In one area of the Corvallis Skate Park this past weekend, kids were learning the fundamental skill: How do you even stand on a skateboard?
Elsewhere, kids were practicing using their feet to push themselves along on their boards. And still elsewhere, kids (and a couple of stray adults) were practicing rolling up inclines and turning to go back down them.
All this was part of a Saturday morning skate school program put on by the Benton County Skateboarding Alliance, part of a recent push by the group to get active again and engage with the community.
Jasmin Woodside said the skate schools got started about a year ago when she asked her friend Berto Boyd to teach her kids to skate. It went so well she decided to connect with the alliance to put on classes for anyone who wanted to learn.
Woodside said the group puts on the classes every month or two and just asks for donations to the group’s efforts to rehabilitate and expand the skate park. It even loans out skateboards, helmets, pads and other equipment.
“It’s expensive to get started and we wouldn’t want that to stop people,” she said.
The lessons Saturday were done in two hour-long sessions, each with 16 students, said Woodside.
“We had to turn eight people who wanted to sign up away,” she said.
She said the best way to find out when workshops are coming up and sign up is by following the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/corvallisskatepark. There is also a page just for the skate school at https://www.facebook.com/CorvallisSk8School.
Vaughn Balzer is president of the alliance and has been with the group since it started. He said the group was created in 2007, but had become less active over the years as original members had less time to devote to it.
However, the workshops have prompted a flurry of activity in the last year, he said, and the group is now trying to advance plans it has been developing with the city to add a new bowl to the park and remodel its plaza. Those projects would cost $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, he said.
The group has about $10,000 raised, Balzer said, and is applying for grants and hoping to get at least half of the money for either project raised so the group gets to the point where it can match money the city is able to attract through grant proposals.
Balzer said enhancing the skate park would help it engage more kids, and could allow the city to host higher level skateboarding competitions. The alliance is planning to host a skateboarding competition in August, Balzer said, but professional level competitions need a better bowl.
Balzer said skateboarding is a great activity, especially for kids, because it encourages people to challenge themselves. Learning additional skills, he said, helps build confidence.
“In this time when everyone is on their screens, it’s good to get kids out and moving,” he said.
Boyd, an alliance board member who continues to be involved in the group despite a recent move to Portland, said skating is a great way to get kids off their phones.
Boyd, a classical and flamenco guitarist, taught lessons Saturday and said he thinks learning music and learning to skate are similar, in that practice, with plenty of repetitions, leads to improvement.
“There’s no such thing as hard, just unfamiliar,” he said. “It’s a game of numbers.”
He added that getting back into skateboarding as an adult has been great.
“I’ve connected with the fountain of youth,” he said. “I feel like I’m 13 again.”