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Olympics on deck: Canada Skateboard woos Calgary skaters in recent visit

This article by Zev Klymochko was funded by Patreon. Contribute now to help build a wider range of voices and stories covering our city. – LiveWire Calgary: Run by Journalists, for the community.

Calgary’s Olympic dreams may be over, but you wouldn’t know it if you were at the presentation by Canada Skateboard at The Compound YYC indoor skatepark Nov. 15.

Representatives from Vancouver-based Canada Skateboard stopped in Calgary for an information session that looked to shed some light on what the organization plans to do to grow skateboarding in Canada and its potential inclusion in future Summer Olympics. Their visit follows similar engagements in Vancouver and Montreal.

Canada Skateboard is the relatively new official national body for skateboarding. Formed in 2016 by a small group of Canadian skateboarding industry leaders like former pros Rob “Sluggo” Boyce and Kevin Harris, they’ve recently hired a handful of staff to promote and grow skateboarding. Their motto, “keep pushing,” refers to a lot of barriers that skateboarders still face.

Canada Skateboard likes to use the term “hard fun” to refer to skateboarding broadly.

“Skateboarding is not easy. The act itself is challenging and it can be hard to be a skateboarder, especially in Canada,” said Canada Skateboard vice president, Kyle Dion.

“There has been turmoil in countries like China and the USA with regards to who will be in charge of organizing skateboarding for the Olympics [in those countries]. We’ve seen roller skating organizations try to take over and represent skateboarding. Canada Skateboard was actually the first organization to be recognized by World Skate, the global governing body for skateboarding.”

A lot of skateboarders insist that skateboarding isn’t a sport. Canada Skateboard is acutely aware of this, but they accept the fact that the Olympics are looking to evolve and increase viewership.

Skateboarding is in a similar spot to another board sport. Snowboarding allowed the Olympics to reach younger fans and has quickly risen to become of more popular events in the Winter Games. In order to be successful, Canada Skateboard has hired Adam Higgins, a key figure from Canada Snowboard. Higgins was responsible for setting up the structure of skateboarding with the Canadian Olympic Committee.

To date, Canada Skateboard has received a small amount of funding through Sport Canada. Future plans include further funding through private donors/sponsors and the Canadian Olympic Committee. These funds have been used to participate in events like Jackalope Fest in Montreal and for Canada Skateboard to introduce skateboarding to more than 600 youth at the Jumpstart Games here in Calgary.

The local connections don’t end there. Three athletes from Calgary attended the World Skateboarding Park World Championships in Nanjing, China last month. Laura Sliva, Riley Boland, and Jesse Ingrilli were all in attendance as Dion, Higgins, and coordinator Vlad Tucakov took a group of about 30 through Canada Skateboard’s mandate.

Roughly 30 people entrenched in Calgary’s skateboard scene attended the Canada Skateboard presentation Nov. 15. ZEV KLYMOCHKO / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Canada Skateboard’s Calgary presentation was promoted by local advocacy group Calgary Association of Skateboarding Enthusiasts (CASE). CASE chair, Tom Nelson, was excited at the prospect of working with Canada Skateboard.

“This will mean having access to more resources, whether it’s insurance, membership structure, and potential sponsors. I think CASE and skateboarding will be able to continue to grow,” Nelson said.

Nelson and his organization have been instrumental in advocating for nearly 10 new outdoor concrete skateparks built or under construction in Calgary since 2015.

It seemed as though Canada Skateboard won over some of the hard core skateboarders who once scoffed at the prospect of skateboarding being in the Olympics. They’re still cautious and likely echo the sentiments of skateboarding icon Tony Hawk, who said, “I believe the Olympics need the “cool” factor of skateboarding for their Summer Games more than skateboarding needs their validation, in the same way snowboarding provided a youthful energy to the winter games.”