Etiquette School for Skaters

By Beacon Staff

If you’re a skateboarder, you’re going to fall.

At Kalispell’s Spirit Skate Camp, kids learn that falling isn’t failure. In fact, it’s what makes a skater strong.

This summer marks the fourth year the city of Kalispell and Spirit Skate Shop have teamed together to teach kids about city skating ordinances, safety, etiquette and self-maintenance. The goal is simple: to benefit the camper and community.

The skate camp, held in Woodland Park, is broken up into three, two-day sessions, with the first already completed and the second running on July 10 and 11. The final session is August 2 and 3. Registration forms are available at Kalispell Parks and Recreation and Spirit Skate Shop.

Although skating has gained popularity and acceptance in the Flathead Valley, mixed perceptions about skateboarders still persist. Recently, loiterers at the skate park have raised enough concern to warrant an informal work session with city officials. On July 14th the Kalispell City Council will discuss the fate of the skate park. No votes will be allowed at the meeting but the council will discuss temporarily closing the skate park. Skating restrictions within city limits and helmet requirements will also be discussed.

“Some people still view skateboarders as troubled youths, largely in part, because of their appearance,” Kalispell Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jennifer Young said. “But they are no different than any other kid; they deserve to have fun.”

Admittedly, Young and Spirit Skate Shop owner Mark DeLorme agree there are always troublemakers, but this problem, they say, is not necessarily the skateboarders. DeLorme and Young both point to the loitering problem, which prompted the July 14 meeting. The meeting is, in part, an attempt to improve what DeLorme views as a lack of communication between the city and the skating community in addressing concerns associated with the skate park.

But for the city and Spirit, the camp remains an important way to encourage dialogue and hopefully reach agreement on pertinent issues in the skate community.
James Reeves, a Flathead native, will be the camp instructor. He also did it in 2006. Last year Reeves spent the summer at Woodward West in California – one of the country’s premiere training facilities for skateboarding, gymnastics, mountain biking, BMX, and in-line skating. While in California, he received a promotion to the role of camp “fun director,” a position usually reserved for returning staff. He has also been invited to instruct at another Woodward location in Minnesota this year.

“I wanted to make sure Kalispell was going to have the best skateboarding camp around,” Reeves said.

Reeves has been skating for more than half of his life and understands the difficulty and precision of skating. It can be painstaking. But he says the exhilaration you get after days of tribulation is worth the pain.

At camp, when a rider lands a trick, skaters will begin to tap their boards on the ground. It’s a skateboarder’s homage: the sound of 20 wood boards tapping concrete. And it’s never more important then when a skater fails. It reminds them that perseverance is paramount.

“Getting up is hard,” Reeves said. “It’s the difference between a kid crying or trying again. It builds a lot of character.”