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Brandon Perea jams it up at the skating rink

15-year-old pro skater tours the country

Pam LeBlanc

Brandon Perea can spin on his head, wearing nothing on his noggin but a beanie, for four or five minutes at a time.

The only after-effect? "When I'm done, my head's kind of burning and my neck gets stiff. And I'm dizzy."

We caught up with the 15-year-old professional jam skater, who was in Austin for an appearance at Playland Skate Center, for coffee at Dominican Joe's. (Actually, Brandon is too young to be hooked on coffee just yet, but I sipped on an iced version while he drank water.)

Besides the head spin, the kid can do a no-handed back flip — all on roller skates.

"I do it on my feet first, then translate that to skates," he says.

The skates are of the four-wheeled variety, not those inline numbers you see at the Veloway. According to Brandon, who specializes in a mashup of disco-style roller skating with modern break dance, quad skates are the way of the future. (And yes, they were also the way of the past, circa the 1970s.)

Brandon travels 40 weeks a year, appearing in front of screaming teens and preteens at roller rinks around the country. He's home-schooled, and when he's not skating he's dancing hip-hop, tearing around a track on his BMX bike or practicing head spins and no-handed back flips.

He also collects Nike shoes. At the moment, he's wearing a pair of black high-tops, one of 35 or so pairs stuffed into his closet.

Brandon looks the part of a skate punk in skinny black Levi jeans, a black Vans baseball cap and a yellow T-shirt with the message "We run this city, Obey" scrawled across the front. But 30 minutes in a coffee shop is a bit much, so he grabs his skates and we go out onto the patio, where he slips them on and starts twirling and flicking his limbs like he's at a rock concert.

It's impressive.

Brandon, who has dark eyes and curly black hair, grew up in Chicago, where his parents laced him into his first pair of skates before he was a year old. He learned to skate at the old Orbit Skate Center there, a high-ceilinged rink where crowds once rolled to the tunes of live organ music.

He loved to race around the track, zipping past teenyboppers and old-timers alike in his mission to outskate everyone in sight. Around the same time, his dad taught him the basics of break dance. (He calls himself a product of hip-hop culture.) Eventually, he put the two skills together and started jam skating, a sort of mashup of the grooving and gliding of disco and the twirling and spinning of break dancing.

"What drew me in was the dancing and popping and locking," he says. "I just like how creative it is and how different it is."

His performances typically include a "battle circle," where anyone can challenge him to a skate-off. Anyone who outskates him, based on audience response, walks away with $10,000. So far, he hasn't lost.

He's not likely to lose anytime soon, either.

He's been perfecting some snazzy new footwork and high-flying "air flare" moves.

"I never thought I'd be doing this at all. It's overwhelming," he says. "When I hear people cheering, that makes me want to do even better."

His moves are done to music, but his routine isn't pre-choreographed. He improvises as he goes, flicking his limbs to music by artists such as Black Eyed Peas and Ne-Yo.

"If there's a big beat, I love skating to it," he says.

So far, he hasn't broken a bone roller skating, but other hobbies take their toll. He fractured a shoulder skateboarding and broke a finger break dancing. A few weeks ago, he scraped a patch of skin the size of an Oreo cookie off his elbow attempting a BMX trick called a spine transfer.

His goal, he says, is to make skating a career.

So far, so good. He's been sponsored by Vanilla Skate Co. since he was 12 and just signed a contract with a modeling agency.

Let's just hope his skull holds up.; 445-3994