Back to Our (grass) Roots

John Hanson at our Otley Jam with a big Beni over the box.

John Hanson at our Otley Jam with a big Beni over the box.

Summer's here. No two words can be more soothing to a skateboarder in the UK. Events are kicking off most weekends, mates are back from uni for a shred, the weather is a touch less... wet (hopefully) and it's prime time to get a skate in with mates old and new.

For me, it's a time for competitions, demos, and hanging out with friends from around the world. It's also prime time for Sk8 Safe to get out there and get coaching some grassroots skateboarding to young people in communities across the UK, and in the North in particular.

A shot from a regular coaching session a few years back. We go back to these guys every year, and I'm really happy to say a lot of these guys are still skating. And ripping. 

A shot from a regular coaching session a few years back. We go back to these guys every year, and I'm really happy to say a lot of these guys are still skating. And ripping. 

Sk8 Safe have been out in the community since 2007, with the key aim of promoting equality and diversity through wheeled sports. We head out to young people in communities that may not have quite the same opportunities as their counterparts, and offer free skateboarding sessions with help from the council. All the gear is provided, including ramps if we happen to be coaching on a flat area of tarmac. Which is often the case. 

It's incredible to see the change in these young people once they've stood on a board. Kids with little confidence or self esteem get through their first few tricks and transform into bold, fearless shredders. Of course it doesn't happen quickly, but in a world where gratification is instant, giving young people something valuable to take away which requires hard work and dedication brings a sense of accomplishment which simply can't be achieved by looking at a screen all day. I know that sounds INCREDIBLY old fashioned, but I'm a real believer in getting young people out there engaging in new activities and hopefully finding a lifelong hobby and passion. I dread to think who I'd be if I'd never taken my first step on that horrendous Action Man board years ago.

"ACTION MAN THE GREATEST HERO OF THEM ALL". Not too sure about the new skool Action Man though. Looks like one of the Backstreet Boys...

"ACTION MAN THE GREATEST HERO OF THEM ALL". Not too sure about the new skool Action Man though. Looks like one of the Backstreet Boys...

Aside from coaching, summer is prime time for skate jams. I've got to say that I look forward to these events every year, whether they're held at my local or further afield. I dare say everyone else dreads them, as for three uninterrupted hours, I'm given a microphone. Bad idea.

These free community events are a highlight in the calendar of the skate park users and the wider community. We pack up the generator, PA System, prizes (LOADS of em) and a couple of Sk8 Safe crew and head to a local skate park for a day or sunshine, shredding and ultimately, a lot of litter picking. 

One of many throwout prize sessions at Ripon Skate Jam, 2017. I spot an unfair advantage somewhere in the crowd.

One of many throwout prize sessions at Ripon Skate Jam, 2017. I spot an unfair advantage somewhere in the crowd.

We host competitions throughout the day for skate, scoot and BMX for all ages and abilities. The whole purpose for the event is just to get young people involved. It doesn't matter if you're a park veteran or just starting out. The key here is inclusion, and everyone get a chance to take something home. There's prizes for best tricks, down to good etiquette or good community spirit. It's as much about inspiring newer riders to be good role models as it is about skill in your chosen discipline. 

Ben Goodbarn, Ripon regular. Always takes home a few prizes for the skate comp.

Ben Goodbarn, Ripon regular. Always takes home a few prizes for the skate comp.

There's often a few misconceptions about skate park culture, particularly within local communities. The Skate Jams aim to challenge these misconceptions, representing the skate park in a positive light through role model behavior from park users. This in turn promotes a positive and welcoming environment, in which new skaters taking their first tentative steps on a board feel a little more at ease. Skate Parks can be scary places for beginners...

Scooter contest winners at Ripon Skate Jam. You can say what you want about scooters, but it's accessible, inclusive, and at the moment it keeps skate parks open. 

Scooter contest winners at Ripon Skate Jam. You can say what you want about scooters, but it's accessible, inclusive, and at the moment it keeps skate parks open. 

We love summer here at Sk8 Safe. All two days of it. Keep an eye out on our Facebook, Insta and Twitter feeds for an event near you.

Denham Hill