Nfld. & Labrador

Free classes for kids tear down skateboarding barriers on Newfoundland's west coast

Skate 101, a series of free skateboarding lessons for beginners, is hoping to transform the skatepark into a more inclusive space.

A seasoned skateboarder is trying to make the sport more approachable for beginners

A skateboarding pupil navigates some terrain while B.J. Randell instructs. (James Grudić/CBC)

It's a hazy summer Sunday morning in western Newfoundland and young skateboarders line up for roll call.

Pasadena Skate Park is home this year to Skate 101, a series of free skateboarding lessons for beginners.

B.J. Randell, the skateboarding instructor behind the program, has been riding skateboards for 25 years, and Sunday was the second time he offered lessons in his home town.

"I want the kids to have someone in the skate park that they can relate to, especially an older person," he said.

Randell got the idea after seeing some fellow skateboarders offering similar lessons for kids in Cochrane, Alta.

"I thought I could offer something to the kids, and give back to the community that brought me here," he said.

Pupils at Skate 101 learn the basics: how to stand on their boards, how to push and some basic manoeuvring. Randell teaches the kids how their boards work, and how to set them up correctly for riding.

Randell displays some skateboard decks for prizes. (James Grudić/CBC)

Nine-year-old Elijah Payne attended Skate 101 for the first time this year.

"I got a skateboard last year. I've been skating around my street a little bit, but this is more fun," he said.

Elijah's father, John Payne of Corner Brook, brought him to neighbouring Pasadena for some instruction and guidance.

"My son showed an interest in skateboarding and I don't really know much about it, so to have something for free that a kid can try out is pretty amazing," Payne said.

"Proper technique for any sport, any activity is important, so to have someone point him in the right direction is the way to get off to a good start."

An intimidating place

The skatepark can be an intimidating place for a beginner, according to Randell. He recalled his early days as an aspiring skater walking into the park for the first time.

"I'd be down in the field playing baseball, looking up at the kids in the skatepark," he said.

"Finally I ended up getting the guts to go to the park and try it.... When I got there, it was crazy."

Randell gives some one-on-one advice to a beginning skateboarder. (James Grudić/CBC)

The atmosphere in the skatepark was unkind to newcomers, said Randell, but he kept coming back anyway.

"It wasn't a welcoming place, but I had this desire to learn how to skateboard," he said.

Now a 35-year-old father of two, he's hoping to transform the skate park into a more inclusive space.

"With the community now, I don't want it to be that way. I want you to feel accepted as soon as you come here."

Randell may provide the lessons for free, but he said seeing the effects of his guidance on the young skateboarders is its own reward.

"I pass them cruising up the road, flying on skateboard. It's like, 'Yes, I did that, I gave them that,'" he said.

Some students came back for more lessons after attending last year's session. Randell said his returning students have a different demeanour than when they first came into the park. 

"You could see the confidence in them right away."

Randell shows the a class of skateboarders the decks they can win in a draw. (James Grudić/CBC)

Angie Thornhill, a mother of three from Corner Brook, brought her oldest, eight-year-old Ross, to Pasadena for the lessons.

"I think it's awesome. He has a really good way with the kids," she said. "He's doing a great thing for the community."

According to Randell, learning to skateboard brings with it some lessons that are transferrable to other aspects of life.

"When you try a trick a thousand times and you do it that one time, there's a special feeling for that," said Randell.

"If you can carry that over into everything you do, you'll succeed at some point." 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


James Grudić is a journalism student at College of the North Atlantic and an associate producer for CBC Newfoundland Morning.


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