The day was March 1, 2007, and Peter Vaughn walked into the dentist like any other appointment. It was your routine check-up to make sure this seventh grader wasn’t eating too much candy.
During the appointment, his mother got a call that caused the appointment to end quickly. Their garage had caught fire and smoke damaged the house significantly. His brand new BMX bike and skateboard were burned beyond use. The only thing to make it out of the fire was a run of the mill Razor scooter. Little did Vaughn know that this scooter would create a lifelong passion.
“It was something Peter immediately took to and seemed to go above and beyond. Any fulfillment sought by him through sports, like basketball, soccer and baseball definitely didn’t do the trick in this way,” said Heidi Haugland, Vaughn’s mother.
Vaughn used the scooter initially as a simple form of transportation, but soon he began to learn tricks.
“The first trick for any scooter rider is the tail whip and it took me around two to three weeks to land it,” Vaughn said.
Professional scooter rider Brandon Kilbury, who has performed for Nitro Circus, grew up in the same town as Vaughn remembers watching him progress.
“I can’t remember the first time we actually rode together or how old we were. I know there was a time when I came home on vacation and Peter was suddenly clearing boxes, throwing supermans and flips. It was awesome because it seemed to come out of nowhere,” Kilbury said.
Vaughn and Kilbury’s styles of riding are so similar that people have mentioned it to Vaughn more times than he can remember. Kilbury even agrees with them.
“There have been times editing Talent videos where I’m watching a clip of Peter thinking ‘I don’t remember doing that trick,’ before I realize that I’m watching Peter and not myself,” he said.
One of Vaughn’s scooter buddies, Tyler Robtoy, thought it was somewhat funny when he started to take things seriously.
“I was surprised when he started to really get into it. But then again, he’s always been really good at it,” Robtoy said.
Now you may think that Vaughn rides on your basic Razor scooter that can be bought from any Wal-Mart, but it isn’t. With all the custom parts he has on it, he has more than $500 invested.
“Not too long ago, there wasn’t a difference. There was just the generic scooter that everyone rode on. The main difference now is the quality of the product,” Vaughn said.
Robtoy even had his own experience of them modifying parts before aftermarket pieces became available.
“Part of the fun of scootering was building your own scooter. You had to bolt the folding mechanism on it or it would fold up when you landed too hard. You had to hot glue the center of the wheels because they were plastic. They weren’t metal like they are now,” Robtoy said.
Vaughn started filming some of his newer tricks and putting them onto YouTube and over various scooter forums that resulted in a sponsorship from VertX. Unfortunately the sponsor broke up and left him stranded.
“A few months after I got on the VertX team, which was a new team to begin with, it was a new company that was up and coming. The managers quit just out of the blue and no one of the team riders knew who to contact or what the hell was going on with the team,” Vaughn said.
Although he was out a sponsor, Vaughn didn’t stop riding. He didn’t believe that you need a sponsor to pursue a passion.
“In the future, I’ll probably look for a sponsorship, but I want to do it when I can ride consistently and can put out material for them so I’m helping them while they’re helping me,” he said.
Vaughn hasn’t spent the past eight years as a scooter rider without injury. Injury is all part of the reward, Vaughn believes. His first injury happened during his senior year of high school at the Essex skate park.
“I chipped my front tooth in half one time. I was hopping onto a thin box and that was taller than normal, but I just went for it. My front wheel got caught and I went straight to my face without any time to react at all,” Vaughn said.
“I tried to find the other half so they could put it back on. But just after I face planted, a skateboarder grinded over it and just shredded my tooth to pieces.”
Of course the dentist fixed it right away, but his mother found out later through a Facebook picture.
But lately he has been dealing with an even bigger pain; his knee.
“I’ve been to countless physical therapists and a bunch of doctors, but none of them have really helped. For a while I’d just given up on it completely and I was doing my own thing hoping it would go away, but I’ve come to the realization that I definitely need to take a break from scootering all together and just let it heal naturally,” Vaughn said.
He is looking into an operation that could potentially heal his knee and Vaughn believes that he should take three months off to let it heal. His mother on the other hand believes double that time would be even better.
“This injury doesn’t stop him. It is so unfortunate; however, Peter perseveres and refuses to believe this will be a permanent issue. Knee issues run in the family starting with his grandfather, my brothers and myself. I do hope this will heal for him once he hangs up the scooter,” Haugland said.
Even with his knee problems, Vaughn keeps on scootering to become even better and come up with tricks that look picture perfect. Matt McMahon, who has filmed many videos for Vaughn and also rides, agrees that practice makes perfect.
“When he does a trick you can tell he has done it over 100 times before because it looks so smooth and he makes any trick on a scooter look easy until you step on one, and his passion for the sport really makes it an art when he does it,” McMahon said.
At the beginning of Vaughn’s senior year at Castleton he decided to travel to skate parks all along the East coast to get himself out there again.
“Basically I got sick of the typical college weekend, which is hanging out with a group of friends and drinking which is great, but after doing that for three years straight and it being my senior year, I wanted to do something different,” Vaughn said.
For the first couple of trips Vaughn’s mother was unaware of the whole escapade.
“I was full of questions about what prompted him to go alone, where he slept, why he didn’t tell me and such, however, I do know that Peter is a level headed young man, cautious, and I do trust his instincts,” Haugland said.
“I was happy Peter was able to get away and enjoy himself and to know that scootering is his true passion.”
Vaughn now routinely checks in with his mother to make sure that he is being safe and taking care of himself.
”Peter wasn’t particularly receptive to this at first, as he’s an adult and felt this was his thing. I asked that he check in once settled in his car and to let me or a family member know where he was parked to sleep.”
So far he has traveled alone to Washington D.C., Hampton Beach, Boston, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, Philadelphia and New York City.
“I’ve been to New York City before, but going alone is a totally new experience. I like going alone because there’s just no direction. It’s just doing whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. I structure my weekends pretty well,” Vaughn said.
He doesn’t have classes on Fridays and it’s the only way these trips have been made possible.
“I leave Thursday nights; Friday is my scooter day when I go to the skate park I’ve picked out. Saturday is kind of my adventure day and then I drive home later that day. If I’m going to Boston or NYC I do the whole tourist thing and when I was in Hampton I went to the beach for the whole day,” he said.
On each trip, Vaughn saves his money by sleeping in his car and eats snacks that he packed.
“I’ve actually bathed in the ocean. I went to the skate park on a Friday and that night I took shampoo and soap into the ocean and washed myself off in the waves,” Vaughn said.
While in New York City, Vaughn participated in the NYC Street Jam that hundreds of other scooter riders participated in. Vaughn said it was one of the best experiences of his life.
“When we were going from spot to spot, we were just riding in hordes through the busy streets of New York. Stopping traffic, running red lights in the middle of the road. People were doing tricks off taxis and ripping the doors open as they rode by. It was a great feeling riding with people who do the same thing that I do,” he said.
Although the unsponsored Vaughn believes that a strict career of being a professional rider is unlikely, with a little luck, he has the potential to become one.
Kilbury is a firm believer that Vaughn has what it takes to take it to the next step.
“I think it’s especially difficult in our area for extreme sports because of the severe shortage of spots to ride. Seeing other people from Vermont actually progressing makes it all seem less daunting.”