- Matthew Thorsen
- John Van Hazinga
BURLINGTON - Burlington skateboard enthusiast and Ridin High Skate Shop owner John Van Hazinga remains in serious but stable condition at Fletcher Allen Health Care after suffering a high-speed accident on Route 108 two weeks ago.
Van Hazinga, 29, known amongst friends and fellow skaters as "Big John," was critically injured July 12 while leading a group of experienced skateboarders down the mountain road near Smugglers' Notch as part of a weekly group ride known as "Thrashin' Thursday." Van Hazinga, who was profiled in the July 4 issue of Seven Days ["One Helluva Ride"], was riding a new longboard specifically designed for high-speed downhill cruising when his wheels began to wobble, sending him into the air and causing him serious head trauma. Van Hazinga was wearing pads, gloves and a helmet at the time of his accident.
Since then, Van Hazinga's oldest sister, Rebecca, has been maintaining a detailed daily blog about her brother's medical condition. At times, the news has been dire - a July 18 posting quoted a hospital neurosurgeon, who referred to Van Hazinga's brain as "hamburgered." As of press time, he remained in a coma, though his intracranial pressure was dropping, a positive sign. According to reports from Rebecca, Van Hazinga will likely have a long, slow recovery, though she admits it's too soon to predict anything.
Despite this accident, and another one in Burlington only a week earlier, Van Hazinga's friends and fellow skaters are asking the community to focus on skateboarding's positive aspects rather than its inherent risks.
"Every day I go out skating now, I'm skating for John," says Kaitlyn Whalen, assistant manager at Ridin High. "I know when he gets better he'll jump right back on a board . . . I'm sure any negativity about the sport would really upset him."
As Van Hazinga put it in an interview just days before his accident, "If I wanted to be rich, I wouldn't own a skate shop. But I want to live a rich life, so that's why I'm in it."