Skateboarding to overcome!
Overcoming adversity is a key part of the human experience. It’s what makes us thrive.
But it isn’t easy. Luckily, there are plenty of catch phrases to give us the push we need in that moment – the confidence to overcome the challenges we face, and the conviction to persevere.
Paul Rudd’s character in the 2008 movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall puts it well. As Kunu the surf instructor, he sagely advises a pensive Jason Segel during his first lesson – "When life gives you lemons, just say f*** the lemons and bail.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the lives of parents everywhere have been filled with lemons – specifically, the challenges of keeping kids active with fewer organized sports available for safe participation. More and more of these parents are bailing on traditional team sports altogether, finding refreshment and security in COVID-safe activities like skateboarding.
When life gives you lemons, hop on a skateboard.
A new wave of skaters
The pandemic brought a wave of new interest in skateboarding all over the globe – a worldwide skating tsunami. Not only does skating provide great fun and exercise, it’s safer than team sports that require more close contact with other athletes. Skating comes with a lower risk for contracting COVID-19 and passing it on to other family members.
During the pandemic, the UK saw its greatest spike in skateboarding interest since the original release of the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game in 2000. According to Skateboard England – the nation's governing body for skateboarding – equipment has been selling out across the country since last March.
“The growth of skateboarding has emerged as an unlikely outcome from the covid lockdown, with its perfect match with quarantine restrictions,” they wrote in a press release issued last September. Historically associated with danger and unnecessary risk, action sports like skateboarding are actually among the safest during a pandemic.
The organization noted that the biggest increases have been in female skaters, couples participating together and older generations re-engaging with a pastime from their youth, either alone or with their kids.
“Requiring a skateboard and a patch of flat ground means that skateboarding can be practiced anywhere,” they added. Skateboarding and other freestyle action sports are great family outdoor activities.
Tom Brown from Welcome Skate Shop in Leeds, UK, said that skateboarding there was “booming” six months into the pandemic. “We’re seeing it on the streets and in the parks,” he added. “We’ve hit a tipping point where participation isn’t limited by age or gender.”
Skateboard sales rise while team sports decline
Search “fun activities for kids near me,” and you’ll find skateboarding among the most common and accessible alternatives to team sports – and your local skatepark might be closer than you think.
Michael Gilbert of Charlottesville, Va., decided to keep his 9-year-old son, Caleb, out of the basketball league he wanted to join last fall. He decided skateboarding was a safer sport to practice during the pandemic.
“It’s outdoors, in a nice big skatepark,” Gilbert told the Washington Post in April, “and there’s a natural distance that people want to keep from each other.” He called it “the pandemic trade-off.”
Kyle Yost – a sports medicine specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center – noted that not having sports can cause children to feel isolated. He said many traditional team activities like “football, wrestling and even basketball may see their sports return later as they cannot socially distance themselves while playing and practicing.”
Or as Gilbert put it, “I don’t want them to get covid, but I also don’t want them to go insane.” He’s just one of many parents who have looked at skateboarding and other “alternative” sports in a new light when seeking activities for their kids during the pandemic. “They have nothing else to do. This is exercise and gets them out of the house,” he said.
Skateboard sales have increased dramatically here in the U.S., up 75% last year according to Action Watch – a research firm tracking skate and surf retailers. The NPD Group noted that baseball and softball equipment sales fell 17% during the same time – and football and soccer equipment sales dropped more than 10%.
Not so risky anymore – skateboarding as a pandemic-safe activity
More and more kids are getting into skateboarding as parents reassess the relative risks of action sports. The Post said many in the sport see the changing tide – “a broader trend away from highly structured team sports and toward more free-range forms of physical activity.”
Matthias Doepke – an economics professor at Northwestern University who researches parental decision-making – said the skateboarding injuries are considered a relatively small risk during the pandemic. “Covid is a bigger and much more tangible risk, so we’ve become more relaxed about other smaller risks."
There are some terrific online resources to help you practice skateboarding safely during a pandemic. The Goodpush Alliance put together these guidelines with input from people all over the world on various “barriers and adaptations.” The alliance is an initiative of Skateistan – an international non-profit organization that uses skateboarding and education to empower children.
Enrico Hufana – a 38-year-old real estate agent – founded the Little Ripper Skateboarding School in Chicago last summer. He was teaching his 6-year-old son to skate at a local park when another parent asked if his kid could get a lesson. He soon had more requests than he could handle.
“Parents don’t look at skateboarding as dangerous anymore especially when there’s an instructor teaching their kids,” he said.
Welcome to kickflip country
Every part of the country has seen the current skating tsunami.
In Gainesville, Fla., Billy Rohan’s Samurai Skate Shop has struggled to keep up with the recent high demand. He said he’s seen a lot of kids ditching traditional team sports for skateboards.
“It’s a strange phenomenon because kids that normally would be doing ball sports are starting to pick up skateboards because it’s perfect for social distancing,” he told NPR. “They can still go out and have fun as a group but still maintain their distance.”
Kids are starting to skate at younger ages than ever before. Rohan pointed out that skateboards are accessible and enjoyable for all types of children.
“You’re open to a whole new world of friendship the minute you pick up a skateboard,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the richest kid or the poorest kid, Black or white, Asian, Hispanic, girl, boy – it’s something anybody can do and have fun doing.”
“Is there a skatepark near me?” – DIVERT your athletic experience!
Are you a parent looking to jump on the skateboarding wave? DIVERT can help get you started! Our family-friendly skateparks are the perfect place for kids to learn how to skateboard – and all the gear is included with your session!
If you’re ready to bail on traditional team sports or wondering “Where can I get good skateboard lessons near me?” – check out DIVERTSessions to see if we have a local skatepark in your area.
Schedule your first session today! We can help you turn your lemons into a fun family outdoor activity.