By ROSS JOHNSON
DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) - For Brad Hardin, skateboarding comes as naturally as walking. He's been doing it since he was 4 years old.
So when the annual skateboarding competition in Lexington's Woodland Park rolled around, Brad rolled up with his board and won first place in the advanced level competition.
Brad beat more than 85 other skateboarders in the Cosmic Invasion skateboard competition, held in June, to celebrate National Go Skateboarding Day.
Skateboarders get two 60-second runs through the course, a concrete park with ramps, pipes and rails. With only a minute to perform, skaters try to show off their best tricks without wiping out.
"You don't mess around. If you mess up, you just keep going," says Brad.
Now 16, Brad learned that he loved skateboarding at a young age.
"My grandpa got me one (a skateboard) at a yard sale," Brad says. "So I started rolling around with it."
Though he skates effortlessly now, Brad had to start somewhere.
"When he was little, he couldn't stand on it at first," says Cecil Hardin, Brad's father. "He used to sit on it and ride down the driveway."
Brad has come a long way since those days, demonstrating his skill by grabbing his skateboard and casually - as if it were a normal way of descending stairs - hurtling down several steps from the walkway of his house to the street below. Once on the street, Brad begins circling the pavement, performing kickflips and ollies.
Twelve years after he started, Brad finds that skateboarding - in some fashion - now takes up most of his time.
"It's addicting," says Brad, who spends hours each day practicing or hanging out at the Sirimongkhon Skateshop, a haven for Danville skaters. "It's like walking to me."
He had a pivotal role in the creation of the skatepark now in Danville's Millennium Park, an undertaking that took years but eventually gave area skaters a place of their own to practice.
Hardin collected signatures for a petition to build the skatepark, and once the time came, even helped test out potential equipment for the park.
Skateboarding is obviously more than just a hobby for Brad.
He plans to make his passion into a lucrative career, and hopes his win at Cosmic Invasion acts as a springboard to a company sponsorship.
Right now, his dad says, Brad's trademark red trucker hats from Ranger Boats in Arkansas are the closest thing he has to a sponsorship.
"You see that hat, you know it's Brad," says Cecil Hardin.
Brad hopes to land a place in the Tampa Am, a competition held every January at the renowned Skatepark of Tampa.
If you do well at the Tampa Am, Brad says, "You're set for life."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)