British Columbia

'We're going full circle': Skate park inspires youth in remote B.C. community

The skate park was built as a thank you to the people of Ahousaht, B.C., for their efforts to rescue people from a capsized whale watching boat in 2015.

Park was built as a thank you after community members rushed to help those on capsized Leviathan II

Suan Campbell, 10, is an avid skateboarder from Ahousaht, B.C. He's been chosen to participate in the All Nations Skate Jam in Albuquerque, New Mexico in April. (GoFundMe)

After the Leviathan II capsized off the coast of Tofino in 2015, killing six people, it was hard to imagine anything positive coming from the tragic incident.

But five years later, a skate park that was built as a thank you to the community of Ahousaht — whose boats and people were some of the first on the scene — has become a hub for young people, especially for the grandson of one of the rescuers. 

"It's never empty when it's nice. There's always kids there," Michelle Campbell told All Points West guest host Kathryn Marlow, adding it's been good to have something positive for the youth to do.

"We're going full circle."

Campbell's grandson, 10-year-old Suan Campbell, is one of the kids who loves to skateboard. So much so, he will be participating this spring in an international Indigenous skate jam in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Grant Shilling is the founder of Get On Board, a non-profit that uses board sports to help young people develop confidence and life skills, and is one of the partners who helped build the skate park.

He's been to the Indigenous skate jam a few times and was looking for someone to represent Western Canada. 

Shilling said Suan Campbell was chosen to represent Ahousaht and the Nuu-chah-nulth nation at the 14th Annual All Nations Skate Jam because he is a diligent skater.

"He's probably the most dedicated skater in Ahousaht," Shilling said over the phone.

Last year, the skate jam attracted about 100 kids representing more than 25 First Nations from around the United States and Canada, according to Shilling.

The event is more than a competition. Shilling said it's an opportunity to develop youth-on-youth mentorship in Ahousaht so they can teach each other how to skateboard.

"Suan would be the first youth mentor and hopefully that'll inspire next year another youth to go down there. We're really hoping next time it's a female," Shilling said. 

Suan Campbell, pictured here, is one of the most dedicated skateboarders in Ahousaht, B.C., says Grant Shilling, founder of Get on Board. (GoFundMe)

Skateboarding as icebreaker

Suan's mother, Ariel Campbell, says her once shy son has come out of his shell since he started going to the skate park a few years ago. 

"He's made a lot of friends, like lots. All down Vancouver Island," said Ariel Campbell, adding Suan likes to watch YouTube videos of professional skateboarders before he goes to the park so he can teach himself and his friends new tricks.

Suan will be the second Canadian to attend the skate jam, according to his mother. The event is held in conjunction with the 37th Annual Gathering of Nations Powwow, which is the biggest gathering of First Nations in the world. 

The 14th Annual All Nations Skate Jam takes place April 25, 2020. 

Click on the link below to listen to the full interview:

With files from All Points West & Megan Thomas