The Little Lord of Dogtown

"My hair is waving and sometimes it gets in my face," Kiko says. "Then you have to do some airs, then some grinds and some rock & rolls. And then you come out of the bowl and everyone's clapping. It's a really good feeling."

Kiko Francisco is one of the countless skateboarders of all ages and skill levels who risk luck and limbs tackling the Venice Beach Skate Park. On a recent day, spectators line up to watch skaters pass through the intricate concrete maze, with its series of connected bowls. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, until this little kid with dark-brown hair streaming out from under his helmet zips through, dazzling the crowd with injury-defying feats, flying several feet out of the concrete abyss and diving down for more.

Then he pops up from the depths of the deep end of the big bowl and stands for 30 seconds, clasping his skateboard like a carpenter holds a hammer. He nonchalantly walks over to a bench and sits next to his coach and dad, Joe, and chomps Cheetos, which end up all over his face.

At 8 years old, Kiko is the Little Lord of Dogtown.

Kiko says he isn't intimidated by the daunting deep end in the skate park — not even the first time he jumped in: "I wasn't that scared because I had experience of going into pools already. I started skateboarding when I was 5 and I would go out in the yard with my dad and he told me to try it and I tried it and I got better and better and I practiced."

Indeed, at the recent annual Venice Beach skate contest, Kiko took sixth place overall — in competition with adult skaters.

Now this third-grader is rubbing shoulders with the skateboarder elite. When Kiko first saw the documentary film Dogtown and Z-Boys, produced and directed by Stacy Peralta and featuring other Z-Boys, including Tony Alva, he recognized the lineup. "There's Tony," he said. "That's Stacy."

Outside of skating, Kiko is into art, math and language arts in his hometown, Carson. The only thing he says he likes better than skateboarding? Hot dogs.

Weekdays, he practices indoors at Vans in Orange County and outdoors at the Cove skate park in Santa Monica. Weekends are for Venice Beach.

Asked by the Weekly if he has any companies endorsing him, Kiko replies: "What's endorsing?"

He will know soon enough, for he is becoming a hot commodity — and he does have four sponsors already: Flyaway Helmets and Creeper Trucks, plus Santa Monica Airlines, which buys his boards, and Maui & Sons, which loads him up with shirts, wheels, kneepads and any other skate-hero accessories. Maybe someone should make a Kiko teddy bear.

Southern California certainly has an abundance of tykes who seem like budding skateboard stars, kids like Asher Bradshaw, age 6, whose toothless grin and smooth moves have made him justifiably popular on YouTube.

But Kiko has something extra — a "being there" wisdom combined with an innocent charisma that melts into the sidewalk.

Kiko says he would like to turn pro someday. For now, it's all about getting better. "It's not very easy when you learn a new trick," he says. "When you learn new tricks, it's like a whole new trick."

Socrates couldn't have said it better.

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