I heard of Skate True by running into them… and their very large, very comfortable, multi-passenger van… at a bunch of local skate events in and around Phoenix, Arizona. They certainly do seem to spend a lot of time out and about promoting themselves, which is great exposure and really smart business. Their business model also looked really interesting: they pick up kids up all around the valley, and take them out on day-excursions to skateparks within the Phoenix Metro, and all around the state of Arizona. It looked kinda fun, sort of like the badass skateboarding version of day-care. That, right there, is my kind of idea on how to raise kids right. I decided right away that this was something that I just had to check out for myself, up close and personal.
The van, my home for the day…
When I write a story, I like to get my hands dirty, and really get into it, reporting on it from my first-hand experiences. So I made my arrangements to cough up a quick $25, and reserve a place in the van for a little day-trip excursion of my own. As I made my reservations, I offered up a few bits of entree to sweeten up the deal: I thought it might be fun to bring along a few skateboards from my extensive quiver of fun for the other kids to check out, and skate around. I figured it might be a nice diversion for them to experience a bit of skateboard history for themselves, and they might even be duped into thinking that I’m a little bit cooler than I really am in the process. The deal was sealed, plans were confirmed, and my itinerary was set. The pickup was arranged for Saturday, April 21st, at Kids That Rip (also known as “KTR”) in Mesa, AZ.
Left: Markus steers the ship. Right: First stop of the day. That’s Markus tryin’ to rustle up some kids that have been afflicted with sudden-onset sugar highs…
I was really excited to go and see skateboarding through the eyes of a fresh-faced little kid again. A 6’5″ tall, 320 lb, 45-year-old little kid perhaps… but still, a kid at heart nonetheless. As an added bonus, KTR recently re-built their pint-sized, spined mini ramp, and they open promptly at 9am- more than early enough for me to take a few dozen warm-up runs before the van would show up for the rendezvous.
When I arrived at KTR, I was a bit surprised to find that their “Skate Rising” girls’ event was going off in a really major way. While I was certainly stoked to see so many girls skating at one place at one time… far more than I’ve ever seen in my life, actually… it did put a bit of a damper on my warm-up plans. “No worries”, I thought, “I’ll just warm up at the first park!” Skateboarding has, if nothing else, taught me the value of being instantly adaptable.
The itinerary for the day was to leave KTR promptly at 12:15, and head out to Snedigar Sports Complex in Chandler, followed by Tempe Sports Complex in Tempe, more commonly known to us locals as “Big Tempe” or “Tempe 1”. Both skateparks are large, well-maintained, concrete parks with lots of transitions; my kind of program. The return to KTR was scheduled for about 4:30 pm.
As I approached the van, I was surprised to find that:
– It accommodates at least thirteen little kids, because
– The seats are remarkably tiny, which meant
– My fat old ass was gonna have a really, really hard time sardining myself into one of ’em.
Thankfully, the quick-thinking kid that had already called (and settled into) shotgun, kindly let me have it instead. That was Gavin, and trust me on this one, that was a really nice gesture. Apparently, I had already made a good impression, and made my very first friend of the trip. The fact that Markus had already told all the kids that I was a reporter working on an article probably helped that good vibe along just a little bit. Suddenly, I was the most popular kid in the whole van. Having a handful of free Concrete Wave magazines probably didn’t hurt matters all that much, either. No kid in the world has ever hated free stuff, and I’m totally unafraid to use that to my immediate advantage.
This might be a great time to note that the kids in the van ranged in age between… oh, maybe 10 or so, to around 16. There were several girls represented, and the abilities of skating represented were all over the board, from relative beginners to relatively experienced. The entire program had a very welcoming and accepting “come one, come all” vibe and feel to it, which felt instantly comfortable. Even for me, the obviously ginormous oddball in the van that was at least three times everybody else’s age, and fifty-two times their size.
Strangely, our first stop was at everybody’s favorite gas station/convenience store/car wash. The kids were unusually excited about this; apparently, it’s a regular stop on their Chandler itinerary, and everybody really looks forward to it. It’s a great place to watch cars making their way through the automated maze of squirters, rollers, scrubbers, foamers, and flashing neon lights and buzzers while the kids spectate with wide-open eyes while sucking down giant-sized soda pops. It’s no mystery to me why the kid contingent was so enthused about the pit stop. Sugar and stimulating entertainment wins every single time with the youngsters.
