The rumble of polyurethane wheels on concrete roars, as Tim Storck drops into a ramp at Payne Skate
Park. He builds up speed, barrels toward one of the park’s steep outer walls and grabs his board mid-air in an impressive show of skill.
Back on the ground, young skaters congratulate Storck, who’s standing next to his graffiti-covered skateboard. Instead of stickers and sponsor names, the grip tape is covered in hand-written Bible verses.
Tim Storck isn’t just a skater. He’s also the youth director at FirstSarasota, the Downtown Baptist Church and the founder of 180 Skate, a youth program he created through the church two years ago that combines skateboarding and ministry.
Through the program, he hopes to change people’s misconceptions about skating and provide teens with a safe way to practice their favorite activity with a positive role model.
A Sarasota native, Storck says he can relate to local teens looking for a way to unwind and have fun.
“I grew up skating here,” says Storck. “But there weren’t skate parks or anything back then, so we got into a lot of trouble. I wanted to offer something more positive for kids who want to skate.”
In its two-year existence, 180 Skate’s membership has grown from seven children to more than 20. He helps members enter competitions and earn sponsorships, and he provides them with free skateboards through partnerships with Christian skateboard companies. In exchange, he asks them to participate in the youth group — something he says they’ve responded to positively.
“It’s an avenue for them to talk about anything,” he says. “I didn’t have that growing up, and I needed it. A lot of them didn’t realize they could have fun at church.”
Jake Ilardi, a 16-year-old member, began skating when he was 4 years old, after his grandmother bought him and his twin brother, Nate, skateboards. Jake Ilardi recently won the Tampa Am vertical-ramp contest. He says he enjoyed his time in the program.
“It’s a cool way to combine skating and church,” he says. “It’s fun that we get to skate together, and I like that it’s gotten us back into going to church. We didn’t go for a while, because our old church had no youth group.”
Storck hopes to continue to reach young skaters and give them an upper hand in the sport, as well as teach them respect and responsibility.
“I think Tim needs to be commended for what he’s doing,” says the twins’ grandmother, Paulette Moulton. “A lot of kids are getting a chance to skate who never would have. It’s great for them to have a positive role model to look up to and keep them on the straight and narrow.”
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