NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Lil Wayne showed off his beginner skateboarding skills alongside a group of professional skateboarders Wednesday to mark the opening of the artist's new Trukstop park in his hometown.
The Grammy-winning rapper demonstrated jumps - but didn't always land on his board - while Paul Rodriguez and Theotis Beasley from the Los Angeles area performed kick flips, board slides, hand plants and other higher-level tricks for the crowd at the park located in the Lower 9th Ward, one of the most devastated sections of the city after levees failed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Lil Wayne told The Associated Press he started skating about a year and a half ago when he saw and was impressed by the skating skills of a 9-year-old boy and thought it looked interesting.
"I thought it would be just a hobby, and I thought only people with skills can do it," he said. "When you finally get into it and you learn to like it, you'll quickly learn to love it. It's more than just four wheels and a piece of wood."
The rapper, who turns 30 on Thursday and recently launched a skateboarding-inspired clothing line called Trukfit, said he was excited to share his newfound passion with his hometown.
"I just want to help out my city, help out the people and the kids, give them something to do, something they haven't done before," he said. "It's always good to learn something new."
The new park occupies a building that survived the 2005 flooding. It was constructed using recycled materials, will be run using solar energy and includes all the features skaters love - stairs with rails for sliding, skating embankments and half pipes.
The rapper partnered with Mountain Dew and Glu Agency, a New York-based advertising firm, to launch the new park, which will be open to the public seven days a week, beginning Monday.
"There's such a pent-up demand for this place," said Jamal Henderson, the director of marketing for Mountain Dew. "Young people want to skate, and now they have a destination."
While much of the city has rebounded since Katrina hit, the Lower 9th Ward has been slower to recover. Homes in the neighborhood were pushed off their foundations, and many residents haven't returned. Blocks where homes once stood are empty and overgrown with weeds.
The park will provide a gathering place in that part of the city.
In 2011, Lil Wayne gashed his head while skateboarding at a St. Louis-area skateboard park. The accident required stitches and left a scar over his left eye, but it didn't dampen his enthusiasm. He told those gathered for the park's launch that he knows he won't land every trick, but the rush comes from trying.