Snedigar Sports Complex, trannies everywhere. Now that’s my idea of a good time.
Snedigar is a massive skatepark, with giant-sized bowls everywhere. The street course is even surrounded by a giant bowled perimeter, which made the crusty old man in me pretty darned happy. However, my attention was quickly seized by Gavin (Kempton) and Koston (Eaton), who were clearly the best skaters of our bunch, as they tried launching (the long way, grabbing stinkbug) over the taco hump in the middle of the park. I tried to take a few photos, but the lighting was just all wrong for soul stealing. Sorry, fellas.
Ollie Nothdurft, varial flip body varial shenanigans at Snedigar. Yes. Seriously. He landed it.
Gavin quickly shifted his focus to the triple-kink handrail at the entrance to the park. This kid clearly had gonads, because he was all set to take this thing down, although he had never slid a triple-kink in his entire life, and this thing was a monster as far as skatepark handrails go. Everybody jumped in to lend some genuine moral support, while Markus and I tag-teamed the doling out of practical, experienced advice. It was just completely ridiculous, watching this pin-sized little kid taking on this hammer-sized battle. But about thirty attempts, and a whole buncha mojo later, our buddy finally stomped a solid landing, and the whole van decided to celebrate the major victory by stopping at another gas station for some more sugary after-skating entertainment.
The little kid that could. Gavin Kempton, comin’ down the mountain.
Strangely, I’m not a particularly large fan of Tempe 1. Especially when the temperatures are starting to push a hundred degrees, and the concrete is sizzling hot. That created an opportunity for me to shoot a few photos of the kids for the article while I rested and relaxed away the pain from my Snedigar shenanigans. Predictably, Gavin and Koston stole the better part of the show with their hubba-sized ledge prowess and EuroGap tech skills… but I also made a point of getting photos of the other kids as well, at least as much as the sizzling concrete would allow. By this time, the kids were dreaming up tricks to do (and camera angles to capture them with), and I had a sincerely fun time trying to accommodate them all, while imparting some basic photography wisdom here and there along the way.
Gavin Kempton (tailslide, left) and Koston Eaton (fifty-fifty, right), demoing at Tempe Sports Complex. These kids are goin’ places, fast.
The kid that let me ride shotgun shows similar grace on a lengthy nosegrind. Gavin Kempton, Tempe 1.
The Quiver was a lot more popular than I thought it was gonna be. That’s worth noting. Kids these days… the next generation… they don’t see skateboards as “street boards”, or “bowl boards”, or “cruiser boards”. They just see skateboards, they see fun to be had, and they have no problem whatsoever picking one up and skating something entirely new. A couple of the kids actually spent more time on my boards than their own, and I don’t think Cole (Nash) skated anything else the entire day, besides boards out of my quiver. I liked him. He knew how to have a good time.
Unafraid to step out of the box and show a little soul, Cole Nash carves a high line at Tempe 1 (with a little help from Brad Bowman, and some giant-sized Abec 11 super-stompers).
Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Just press “play”, and then resume reading…
The funniest part of the whole trip were the kids’ musical tastes. Naturally, they were all over the map. What I didn’t expect, was for the proverbial map to consist almost entirely of gangsta rap and ’80s metal, punctuated by bits of bubblegum pop, a few crank calls, and topped off with “Come Sail Away” by Styx as the very last request of the day. Now, I happen to be old enough to still remember Styx back when they were pretty popular, and I still make every available effort to not remember those tortuous times of my life. These kids not only remembered Styx; they actually requested Styx on our drive back to KTR. If I were Styx, I’d feel pretty accomplished right about now. Somebody still cares. Who woulda thunk it.
“They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies”. Kai Gale takes his Styx literally. Ollie over the hip at Tempe 1.
Having experienced Skate True for myself, I can not only say that this is a great program for skaters of almost any age and ability (including my own); I also have to openly wonder why nobody had thought of such a thing earlier? Of course, similar programs might well exist elsewhere; I cannot know absolutely everything about everything going on around the world. But the fact that this is the first time that I’ve ever seen (or experienced) such a thing does surprise me a little bit. If your town or city does not have a similarly-themed program, well, maybe it’s high time that it did.
If you want to check out Skate true for yourself, surf on in here: www.skatetrue.com
Thanks to Mike (at Concrete wave) for the free mags. If you want to check out the mag for yourself, you can do it here: www.concretewavemagazine.com