If you drive through Kapa‘a town after school hours, pass the newly renovated skate park, or stroll down the Ke Ala Hele Makalae coastal path, you will almost certainly see lots and lots of wheels! Have you noticed the increase in skateboards, roller skates, and rollerblades over the last year?
This is partly related to the way the pandemic has affected our lives. More and more people have taken up new outdoor activities to replace their former exercise modalities and use extra free time during Covid. This is especially true of youth, who have felt the social drought hard. They have been without team sports, school attendance, or social play with other youth for much of the last year. And this has caused concern over their mental wellbeing and physical health. Some remarkable people and organizations in our community have stepped up to create more outlets for both keiki and adults to stay healthy and have fun.
Because skateboarding and other skate sports are not expensive, allow for social distancing, and still encourage social connections, the demand for parks, gear, and programs is growing rapidly. Skateboarding has also become more mainstream on a national level, joining the Olympics in 2020! As someone who loves to cruise the bike path on wheels myself, I am excited to see skate culture shining on Kaua‘i. I spoke to a few skate ambassadors this week to share their thoughts and stories with the community.
Don‘t push mongo
Sean McCrink is the owner of Elephit skate shop in downtown Kapa‘a. What started as a skate-inspired clothing brand created to bring attention and support to the preservation of African elephants has evolved into a hub for creativity among local youth. When I walked into the shop I was surprised to see Sean teaching a young athlete how to build his own board with a few others gathered around. Initially Sean teamed up with Yes I Skate shop and then they worked together to create Anahola Surf and Skate.
They relocated and rebuilt a half pipe originally built by Kauai Skate Ohana to Anahola which helped to spark conversation and create more excitement around skateboarding. Then in September of 2018 Elephit made its solo debut as a stand alone shop in Kapa‘a and expanded its retail offerings to include skateboards, parts, gear, shoes, and locally made merchandise. As I spoke with Sean I noticed his passion for his community, especially the kids. I learned that this comes from his own personal experience.
“I got my first board from my cousin when I was 13 and everything changed after that. I was hooked. It kept me active and I made friends that I am still close with to this day. Having a skateboarding culture in our community will help kids make close friends for life and teach them to have an active lifestyle. It also teaches you to push yourself, which carries over into other areas of life.” The Elephit Ohana is very active in promoting skate sport and helping beginners get started, including helping new riders pick out their very first board.
I asked Sean what advice he would give to a beginner, to which he replied “Don’t push mongo [a common mistake beginners make when learning, where the front foot is used to push off of the ground rather than the back foot] and be aware of your surroundings when at the park. Most of all, have fun!”
You can visit Elephit and the famous four-legged shop mascot Bam from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
A park proving its worth
Next I spoke to Darin DePasquale of Kaua‘i Skatepark Foundation. The story behind the new Kapa‘a skate park is remarkable. A couple features were published previously detailing some of the planning and building processes which finally culminated in the grand opening in December of 2020, and yet I feel the need to mention a few notable facts. Darin spoke modestly about his contribution to this project, but it was clear to me that he put in a massive amount of time researching skate park building processes used in Hawaii and other states, creating detailed presentations and grant applications, and speaking with community members to rally support.
Over 60 hours went into the presentation Darin put together for the Cares Act grant which was responsible for funding $250,000! A Tony Hawk grant funded another $10,000 and 18 private donors from Kaua‘i and Oahu funded the remaining $105,000. Local non-profit organization Na Lei Wili Area Health Education Center (NLW-AHEC), directed by Fran Becker, agreed to sponsor the project and accepted the federal funds awarded for the build. In 2019, volunteers formed an advisory committee which was divided into the 5 Kaua‘i districts and those 21 volunteers evaluated all 67 of Kaua‘i’s county parks to decide which was appropriate to house a skate park. During the building process, community members contributed in various ways.
One of these was Keith Duffy of Kickass Concrete, who, Darin says, went above and beyond to secure the bid and work on the project with little to no profit.
“Every day during the 6 weeks, a group volunteered to provide lunches to workers,” Darin notes, “and Sean at Elephit printed up all the T-shirts for crew members and volunteers.” While I wanted to know all of the history, Darin really wanted to talk about the impact. He is primarily focused on what the park has done and is doing for the community.
