Our View: Local skate community leads by example
"Ka-chuk, ka-chuck kachukkachuckkachuk…. KA ka-chuk ka-chuk kachuckkachuck"
If that rattling noise over sidewalk blocks is all you know about skateboarding, we want to use International Go Skateboarding Day 2016 to expose you to some other sounds associated with skateboarding.
Words like brotherhood, perseverance, creativity, acceptance, selflessness, grace.
"Every race is involved, and no one's hating on you because of the color of your skin or your religion or anything like that. If you're on a skateboard, you're on a skateboard. That's all that matters. The same with BMX and scooters, even though I might not favor those," said Collin Gaul, a member of Keep Pushing Forward, a nonprofit started by area skaters to improve the Silver Lake skatepark.
Society could take some notes.
When Gaul got back into skating, he also reprised his role providing lessons to young skaters. After talking with his students and fellow skaters about how beat-up the park's decade-old, original metal box was, Gaul and a pupil's mother started talking about solutions. Contacting the city as individuals yielded limited results, so they decided to get organized and Keep Pushing Forward was born.
Through coordination with Mike Nigbur, the city's head of parks and forestry, they got a new cement box built. Now in possession of enough funding for detailed park expansion plans, the group is seeking input from the city's skate park users.
"To me, this place is a home, and I kind of just like keeping things tidy around my actual house, so I just brought that to here. I want to keep this place going and get the expansion going," said Cory Distad, a daily fixture at the park and its unofficial caretaker.
Distad sweeps, picks up litter and acts as a lost-and-found for shirts, backpacks and other possessions left behind. It's part of how he and Gaul keep the culture alive. They lead by example and teach younger skaters to take turns and give back.
"That's what we do. We all take care of each other," Gaul said as he motioned toward two younger skaters who were wearing his and Distad's old shoes and skating hand-me-down boards. "We're a brotherhood of friends. We look out for each other, we teach each other, we help each other. That's what the skateboarding community is all about."
"For me, I used to look up to Collin and the older generation, and a lot of them have moved away now," Distad said. "Now I just kind of look at myself as kind of, kids looking up to me how I used to look up at Collin and his generation. Just kind of give the kids, like, hey, he's really good, I want to be someone to look up to."
With International Go Skateboarding Day is Tuesday, the sidewalk block ka-chucking will crescendo. We hope you'll join us in celebrating rather than chastising. Skateboarding isn't a nuisance. It's pointless fun in the face of purpose-obsessed capitalism. Resistance to it comes in both physical and attitudinal ways. Those knobs on handrails and ledges around the city? They're only there to stop skaters.
That resistance just fuels perseverance, though.
So, before calling the police or security when you see someone getting free in Mayo Clinic's concrete jungle, think about giving them a surf's up sign or a hearty cry of "skate or die." Anything to let them know that you, too, want to keep the stoke alive.