Skateboarding Fosters a Can-Do, Not Anti-Authoritarian, Attitude
By Alyce Pearce
When first approaching SolSk8s skateboarding shop, with countless stickers obscuring the door’s view inside, one anticipates the stereotypical scene that won skateboarding its anti-authoritarian reputation: disillusioned teenagers, angry music and a solid dose of attitude. Instead, a greeting of youthful voices and warm smiles rises above the repetitive din of skate trucks slapping and sliding over wood. It’s clear there’s another angle here: a sense of community, camaraderie and fun. Kids exuding confidence that this is their place and owner, André Antoniou (“Monkey”), wants it that way.
SolSk8s, located on SE Ninth St., provides a low-pressure environment where kids can gain confidence in a small, supportive testing ground. Here, kids not only learn or practice moves, they learn two critical life lessons as well. It turns out, this sport that’s growing in popularity inherently nurtures a can-do, get-better mindset, no matter where kids fall on the skills spectrum.
“Skateboarding builds lots of determination. It’s one of the few things where they take some hits. They’re not good at everything,” says Antoniou, a skater for decades, “When kids watch pro skating, they don’t see the side of trying the trick a thousand times, getting really mad–breaking six or seven skate- boards. They don’t really see that until they really get into it–and that’s all you experience.”
Plus, Antoniou says, it provides an increasingly rare sense of belonging for kids. “There’s more camaraderie with the try, try again mentality. When you try the same thing a thousand times and finally land it, everyone’s stoked for you.” New to skateboarding, Callaway Palmer, a High Desert Middle School 7th grader, agrees. He says he showed up to learn, “very determined,” knowing little more than how to push himself around. Was it easy?
No says Callaway. “Nowhere close to how easy I thought it was. It took a lot of confidence. It’s a challenge, but I come every day just to learn new stuff. There’s nothing that’s the same.” Antoniou says this climate of trying over and over, not getting frustrated, wondering what technique to try next and looking at it from more of a scientific perspective helps kids navigate personal challenge.
Palmer adds, “I think skateboarding can really affect your life. Before I got into skating, I’d just sit down on my bed and watch my iPad all day. Skateboarding teaches you how to take a hit, get back up and try it again.”
Encouragement and Inclusion
Meet Joe Valceschini, 25, who started skateboarding at age eight. He’s the passionate coach behind Bend Park and Recreation’s programs. “Skateboarding is so different from any other sport. There’s no right or wrong way to skateboard. I think that is exactly why, for someone who doesn’t get it or doesn’t go with it…it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be good to have it be an enjoyable experience.”
Valceschini believes programs focused on inclusion, self-guided learning, and, most importantly, friends and fun, are keys to hooking kids.
On Introducing Kids to Skateboarding
Scrapes and bruises aside – what IS the best way to introduce kids to skateboarding? As with many sports, the sage advice remains the same: focus on the basics– and the attitude.
“You have to start with learning on a good foundation,” says Antoniou. “We always encourage kids to learn how to get from point A to B–get to their friend’s house on the sidewalk. Don’t put too much pressure onto learning how to ‘ollie’, do a tic flick down the stairs, or getting in a pro contest.”
Thanks to skateboarding’s rising popularity–especially with girls–camps and programs are popping up in Central Oregon that shorten the learning curve and increase the fun factor for newbies.
“There’s a good mix of resources for parents to figure out where their kid ts while not letting their skateboard sit in the closet and gather dust,” says Antoniou. Skateboarding parents like Tim Jones recommend finding parks with the smoothest surface and the fewest crowds.
“Plan on getting to Pondy Two (Ponderosa Park in Bend) early. It can be packed by one o’clock on a weekend,” says Jones. Luckily for Central Oregonians, there are numerous skate parks, lessons and camps to provide a creative outlet in the great outdoors.
Ready to Roll?
If you’re ready to get your grommet truckin’, here’s a run-down of parks and programs in Central Oregon.
Ponderosa Park Newer “Pondy Two” is skateboard-only with a pristine surface. Plan for crowds!
The Pavilion Grommet-friendly with mini- ramps and surfaces for learning pushing, rolling and transitions.
Sisters Skatepark Located by Sisters High School, this well-designed park is friendly for learning to drop in.
Prineville Skatepark Just resurfaced, this early generation park has steep ramps and promising plans for a new Dreamland- designed park soon!
Madras Skatepark Offers a variety of features designed for flow and feel good vibes.
Bend Park and Recreation offers a medley of options for all ages and abilities, including Early Skills Camp, Skate and Swim, and Skate and Paint. Bendparksandrec.org
Bearings Skateboard Academy
Bearings’ kids programs offer a more individual- ized coaching environment, often combining time at their indoor facility with skate parks touring during a typical camp week. Kids get one-on-one help at their Open Skate Saturday morning sessions too. Bearingsskateboardacademy.com
Affordable Good Gear: CO Sk8 Share
For aspiring kids who can’t afford better gear, Heather Kennedy started CO SK8 Share, a non-pro t that collects donations of used boards and equipment and gives them to kids who simply fill out an online application. Rad. Facebook.com/centraloregonsk8share
Alyce Pearce’s day job is with Camp Fire Central Oregon, an inclusive youth non-pro t whose programs are founded on growth mindset principles. campfire.org