Updated: Apr 3
The youngest generation of skaters is motivated, persistent, and looking to dismantle stereotypes.
By Elliott Wright
"I got this feeling in my guts, like, ‘Oh no, I’m going to die!’ I thought it was the scariest thing ever. But then, I didn’t die!” These are the words Paloma Ochoa, age nine, uses to describe the sensation of skateboarding down the biggest ramp at El Segundo skate park for the first time.
Paloma and I are lounging in her living room with her French bulldogs, JuJu and BuBu, who run circles around us and bark occasionally to join in our conversation. We discuss what she has learned through skating over the past year. She explains that her progression is due in part to a growing sense of self-confidence through constant practice.
Additionally, Paloma further refined her skills last summer when she attended a camp hosted by Champ Camp Skate at El Segundo skate park. I myself have skated for twenty years and am a coach at the camp, which is how I met Paloma and a host of her skating peers. Our mission is to introduce the fundamentals to young people, ages four to 14, in a safe, welcoming environment.
Despite her feeling initially intimidated, Paloma’s worries melted away once she arrived at the skate park for camp. Paloma states, “Everybody at Champ Camp is really friendly; it is OK to be scared, because we will be supportive of each other, even if we have different skill levels.” Skateboarding and fear go hand in hand. However, with guidance from experienced coaches and a persistent attitude, Paloma knows that fear can be overcome. In terms of learning a new trick, Paloma says, “I usually sleep on it. I think about if it is something I really want to do, and then I stick with it. We are capable of doing more than we think we can. Fear—it is all in your mind.”
Luka Simunac, age 10, started skating only three months ago. He signed up for weekly lessons that began in January. Luka explains, “The coaches at Champ Camp teach you what to do, and they help you with your tricks.” To those who are considering trying a skate camp, Luka offers that “they should not be nervous; it is really fun. In a couple of weeks, you will be able to ride and learn at least a couple of tricks.”
Hunter Kingsley, age 11, started skating one year ago. Like Paloma, he attended a week-long skate camp last summer. At first, he was unsure of the coaches’ abilities. Once he arrived, he felt much more relaxed. “I was not sure if the mentors were going to be good, or not-so-good. They turned out to be really good. It is nice to have mentors that know how to do it, and I can tell that they are professional. I felt very calm and welcomed,” Hunter says.
Hunter takes pride in his new hobby because it provides him a sense of accomplishment. He states, “It is a cool thing when someone asks what one of your hobbies is and I respond, ‘Oh yeah, I skate.’ Also, when you try a new trick and you finally land it, you get this feeling inside, and you cannot compare it to anything else.”
Skateboarders have sometimes had bad reputations, which Hunter feels are unfounded. He hopes to challenge these stereotypes by being both a skater and a model El Segundo citizen. “There are skaters who are not the best people, but that is the same with anything else. There are also good skaters who are really helpful. One time there was this guy who was here at the skatepark to pick up trash, so I decided to help him. I just wanted to make his job easier. I want people to know that skaters are not always bad people,” Hunter explains.
When Hunter tells me this, I could not be more proud because these are the kinds of values that we promote at camp. Our goal is to demonstrate the connection between skating and the larger picture of life. Since meeting Hunter, Luka, and Paloma, I am confident in their generation of skaters. They encourage each other while putting in the hard work to challenge themselves, learn new tricks, and most importantly, have fun.
For those interested in learning more, Hunter recommends Champ Camp Skate. He says, “It is a great idea to try it. Give it a chance, because skating will become one of your new favorite things.” To learn more about upcoming lessons and week-long camps, check out champcampkids.com/skate for more details, and refer to the Guide to Summer Camps on page 17 of this issue.
See you at El Segundo skate park as soon as we can!
This story appears in the April 2020 issue of The El Segundo Scene.