By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – As soon as the snow melts and the sun begins to appear with regularity, local skateboarders can be found at the Morinville Skate Park, a 13,000 square foot facility built at the east side of 107 Street in 2006. Sharing the space with an ever-present collection of mountain bike enthusiasts of all ages, the skateboarders traverse the park as they hone their skills, a series of flips and grinds that, when combined, make for a good session – or sesh as they call it.
A couple of local boarders who spend a good bit of time at the park are Justin Hogg and Tyler Banks, two friends who have been involved in the sport for several years. Although the how and whys of their involvement in skateboarding vary slightly; the two men share a common enthusiasm for the sound and the feel of four small wheels beneath their feet.
“I started skateboarding in Grade 8,” Hogg said. “I just enjoy doing it and learning new stuff. It’s good exercise.” For Banks, who also first climbed on a board in Grade 8, the four-wheeled activity was both something to do and an outlet. “I just never had much to do productive wise, so my dad bought me a board. I’ve done it ever since,” Banks said. “When I skate, a lot of stuff doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just me and my board. I like the feeling of that and learning something new.”
Considered a sport
A particular style of clothing and the lack of helmet seem to be part of skate culture, accoutrements or lack thereof that identifies the practitioners with what they do. It is the appearance of those involved in the activity that sometimes creates misconceptions with people.
Spending as much time in the air as on the ground at the park, both men seemed unconcerned about not wearing a helmet, although both know it is the safer way to go. “It’s just the straps for me,” Banks said of not wearing a helmet at the park, adding when he goes to indoor parks where helmets are mandatory, he of course wears one. For Hogg, the lack of a helmet isn’t something that occupies his mind much. “We really don’t think about it,” he said. “We grab our boards and we come out here and skate. We haven’t had an issue with it yet. So probably until we do, we’re not going to think about it.”
Despite having no padding or head gear to speak of, items common in many sports, both men do regard what they do as a sport just like any other they are involved with. Training and practice is required. New tricks are learned from one another or from videos. After that it is trial and error.
They would like to see it all taken more seriously by those outside the sport. “It should be in the summer Olympics, actually, even though it’s not,” Banks said. “I mean speed walking is in the Olympics; skateboarding isn’t.” Hogg agrees. “I think it is a real sport,” he said. “People don’t take it seriously. They see a skateboarder, and they say, ‘Oh, he’s just a punk. I don’t want my kids around him.’ We just want to skate.”
Good for body and mind
Both Hogg and Banks see skateboarding as having value beyond the physical benefits of exercise. A day at the park is a day away from stress and problems. “Everything just goes away [when] you have a nice sesh,” Banks said. “I like the sound of the speed wobbles in my board. I just like to hear it rolling on the pavement. It just clears my head, actually.” While the roll of the wheels on pavement is music to Banks’ ears, Hogg prefers real music in his. “I always listen to music when I skateboard,” Hogg said. “I cannot skateboard without my music. I feel free when I skate and I have my music in my ears. It makes it all that much better.”