At Sunday Soldiers, we wear our love of skating on our sleeves. You'll see it reflected in some of our designs, you'll notice skateboards popping up in our social media feeds, and many of you have probably seen our 2 year old son Lion belting around the house or feeling out the backyard half pipe on his "The Zookeeper" cruiser. We spend a lot of time at skateparks.
Usually the first impression that strikes a parent is one of utter chaos. There's kids of all ages (some of us with a few more grey hairs) flying around everywhere on a variety of wheels. Daunting, but a lot more enjoyable for everyone if you follow a few unspoken laws of the land. The kids will be active, outside and shredding in no time.
Walk Before you can run.
Everyone starts out somewhere. One of the greatest things we've noticed about skating is how accepting and encouraging the skate community is, so never feel embarrassed to get out there and give it a go. However, be honest about your children's abilities before unleashing them on the skatepark. While skateparks give the kids an environment to test their limits in a healthy fashion, it's best for them to start out small and work their way up. Flat ground and small ramps are the best place to start.
Like most things fun, skating isn't without its inherent risks. And there's no bigger buzz kill for your little ripper than a broken wrist (or worse). A good well fitting helmet, elbow and knee pads and wrist guards are a good start (you can even get padded shorts to save nasty hip and bum bruises). The 187 Killer Pads Junior 6 pack from our local core skate store Soggybones would be our pick. Good pads save hospital visits.
Observe the flow.
Though it might look like chaos, if you stop and watch the more experienced skaters you'll see they all flow in the same direction. Making sure your kids realise this can save collisions. That skater trying to nail a trick is going to be concentrating on making it, rather than someone cutting across the flow.
Don't be the snake.
Like we said before, Skateboarding is meant to be fun, inclusive and encouraging. This means most skateboarders will wait in line and take turns. A snake is someone who cuts in line and takes more runs than everyone else, usually killing the good vibes at a spot.
Personal space dude!
It's important to leave enough room between skaters to complete tricks and react to sudden direction changes or stacks. On a street section (Those long strips of concrete with ramps, ledges and rails), this means allowing a bit of space to the skater in front. In a bowl or on a half pipe/mini ramp, that means one skater in the bowl or on the ramp at a time. Always watch out for other skaters. Another big one is standing back from the edge of the ramp or bowl. Not only does it keep those on the ramp edge safer from flying boards, it gives the skater room for gnarly grinds and airs.
It's a skatepark, not a playground.
Nothing irks skaters more than unsupervised kids running through a skatepark, or using ramps as slides. Skateparks are most definitely made for fun, but it's inherent that people will be moving through the park fast on boards with no brakes. There's nothing worse than seeing a child run out into a skate plaza full of fast moving skaters and too much momentum to stop before a collision. If your child isn't padded up and moving with the flow, perhaps a nearby playground with purpose built slides and play equipment would be the safer option.
Let the good vibes roll!
One of our favourite things about skateparks (and one of the things that surprised us given our pre conceived notions) was how friendly and encouraging the users are. The older kids usually make sure the younger kids get a roll, encouraging them to push their limits and giving advice. We've had great conversations and made friends while standing around the edge of a bowl, which always makes for a more enjoyable sesh. So throw out some encouragement of your own, be it a enthusiastic "Yeeeew" or tapping your board on the coping (That metal or concrete round part that runs along the top of a ramp) when someone does something rad or new. Add to the vibe and have more fun!
We had a lot of the usual media induced misgivings about skateparks when we were starting out. Knowing what we know now, we would encourage every parent to give their child a crack at skating. Personally, my children and I have made many new friends from many walks of life down at the skatepark. The kids have learnt perseverance in learning to ride a skateboard and learn tricks. They've learnt resilience from picking themselves back up after a slam, and giving it another go. They've learnt to take pride in a place that is theirs, by cleaning up their local skatepark and encouraging others to do the right thing. They show empathy when someone else slams, and encouragement to others. And they receive it back in spades from other skate park users. We've also found a sense of belonging through organised skate groups and through community consultations for new skateparks!
Get involved! You'll find if you follow these tips, the skate community will be there to welcome you with open arms!