Together We are Stronger: Building a Skateboarding Community
Allison Waters, a skater of nearly 20 years, is the owner and founder of Stronger Skatepark. It will be a unique place for the skate community in Portland, and is currently running on Kickstarter until July 12. Below is her story, and your chance to help build a similar one for others.
How It All Began
I got my first skateboard around age 10, a neon orange Nash board. I learned how to roll down the driveway on it and that was about it. It wasn’t until I was age 12 that I became a skateboarder. Between watching skateboarding on television and skating with cousin in my grandmother’s garage, I got hooked. I begged my mom for a “real” board and soon I had a my own Tony Hawk Birdhouse complete from a local shop.
I struggled in school my entire life but 6th grade was the hardest. My teacher didn’t get me, and wasn’t able to give me the help I needed. I was bored in some subjects, and couldn’t keep up with others. That year our family also experienced several tragedies that made school seem pretty pointless to me. I was a mess, and then came skateboarding. Skateboarding gave me a safe space to be myself. It was ok to be a girl who dressed like the guys, and talked like the guys at the skatepark. Skateboarding had no rules provided by parents or teachers, and it had no scoring or grading. It was just me and my board and whoever I chose to skate with.
Skateboarding was instrumental in my development as a young person. As a young teen I made most of my friends at the skatepark. My first summer skating I spent at our tiny outdoor public park, but soon the park was closed for the winter. Luckily a big indoor park had just opened. It was a long drive, but my Mom was willing to take me because she saw how dedicated I was to skating.
The new skatepark, WARP, quickly became my second home. I was there every day I could be. At the park I made more friends than I ever made in school or any other extra-curricular activity. I learned the value of perseverance, sometimes spending all day to learn one trick. I learned the value of money, always saving for new boards and wheels (which I was constantly flatspotting). I also learned what a positive community looks like.
All the WARP regulars pushed one another to be the best we could be at skateboarding. Because we were together consistently at the park we built a wonderful community of skateboarders that spanned socio-economic background, age, and ability. We often had 8 year olds, 15 year olds, and 40 year olds skating together. I was usually the only girl though. These days more and more girls and women are stepping onto skateboards, and I’m here to welcome them to a club that was once far too exclusive.
In high school I dreamed of opening my own skatepark someday. But life took me in other directions, and skateboarding’s popularity started to drop as I entered adulthood. For a long time I gave up on my dream, because I didn’t believe there was enough of a skate community to support it. A lot has changed since then. Skateboarding is once again rising in popularity, but it’s different than it was when I got started. It’s not a sharp rise that comes with a fad, it’s a slow steady build that comes when something has been accepted as mainstream. Like it or not, skateboarding is pretty normal these days, and is growing most among children ages 6-12. It’s the third most popular recreational activity among teenagers. Skateboarding is everywhere. When I visited All Together Skatepark in Seattle, I immediately knew we not only needed something similar in Portland, but that we had the community to support it. I believe Portland needs Stronger Skatepark.
The heart behind Stronger Skatepark is a desire to positively change the lives of kids like me. Kids who are struggling to fit in in other places, kids whose personal lives have had major disruptions, and kids who are passionate about skateboarding, or BMX, or scooters. Some of these kids already skate, scoot, or ride bikes. Others have yet to have a chance to experience these activities, often because our outdoor parks here in Portland are packed whenever the weather is nice enough to ride. This environment can be too overwhelming for someone new. Stronger Skatepark will offer beginners-only times, and kids’ only times too. Afternoons we will be open to all with evenings and mornings set aside for specific groups.
I’ve been working hard for over a year to bring an indoor park like the one that transformed my teen years here to Portland. I’ve put in the work and raised most of the money already, the last step before we find a building and sign a lease, is our Kickstarter campaign.
The Kickstarter campaign is the chance for the community to help bring this valuable resource to Portland families. You don’t have to skate to support Portland skaters. The average pledge so far in the campaign is $45 – less than the cost of one skateboard deck. It’s less than the cost of a day at the movies for a family. But $45 is enough to make a big difference in this campaign, so please support Stronger Skatepark today and help make the difference in the lives of local families.