Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn
Nearly two years in Sarasota, and zero visits to Payne Skate Park.
It’s not a fact I was proud of, and after last week’s story on global skateboarding sensation Jake Ilardi, I decided to check out the place Ilardi learned his sport. Luckily, the park played host to a great event on July 14, giving me the perfect chance to fill in my blind spot.
Local outreach program 180 Skate and multinational nonprofit EXPOSURE Skate teamed to bring EXPOSURE’s Skate Rising event to Payne Park. The event, according to EXPOSURE’s website, “aims to inspire confidence in female youth through skateboarding and to encourage compassion through community service projects.” EXPOSURE hosts Skate Rising events once a month in Encinitas, Calif., and the hope is to eventually do the same thing here. On July 14, what EXPOSURE called its "International Day of Service," it hosted events in six cities across the globe (the others being Eugene, Ore., Phoenix, Toronto and Sydney).
There were three components to the event: Learning, serving and skating. The girls in attendance listened to a speech from Salvation Army representative Lisi Brannen about why giving back to the community is important, then signed a “commitment to kindness” saying they will uphold all the values they learned about at the event. The event also collected cans of food for those in need. Even though most of the girls in attendance were young, it seemed like they understood the importance of these actions.
I don’t want to gloss over that part of the event, because it’s great to teach kids kindness at a young age, but what makes Skate Rising unique is the third part of the equation. When I arrived at Payne Park, there were so many girls skating, I didn’t know where to step to avoid being run down. Tim Storck, who runs 180 Skate, got to the heart of why events like this are vital.
"I’ll come over here when there’s boys and girls here,” Storck said. “If the boys are here, the girls won’t really skate. They’ll sit back. When they’re by themselves, it’s a lot different.”
Amy Lemon was one of the parents in attendance, with daughters Noelle, Annika and Keira. Lemon hadn’t taken them skateboarding before, she said, nor had she skated herself. But she saw the event on Facebook and thought it would be fun (and free, of course).
“I want them to know girls can do everything boys can do,” Lemon said.
All of Lemon’s daughters had a blast, but Keira, 10, took to the sport the most. By the end of the session, she was tearing up the course. She had been skateboarding one other time, she said, at a friend’s house, but that barely counted and besides, she wasn’t good then. At Skate Rising, she learned to put all her weight on her front leg and push with her other. No attempted "ollies" or grinds yet, but hey, there’s plenty of time.
I asked Keira whether she wanted a skateboard of her own now, and she said her mother already agreed to get her one.
It’s a beautiful thing to see anyone inspired by any sport, but especially young girls inspired by traditionally male sports. It makes sense that skateboarding — which now fosters not just its own communities, but its own culture — would be an appealing choice in today’s divisive world. It’s something I wish I knew more about in my youth.
I hope every girl in attendance, and every girl reading this now, realizes they can accomplish whatever they want through perseverance. You’re good enough, no matter what bullies out there might say. Skate on.