“Skate parks are the most utilized parks!” he said. So far, the new park has more than demonstrated its usefulness, which is easy to see from the road as one drives by. Not only is the park itself buzzing with activity, but the atmosphere around the park is buzzing too. Families set up nearby for picnics and birthday parties, and often events activities are planned at or nearby the park. Youth who would otherwise have nowhere to go after school find a safe place to find camaraderie and exercise. Darin mentioned that just like soccer fields and basketball courts, skate parks should be accessible to youth in all the districts.
“One 6,000 square foot park is not enough. Kids are bussing in from all over the island to skate at the Kapa‘a park, so we need to assist the county in developing a process to build more parks.” This is an opportunity for other community members to step up and help out! KSF is looking for volunteers who will form a new advisory committee which will work with the county parks department to identify the next site.
If you are interested you can reach out to Darin at Kauaidarin@gmail.com.
I have never seen more smiles
Last, I spoke with Alison Furderer, a skate sport enthusiast, skate mom, and volunteer at the Kapaa skating rink. I asked her how skating has become a part of her family fun.
“My family has spent hours and hours at the newly built skate park. My son has been excelling tremendously in skateboarding, and I have begun to roller skate again after more than 20 years! I love to see all of the children from different walks of life, enjoying clean, fun exercise alongside parents learning too, and people who grew up here and skated all their lives. I have never seen more smiles! I can‘t imagine my life without it now. That‘s how much it‘s changed my family’s life.”
Alison can often be found in the bowl with her son, charging on her roller-skates and reminding us that moms have mad skills too. She also helped start the family skate nights on Fridays at the roller rink (next to the skatepark) which have become very popular.
She coordinated with the Hawaii Inline Hockey Association to gain public access to the rink, (and keep the lights on later!) and is assisted by others in the Kaua‘i Roller Skating group in hosting free open skate events.
The Kaua‘i Skate Ohana is another amazing group that is actively promoting skate culture in the community. They are working closely with the KSF to develop plans for new parks, and are hosting free clinics for beginners. Let‘s not forget our beloved Garden Island Renegade Rollerz, Kaua‘i‘s roller derby team! They are offering roller skating lessons for children and adults.
Skate nights, clinics, and the other weekly events (including roller hockey!) happening at the Kapa‘a roller rink are listed at kapaarink.com. I asked Alison what she thinks skate culture brings to our community and she responded “The mental health aspect is the most important thing to look at, especially during Covid. So many people are experiencing stress and family crisis situations. The skate park and the people that go there provide others with a safe haven to escape from stress and/or dangerous situations they are dealing with.”
She also noted that the park gives children a place to challenge themselves, grow, and develop a sense of pride and achievement which, in turn, will help them achieve future goals and dreams.
Now is definitely the time
Whether on the bike path, at the park, or in the rink, you can find a new, fun, healthy habit in skating. AND if you are still a little nervous about checking out the skate park or rink for the first time, take my personal experience to heart. I recently took my new inlines to the park and padded myself up with protective gear from head to toe, determined to “go pro” as fast a possible. As I stood there watching the skateboarders seamlessly gliding from one end to the other, I began to feel…nervous. I wondered if, at 31, having never set foot in a skate park before, I was perhaps way out of my element.
I said out loud “I don‘t know if this is the time to try this.” A young man standing nearby looked at me and said “Now is definitely the time. Go get it.” In that moment I felt the very essence of the culture in a personal way.
I look forward to helping skate ambassadors like those I’ve spoken with in their endeavors to boost the health, confidence, and diversity of our community through skate sports.
Cynthia Fowler is a certified personal trainer (NASM), corrective exercise specialist (NASM), registered vinyasa yoga teacher (RYT 200), certified Enhance fitness teacher, group exercise instructor (TRX, Indoor cycling, HIIT, SMR, etc), owner of FoundationUp Fitness, blogger, and health coach. Cynthia can be contacted through her website at foundationupfitness.com or directly at Cynthia@fullyfreely.com.