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Skateboarding’s snowball effect

Ollies, airwalks, and 360s are becoming familiar to some Wairarapa students, thanks to a programme delivering skateboards, safety equipment, and wooden ramps to seven local schools.

Onboard Skate, an incorporated society located in Palmerston North, successfully secured funding from Nuku Ora, which manages Sport New Zealand’s Tū Manawa Active Aotearoa fund, to buy the equipment and provide in-school sessions teaching foundational skateboarding skills.

The latest to benefit in Wairarapa is Greytown School, which recently took ownership of 30 skateboards, helmets, pads, and a set of portable ramps, and also received four weeks of lessons for most of the school’s students.
“We just thought it would be an amazing opportunity to get our kids enthusiastic about skateboarding”, Sid Kempton, a parent of children at the school and supporter of the project, said. “Hopefully, this will start the snowball effect, getting kids active but also teaching them something different and a new skill.”

Having more young people engaged in skateboarding also “aligns with the build of the Wheels skatepark [in Greytown] that will hopefully start at the end of 2024”, Kempton said.

Onboard Skate’s chief executive Steve Hodges started the organisation about 11 years ago to provide an alternative pathway to being active compared to traditional organised sport and promote positive youth development through skateboarding.

“The philosophy at that time was about trying to get more kids into organised sport and improve participation in sports clubs”, Hodges said. “We had a completely different approach. We were about getting them in active recreation.”

Initially, Hodges found it “challenging” to get funding for his programme but now sport’s grant-giving bodies like Sport New Zealand increasingly recognise the value of supporting active recreation and play as well as organised sport, Hodges said.

The level of participation in organised sports is declining, Hodges said, partly because “organised sport is traditionally very bureaucratic, top-down, very controlled sort of activity”, which disenfranchises some young people.

Today, young people are “more independently minded, they want control and autonomy over decision-making”.

Skateboarding allows “learning to be driven by the participant”, Hodges explained. “It’s an individual activity, but it’s also a group activity. It doesn’t matter what level or what skill level you’re at – as long as you’re trying, people will accept you into the community.”

Nuku Ora healthy active learning advisor Darren Houston, who provides support to schools in the programme, agrees.

“It’s a little more student-directed. They learn off each other. They have things they work on and improve at their own rate. The instructors show them the basics, and then they are off skating.”

The instructors are also instrumental in teaching students “social responsibility” when it comes to using public facilities like skateparks, Houston said.

“When they are at skateparks, it’s about being responsible, respectful, looking after the environment.”

Skateboard culture also teaches young people about the value and importance of failure, Hodges said.

“If you’re failing, all the better because there is an expectation that to succeed in skateboarding, you’ve got to fail.”

Skateboarding equipment and expertise have been available at Lakeview School in Masterton from Onboard
Skate for about three years.

Michelle Kerr, the school’s assistant principal, can testify to the benefits for her students, which include increased balance, confidence, and coordination.

“It’s another way for [the students] to develop their fitness skills and physical skills in a really fun and engaging way. You can see those kids going from really shy and hesitant to confident.”

Other Wairarapa schools in the programme include Masterton Intermediate School, Chanel College, Solway School, Featherston School, and Carterton School.

For more info, visit www.onboardskate.org.nz

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