Last year’s lack of ice on the Powell River Recreation Complex rink surface was a boon to skateboarders, but this year there is no comparable opportunity for the growing skateboarding community.
Townskate owner Tim Ladner said last year, he was able to provide programs all through the winter because of the availability of a facility.
“We were lucky the ice was off the rink; we had free reign, so we had lessons and drop-ins,” said Ladner. “The lessons were for teaching beginners. It was really positive. I had three volunteers from the high school and we’d teach kids the basics of skateboarding.
“The problem we have with our current park is that it is really compact and partly outdated. It’s not really conducive to beginners, so people have a hard time learning. When we got to use the indoor facility, we had flat, smooth ground, which I’ve never had in Powell River before.”
Ladner said with last year’s opportunity came good attendance. He said lessons were often booked up with 12 to 15 participants at a time. Drop-ins were held every Thursday night, with the record being between 40 and 50 skateboarders. Whole families came out and Ladner said he had to turn away skaters a couple of times.
The sessions were controlled and supervised, and people of all ages and abilities showed up, according to Ladner. He had a bunch of ramps built by Vancouver Island University that he was able to use, which are now in storage.
“With a big space like that, we could have all of those people in the same space, riding, whereas if we were at the park, we’d be bumping into each other,” said Ladner.
He said there appears to be a significant demand in the qathet region for skateboarding.
“A lot of parents have been coming up to me and they keep asking when I’m going to start back up again,” said Ladner.
However, with the ice back on the rink, he does not have the indoor space in which to conduct lessons and sessions.
He has reached out to School District 47, and the Powell River Sports and Fitness Society, which operates the tennis centre and seemed to Ladner to be a natural fit, because it’s indoors, covered and has a concrete floor.
“In their eyes it wasn’t conducive,” said Ladner.
He said the former Oceanview school has a gymnasium but having wheels on the floor was a non-starter.
Ladner said the school district was receptive to the prospect of accommodating skateboarders but he doesn’t think available space is big enough. He said there was discussion about running programs outside on school district ground, which is great in the spring, summer and fall, but through the rainy months, there really isn’t anything.
Multiple user groups
“There are no other indoor facilities suitable for our purposes,” said Ladner. “I don’t think we are the only user group. There’s roller derby, dodgeball – all kinds of programs you could run. It’s not like we’re the only ones in this situation. We’re just trying to find anything we can.”
Ladner said skateboarding is growing, as evidenced by it becoming an Olympic event in Tokyo.
“It’s unbelievable what they accomplished at those games, and what they demonstrated to the world regarding the legitimacy of skateboarding,” he added.
He said skateboarding, as evidenced by some very young medalists at the Olympics, can be something young people can become proficient at, but the possibility for what can be accomplished and learned is infinite.
A large part of the attraction for skateboarding is community, according to Ladner. While it can be done solo, it’s always more fun with friends.
“In these COVID-19 times, everyone is cooped up with their devices, so being able to get out and connect with people, humans need it,” said Ladner. “If you see a skateboarder anywhere, you have a bond and there is a camaraderie with them.”
In terms of facilities currently available for skateboarding, there is the park at Powell River Recreation Complex, and he’s heard that Tla’amin Nation is interested in building a park. There are also some individuals who have private ramps around the area.
“People are taking matters into their own hands because they have tried all of the traditional avenues; they are sick of it and going out on their own.” said Ladner. “There are a few nice, smooth areas in town that people are using. People can build their own obstacles fairly easily. You can build a really simple skatepark that is conducive to all levels of skateboarders.”
Ladner said with the current park, somebody could skate the bowl their whole life and never get to a competitive level.
“It doesn’t have the proper transition or obstacles,” said Ladner. “I would like to see something where kids can grow and learn, where they could go to a high competition level if they choose to do so. The community would benefit immensely from a new park, or an expansion of our existing one that could accommodate more people – all levels, from beginner to expert.”
Ladner said there are a couple of ex-professional skaters in town. There is a very strong female contingent, which is really positive, he added.
“It’s athletic, it’s social, it’s individual if you want it, it’s self-driven and you can take it as far as you want,” said Ladner.
He said he would like to offer more lessons if a suitable facility could be found. He said instruction is great to help beginners learn the fundamentals and pursue the sport safely.
“There are calculated risks so it’s good to have somebody walk you through the initial steps,” said Ladner. “Skateboarders can learn to take it one step at a time, learn about the appropriate safety gear. Getting set up properly is essential.”
Ladner said skateboarding is a great lifestyle and a challenging sport.
“Once it’s in your blood, it never goes away,” he added.
The object now is to update the skateboard park.
“We want to make it safe and able to accommodate lots of people,” said Ladner. “We would love to see an all-year facility – a covered area – it doesn’t have to be elaborate. We’d like to have a park that can facilitate a high level of skateboarding. By providing that, you’d help the community here and you’d bring in tourism.”