Steve Munro glides with ease up the vertical wall of the half-pipe and slaps the ceiling. Skateboarding indoors takes nerves and cool precision.
In an roomy, two-bay space in a warehouse on Dunford Avenue, a half pipe, two quarter pipes and a few street-style rails create what could be Canada’s first dedicated skateboarding school.
Indoor skateparks and indoor ramps aren’t new, but Debbie Qayum says setting up a school that caters to newbies and experienced skaters alike has broken new ground.
For kids with nervous parents or who are uncomfortable at the Langford skatepark, and with a burgeoning number of young families, the East Sooke mom says this is a service whose time has come.
“A lot of kids are intimidated. A lot are afraid to go to the skatepark,” Qayum said. “They think they’re not good enough, that they’ll get in the way. There is no place to learn if you don’t have a friend with a board to teach you.
“There is a demand for this. Kids can learn individually or in a group and not feel embarrassed.”
Qayum and Munro launched the Side Step skateboarding school in early February, with a skateboard shop upstairs, and has seen a steady stream of young kids and even a few older adults.
“Parents say it’s awesome. Many don’t want their kid at the skatepark because it’s not supervised,” Qayum said. “There’s no alcohol or drugs here. It’s quite strict. You’ve got to be a member, parents have got to sign their kid up.”
Qayum, in her 40s, took up skateboarding four years ago after her two teen boys started skating. Her oldest boys showed her the ropes at the Sooke skatepark and in Langford.
Munro, a 31-year-old, 20-year veteran of boarding, said he started teaching skating to his friend’s kids a few years ago at the Langford skatepark. He and Qayum teamed up to teach skating to kids at John Stubbs Memorial school in the lacrosse box, and then Poirier elementary in Sooke.
With six to 10 kids at a time, some as young as five, Munro devised a skateboarding certification program for different levels of tricks and skills, modelled after snowboarding.
“I want to give youth in the city something to do. I grew up before there was a skatepark,” Munro said. “It was hard to get around and we were harassed by police and businesses.”“
“We want to give them confidence. It’s neat to see a kid achieve a new trick,” Qayum adds. “They get excited and I get excited. It’s neat watching a kid meet a new level, a new trick. It gives them confidence and self esteem.”
Based on those ad hoc classes, they decided demand from kids and parents warranted a full-fledged school and indoor skatepark. Qayum purchased the warehouse space and worked through the regulatory requirements over the winter. Getting insurance was expensive and tough.
“This is the first skateboard school in all of Canada. Every step with permits and licences, no one had done this before. It was breaking new ground,” she said. “Even with the insurance.”
“Langford is such a great place to do this. We’ve got a young population, lots of young families with kids who like to skateboard,” Munro said. “There’s lots of academies for sports in school. I thought it was time for skateboarding as well.”
Whether skateboarding school as a business is viable remains to be seen, although the relocated Switch skateboard shop (now called Switch Ungerground) should help balance the books. “The ultimate goal is to see a profit,” he said. “Now we are just trying to keep afloat. It’s an experiment kind of a thing.”
But Munro and Qayum also say teaching kids skateboarding is more a passion and a lifestyle than a job. They and a group of volunteers built the ramps and are planning on organizing skater teams in different schools throughout the district.
“Hopefully we’ll end up getting corporate sponsors or sponsorship from the city. We want to get a youth centre going on,” Munro said. “The idea is to go for what makes parents feel safe, so they can drop their kids off to do a good sport.”
The Side Step Skateboarding School is at 109-937 Dunford Rd. See regularunderground.com for school information and skatepark drop in times.