Longboarding for Peace Teaches Young Skaters in Toronto
Editor’s Note: Michael Brooke, publisher of longboard skateboard magazine Concrete Wave, recently founded Longboarding for Peace. The program works to bridge ties between youth in areas of conflict and is a natural expansion of Surfing for Peace.
Words and photos by: Michael Brooke
What started in Jaffa, Israel bringing Arab and Israeli children together through longboarding has now mushroomed to a worldwide movement of peace. Gangbangers are turning into longboarders in Houston, Texas. First Nations youth in British Columbia are learning how to longboard and surf. The after school program in Watts is creating some mighty fine skaters. We've taken the movement to Jamaica, Peru and things are now starting to roll in Japan and Europe.
For our latest activity, we worked with Josh Benoliel and Daniel Rinzler of Evolve Skate Camps. Evolve has been teaching skateboarding and snowboarding for a number of years. With help from the local longboard community and S&J Sales, we headed out to Amesbury Middle School in Toronto with 30 completes and a boatload of helmets. Thankfully, Evolve has just purchased a brand new trailer!
The school is situated in a fairly affluent area of Toronto. However, all the students are bussed in or commute from a little rougher area – Jane and Finch.
Steve Bannerman, the schools principal told me he has seen an increase in the number of skaters at the school. There have been some issues. Apparently, when the kids hit the streets around the school, they have actually been shot at with pellets.
We arrived early and were met with a number of enthusiastic kids who were very excited about the program. We had 120 kids sign up for the program which put us at capacity. Through out the day we met a number a kids who were anxious to be a part of the program. We had to tell them "next time."
As the final notes of "Oh Canada" finished, we were greeted by Vice-Principal Cheryl Ann Samuel-Graham who told us that she used to skate. Our session took place at the back of the school and the weather couldn't have been more perfect.
At each session, the kids took to the longboards beautifully. They were happy and started to grasp the fundamental idea – balance! The following photos tell the whole story a lot better than words.
Longboarding for Peace would like to extend a huge thanks to all the participants, teachers, administrators of Amesburymiddle school, Evolve Skate Camps and all our volunteers. The plan is to return in June to present completes to the 8 kids who make the best progression to a more balanced life.