The pegs of a BMX bike protest their slide down a metal rail with golden orange sparks. Metal music blares at adrenaline- releasing levels, and most of the walls are covered with graffiti. These are his walls. Sweat stains in dark gray on his T-shirt that hangs loosely over black jeans and skateboarding shoes. His face glistens with sweat and is crowned by a smile when nearly inverted on a quarter pipe. This is his playground, his therapy, his life. As the sparks fly, “Sikes Houlahan” is walking through the labyrinth-like landscape of Evolution Skate Park at the corner of Navarre Road and Cleveland Avenue in Canton. He’s heading for another ramp, another trick, another rebellion against the fear that would paralyze most “normal” people when confronted so abruptly with punishing concrete. “Sikes” — real name: Allan Curtice — is shredding every surface the large indoor skate paradise has to offer. He’s focused and landing tricks on his skateboard that draw the applause of teenagers mostly seated on bikes or standing on scooters. Clearly, Sikes has the attention and respect of those at the park. The respect is paid not just because of his skilled skating, but because Sikes is a good person. “Most people skate for themselves,” said Justin Carl, owner and manager of Evolution. “Sikes reaches out to the insecure [kids],” he explained, adding that when Sikes sees a novice skater struggling or sitting off to the side, he “gets the kids up and asks, ‘Want to learn to ollie?’” Carl will be out front in the shop area, “handling business stuff,” while kids are “getting taught to kickflip out back” by Sikes. While official lessons run into the mid- $20s per hour, Sikes is handing out lessons and encouragement for free. Or, if you catch him outside of the park, he might be so bold as to charge $10 per hour, which is “just about enough to cover my [skateboarding] costs,” he said. But what he offers is more than just coaching and skating. Tiffany Marsh, of Bliss Studio and Gallery, has her son take lessons from Sikes and says: “It’s made such a huge difference in my son’s life.” ￼￼￼But no matter his goodwill, the financial realities of pursuing his passion face Sikes on a daily basis. A week before the interview he’d cracked his board and couldn’t skate for seven days, a lifetime for a fanatic skater, until Carl fronted a board. The average board costs $180, not to mention shoes, park fees, and — if he can stack enough cash — the skate videos practically required to get the attention of skate companies looking to sponsor. Make no mistake about it, Sikes is in Evolution nearly every day for the love of it, but he’s also there trying to get paid to do what he loves. For the last three years, Sikes has been a man on a mission, working daily to improve his skating and economic station. Currently, he works a regular job, is going for his GED, and is saving every dime he can for a car. Now 21, he lives with a great-uncle who took him in when Sikes was 17 and had been kicked out of his home for “partying too much.” Being asked to leave home marked the end of a rambling childhood that saw Sikes live in a half-dozen different cites. Saying, “That wasn’t the real me,” Sikes sought a path away from the drinking and smoking and dove, literally, onto many a concrete floor and, metaphorically, into a sport he’s been pursuing for 16 years. Behind the counter filled with wheels and skateboard parts, Carl speaks about Sikes’ goal of becoming a sponsored rider. With his cousin encouragingly yelling, “No balls!” and exchanging middle fingers across the “Flow Room” at Evolution, Sikes shakes off a week of rust and tries 16 times before landing a difficult “backside kickflip over the hip.” He concludes, saying of his skating, “It’s the only thing that keeps me going.” If you watch him skate, it’s plain to see he wants it. Bad.