Photos by Emily N. Tanaka.
Dew Tour hit the streets of Long Beach once again over the weekend, bringing with it not only opportunities for the public to watch some of the best pro skaters compete but to give local youth a chance to experience the fun.
For the first time ever, organizers collaborated with the U.S. Army during the four-day event to put an educational spin on the competitive pro-skateboarding series.
Along with the four-day competition, organizers hosted daily community programs geared towards teaching local young skaters and their parents about the science behind the sport, more about skateboarding in general and the benefits of skating.
The daily programs, known as Community Days, were conducted by local businesses and nonprofits dedicated to teaching kids about skateboarding.
The Community Days activities kicked off on Thursday as Dew Tour partnered with Long Beach Unified School District to invite 200 high school skaters to attend Dew Tour and participate in S.T.E.M. activities focused on problem solving and the science of skateboarding.
In a joint effort, the S.T.E.M. activities were led by skateboard-building non-profit founder Paul Schmitt, professional skateboarder Greg Lutzka, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Blakney. Though initially uninterested, the students became engaged during their lesson in the science of skateboard materials taught by Schmitt, watched a skate demo by Lutzka and were led in an Army strategy tower puzzle by Sgt. Blakney.
The partnership with LBUSD was a jumping off point for Dew Tour to work with the district to conduct similar programs in the future called “Dew Tour Innovators”, said Sponsorship Manager Courtney Gresik.
LBUSD’s Peter Davis, the assistant superintendent of high schools, sees a bright future for the partnership and hopes to see it conducted as a work-based learning class where young skaters get to learn how to apply their love of the sport into a marketable career.
“We’re hoping that they see that there’s science, there’s ecology, there’s graphics, there’s manufacturing, there’s all these other things that go into a skateboard and we’re hoping that that will help broaden their basic understanding of where they can fit in the skateboard world,” Davis said.
So as to not exclude younger kids from the weekend’s fun, the local mobile skateboard school, Skatedogs, offered free skate lessons to children ages 5 to 13 years old three times a day, during all four days of the event.
Skatedogs aims to give children a safe space to learn and grow as a pint-sized skater within the professional environment. They set up their small, mobile skatepark in a cordoned off part of the competitions grounds so the children could learn on smaller ramps in a safe, kid-friendly environment according to Skatedogs coach Nick “Neesh” Kennahan.
“There’s tons of families here and it’s a big family orientated event but there’s not really too much for the little kids to do. They have a public skatepark but the public skatepark has ramps that are very hard for them to skate,” said Kennahan. “We have our own ramps that are really designated for the little kids and they can ride the small stuff and we can help them. And they have their own space to do so. It’s a great thing for this whole family event and just ties it together.”
Along with the S.T.E.M. program and daily Skatedogs lessons, Community Days also organized Foundation Open Skate Days on Friday and Saturday, giving children from the ASK and A. Skate foundations a chance to enjoy the skateparks before the venue was opened to the public.
A. Skate, a nonprofit that provides one-on-one skate lessons for children with autism, took over the community free-skate park Saturday morning and invited children with autism from the area to have a one-on-one lesson with local A. Skate volunteers.
The foundation provides a form of therapy for the children and gives the volunteer, most who are teens and young adults, an opportunity to get to know and understand the disability, said founder Crys Worley.
To Worley, A. Skate’s involvement with Dew Tour is a great way to show the skating community a part of skateboarding culture that they might not have been aware of. But more importantly, it shows families of children with autism that their children can enjoy and learn in a loud, chaotic place without being overstimulated.
Through help with a volunteer, the children can transition through the challenges presented by the environment and learn to skate and enjoy themselves while doing it.
“The kids are learning life skills through four wheels and a piece of wood. Everything about this experience goes beyond skateboarding. But that’s Dew Tour’s goal with us,” Worley said. “They want us to be able to put families in a situation that is safe for their kids, that is comfortable for their kids and that is educational for their kids to come and learn about skateboarding. The kids want to learn but they have to just be put in an environment they can be successful in and that’s why we’re here.”