Dedicated skateboarders are ripping it in a Langford warehouse, helping to shine daylight on what has traditionally been seen as an underground sport.
The first facility of its kind on the Island, SideStep Skateboarding School started two years ago with some homemade ramps in a Langford school lacrosse box. A year ago, the school opened its own indoor facility in a two-bay space in a Dunford Avenue warehouse.
“Seeing as skateboarding is looked down on as a counter-culture sport, I thought it would be great to give the young kids who are getting into skateboarding somewhere they could go and learn to skateboard in a safe and monitored facility,” says lifelong skater Steve Munro, 32.
“When I was young, learning how to skateboard, there was nowhere really for us to go. We were too intimidated to go to the skate park and hang with the big guys. So we would just skateboard on the streets. It’s dangerous and you don’t really learn much.”
Munro was working in a board shop when he met Debbie Holmes, 44, whose interest in boarding was piqued when her two young boys wanted to take it up.
After operating the school outdoors and then renting some indoor school space, Holmes approached Seaparc in Sooke about covering its skateboard park to protect skaters from the elements.
“Basically, they said come up with $100,000 and we’ll match you. I said, for $100,000, I can go build my own park. So then I ended up buying this building,” Munro said.
Of course, it was a little more complicated than outfitting the warehouse with ramps and street-style rails. It also meant breaking all kinds of regulatory ground, from zoning to insurance.
Munro also operates Regular Underground — a skate shop on the upper level, above the school — with Curtis Matthias, 27.
The school, which is on the main level, has about 400 to 500 members — the majority between eight and 12 years of age, Munro said. Five is the minimum age.
The school has five coaches and offers individual and group lessons as well as drop-in hours. Holmes also has started a competitive school program.
Skateboarding is a highly individual sport with each skater developing his or her own style, but it helps to learn the basics such as balance, foot-positioning and basic pushing techniques, Holmes said.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are. The kids don’t have to worry if they’re good enough,” Munro said. “Here they can spotlight their skills.”
“What we’ve done here is have this nice place where there’s these really skilful riders you can hang out with and realize they are just people too,” he said.
“The atmosphere here is there’s a dad or a mom watching their son skateboard or the dad’s trying, too.”
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