Carving a niche

It’s safe to say that 11-year-old Madi Thomas has found her niche and her love. The quiet, athletic Thomas, the daughter of Mike and Michelle Thomas of Kettle Falls, is dedicated to becoming the best skateboarder she can be.At this juncture of her “career,” it’s obvious that the diminutive youngster has been dogged in her pursuit of an ultimate goal—status as a professional skateboarder.Madi is a young lady of few words, but this 4-foot-5, 67-pounder has no trouble talking about a sport that pretty much consumes her morning, noon and evening at the Kettle Falls Skate Park.“It’s just fun to do,” Madi says between a little carving on the concrete at Kettle Falls. “I want to be as good as I can be.”It’s obvious that Madi dominates her Kettle Falls skateboard environment. She is as smooth on one of her numerous skateboards as she is committed and dedicated by her sport. After all, this sprite has goals and ambitions. There is no reason she won’t be able to qualify for the X Games and pick up a professional sponsorship at some point in the not too distant future.She grinds a few rails, pulls off a couple of kickflips, rolls through a backside and stops in front of her parents. Madi likes to let her skill on a skateboard do the talking.Her father Mike watches his daughter negotiate the half-pipe and adds that “I think Madi has a natural ability for the sport, but she also works hard at it….she has a comfort level that you don’t see out of kids this age…and Madi has style. She skates with a lot of confidence.”It’s unusual to find someone so young so motivated. But Madi loves what she does and knows that it’s all about repetitions. You’ve got to put in the time. “In the summer, she is pretty much here all day long,” says her mom, Michelle. “She loves skating with her friends and getting better…she never seems to get bored with it.”Not even a teenager yet, Madi has already drawn the interest of the Girls’ Riders’ Organization, Inc. (GRO). She is a member of the GRO team, an organization charged with inspiring, educating and supporting girls involved in action sports.Madi, whose profile can be found on the GRO website, and who can be seen in action on YouTube, is sponsored currently by Pyramid Skate & Screen in Post Falls, Idaho and by Riggz Indoor Skatepark in Spokane.Madi, with her smooth, effortless style and aversion to hitting the concrete (so, who wants to fall?), competed last month in Los Angeles and finished sixth in her intermediate division. She was easily the youngest skater in the competition and was competing against women in their 20s. Yes, she more than held her own.On August 15-16, she competes in the Oregon Bifecta near Portland. Competing for the most part against boys and men“That will be a great environment for her,” Mike says of another big event that like the California competition, features a women’s division.For the most part, Madi, who has been skateboarding since 2008, competes against the boys—and men.Her best buds at the Kettle Falls park are boys—her friends Tanner and Tyler come to mind.“We started skating at the same time,” Madi says of Tanner.Michelle Thomas, who played a major roll in getting the Kettle Falls Skatepark off the drawing board and into the ranks’ of reality, says that Madi and Tanner are both competitive with each other and supportive.“They push each other and are competitive with each other,” Michelle says, adding that “they are also friends and very good for each other.”“Tanner and I try to learn new things,” Madi adds. The youngster is a student of her sport. Count on the fact that she was glued to the recent X Games boarding. “She is unique, I think, in that a lot of kids we see in competitions are about winning that prize…Madi is of the opinion that when she competes with people better than she is, it makes her better,” Michelle says.Madi smiles at the complements from her mom and adds, with some prodding: “I guess I pride myself on my consistency and staying on the board.”Madi may not say it in so many words, but she appreciates her family’s support of the passion and the pursuit. Mother Michelle and father Mike have both done more than their share to see that their daughter has a quality place to skate. There is even a half-pipe and a rail in the family’s basement at home.“I’d like to finish that basement sometime,” Mike says with a smile. Basement half-pipeDon’t count on that happening anytime soon. After all, the Kettle Falls Skatepark, which was designed and built by William Emfinger of Rice, is a great place to hone a demanding skill set, but this is four-season country. In the winter, Madi needs that half-pipe and rail in the Thomas home. “I don’t want my dad to finish it,” Madi says of the family basement. As good as she is, dad may consider expanding the basement skate park—not dismantling it.