By Jared Ritz
Skating at a downtown parking lot with nearly a dozen skateboarders in the area, a young man gets ready for a trick. He squats down, bending his knees, ready to pop.
Then it happens.
The board flips sideways and remains horizontal with the ground, completing full 360-degree turns in two separate ways. As he easily lands and glides away, everyone there knows that he is the best; everyone, that is, except for him.
"It's kind of flattering, but I don't know if I am the best," the skater says.
Brian Cecil, a recent Billings transplant, is regarded by many in the local skateboarding commmunity as the No. 1 skateboarder in town.
"That's what's kind of cool about skating," he said. "It's hard to say who's the best."
The trick described above, the 360-flip, is commonly known as one of the toughest to execute, one Cecil said is among his favorites. He's quick to add that he doesn't think it's anything that special.
"They're not too difficult after you learn how. Once you get 'em, you got 'em," Cecil said.
That statement likely would stupify and embolden skateboarders who've tried for years to do the same.
Cecil is a different commodity in Havre. Tall and thin with shaggy brown hair and wearing baggy slacks and a plain T-shirt, he's a 19-year-old skateboarder in a town where the overwhelming majority of skateboarders are five years his junior.
Some around the community consider him and other skateboarders a nuisance. Others call him a role model.
"He influences a lot of the other kids in skating," said Chris Bramlett, 16, who is president of the Havre Skateboarding Association and is among those who say Cecil is the best in town.
Less than two weeks ago, Cecil and three friends were issued tickets for criminal trespassing for skateboarding at a downtown business.
Although not a new thing in Havre police respond when they get complaints from business owners the ticket came as a surprise to Cecil.
It could have presented a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine, but Cecil only had to pay a $45 surcharge. A jail sentence was deferred, he said, meaning if he gets ticketed again, he may have to pay a fine and possibly go to jail.
With this looming over him, Cecil doesn't plan to quit skating entirely, but is worried about the consequences.
"The only solution is not to skate, and that just sucks," Cecil said. "There needs to be someplace for us to go. "
That place, Cecil and others believe, may come in the form of a community skate park, which has been a topic of discussion among city officials lately. A petition drive collected about 1,400 signatures supporting the skate park's creation. Various local service organizations have pledged money to the project. Havre Mayor Bob Rice made it one of the key issues of his campaign last year.
Cecil is excited about the possibility of it being built in Havre.
"I wish there was a skate park, somewhere we could have fun and not get kicked out," he said.
He thinks the park would stop kids from skating downtown, ending the worries of some downtown business owners about damage to their property, and their calls to police to intervene.
"There is vandalism when you skate," Cecil admitted, "but that is why they should make a skate park."
Havre has no skating spots around town that could compete for skateboarders' attention once a park, with all its quarter-pipes and fun boxes, has been built, he added.
Cecil's work schedule at the Northern Montana Care Center makes attending meetings for the park difficult, but he said he plans to get more involved in the future, and hopefully make the process run a little faster.
For now, Cecil plans to work and skateboard as much as possible. He feels the difficulty of his sport is what makes it so intriguing, and ultimately so enjoyable.
"It's so challenging to learn new tricks, and so much fun," he said. "Two years from now, I will be learning lots of new, different tricks, and will be having that much more fun."
He added that he'll skate "probably till I get old and can't physically. Maybe till I break my leg or something."