls short of success and lands in a harrowing crash.
“Wow, that was scary,” Marcussen said.
Not phased by his overwhelming feeling of angst, Marcussen runs back up the stairs to take another shot. Still, after countless wipeouts, he is determined not to give up. Another attempt, landing beautifully on the rail and executing a flawless finish, Marcussen is greeted by a round of applause and fist bumps all around.
His drive and dedication inspires the young boys ogling at his performance. Marcussen, filled with the sense of determination, had overcome his fears once again and his day at the park ended in an invigorating sense of pride.
Marcussen has been skateboarding for around four years. Despite being introduced to it at the age of six by his father, he got into it at the age of 12 after seeing his stepbrother and his friends skating. Marcussen explained he loves skateboarding so much because it never fails to put him in a better mood.
“It makes me feel great, it makes me feel worth something,” he said. “It’s the reason I’m still here today.”
Although Marcussen skateboards now out of passion, he first got into it for another reason. He started having family problems during junior high and used skating as a distraction from his harsh reality.
“No other sport or anyone or anything in my life at that time was really helping me, I kinda used skateboarding as an escape from my family and something that could make me happy,” he said.
He really started progressing when he was at his lowest state of depression, and it helped boost his mental state. Once he even ran away from family home to his second home — the Iowa City skatepark. Marcussen spent the night at the park and learned new tricks all day.
Now, two years later, it’s taken over Marcussen’s life.
“I’m constantly wanting to learn more and more tricks. It’s kind of an obsession, I’m addicted,” he said.
He spends 8 to 12 hours every weekend dedicating his time into practicing and learning new tricks. Marcussen is hoping to continue to skate in the future.
“My biggest goals for the future is to definitely get noticed and to do something in skateboarding,” he said.
He is making progress with his first goal. He is the only sponsored skater at West High School, striking a deal with a skate shop in Cedar Rapids called Eduskate. Marcussen’s sponsor provides him with shipments of free goods in return for the promotion of their business. In order to get a sponsor, you must film yourself skateboarding and send out the tape to various companies.
“It’s pretty much like auditioning for choir and if you’re good enough, you’ll get sponsored,” he said.
Skateboarding also has introduced Marcussen to new people, such as senior Kaylub Ripperton. They’ve known each other for about a year-and-a-half and skateboarding is a big part of their friendship.
“He’s helped spark my joy for skateboarding,” Ripperton said. “I started to (skateboard) a while ago, but never really got into it until I started hanging out with Jonah. From then on it really took off.”
He also said it’s really entertaining to watch Marcussen because he such an inspiration.
Marcussen’s mother, Kim Schulz, also is a big supporter.
“It makes him happy so it’s definitely something I encourage, like I’ll say why don’t you get some skateboarding in before you get started on homework,” she said.
She recalled watching Marcussen as a young boy and seeing him do tricks she never thought could be possible.
“He wanted to do things that very challenging and he developed an incredible perseverance to want to get a trick and just keep going and going,” she said. “It has been amazing to watch him progress over the years ... he’s doing things I would’ve never imagined.”
Schulz said skateboarding is a great source of self confidence for Marcussen.
“It helps him get a better outlook on life and where he fits into that,” she said.
Schulz also supports his skateboarding because it’s a good way for him to cope.
“It helps him to quiet his mind, all of the chaos in the world, the stress of school, whatever might be weighing on him, he’s got to set that aside to focus,” she said. “It’s an outlet that allows him to process and sort through his feelings.
“If he’s had a hard day, he finds escape in that quiet of the mind.”