A skater at the Billy Johnson skateboard park in Kingston shreds in the bowl. (Kitsap County Parks/Contributed)

Building bridges through boarding

KINGSTON — Many sports are accessible, but few, arguably, as much as skateboarding.

With bowls, verts, spines and rails, the Billy Johnson Skateboard Park is a challenge to skaters, many of whom spend hours here perfecting their skills.

But to some skaters living on the edge in the adjacent woods, the park is home.

Kingston Cares hopes to bridge the gap between those young people and the community.

Rebecca Ifland, volunteer outreach at Coffee Oasis and board member of Kingston Cares, knows of at least five homeless youth in Kingston but said homelessness, especially among youth, is a really hard number to count.

“I know the schools count much more,” she said. “How can we talk with this generation to help them find their voice? We want to be able to bridge that gap so that we can talk with them and be part of their lives and encourage them. This is [by] encouraging the sport that they do.”

That’s why from 3-7 p.m. Aug. 12, at the park at 24700 Lindvog Road, Kingston Cares will present a skateboarding contest and workshops for all who enjoy the park. Organizers hope the event will help build bridges between park users of all demographics to build a stronger community.

Kingston Cares was formed with the concern for displaced youth, Ifland said. It also operates Kingston’s severe weather shelter and the Food4Kids program in North Kitsap.

The skateboard contest, now in its second year, features prizes and workshop clinics for skaters of all experience levels.

Last year, the competition brought out more than 20 skaters ranging in age from 12-25. This year, Kingston Cares President Stanley Mack said, “We’re hoping to increase the number.”

Prizes include donated items from Borrowed Kitchen Bakery, Coffee Oasis, Cup &Muffin, Farmhouse Cafe, the Grub Hut, Little Candy Company, Unity Skateshop, and Westside Pizza.

“Most of the skaters will walk away with something for their participation,” Mack said.

This year’s event is adding two workshop clinics hosted by Skate Like A Girl of Seattle. The clinics are open to skaters of any age and experience level; safety

equipment and boards will be provided for any interested participant.

“Our mission is to create an inclusive skateboard community,” said Kristin Ebeling, executive director of Skate Like a Girl. “We’re trying to diversify the culture of skateboarding, by breaking down the barriers — whether it’s financial, cultural, or low-income.”

Skateboarding will be an Olympic sport in 2020, Ebeling said. “And female skateboarders are the fastest-growing demographic.”

Now more than ever, this is why it’s critical to create safe space for all people and backgrounds in the skate community, she said.

“We’re definitely challenging the ideas of who can skateboard and who can’t,” she said. “Concrete is ubiquitous and skate parks are everywhere. It’s one of the most accessible board sports, we want to give structure and opportunity for anyone to come skateboard.”

Mack agreed.

“The message we’re trying to communicate is, there are people in the community who care about the kids who use the skatepark,” he said. “You are a part of our community. We want to make the skaters feel accepted and to help them take ownership of the park.”

Mack anticipates an increased number of skaters and more than 100 people will watch the excitement.

“Watching some of the skaters is pretty amazing,” Ifland added. “Why watch football on TV when you can watch an athlete in your hometown?”

The event is free and bottled water will be provided. Participants younger than 18 are required to submit a parent- or guardian-signed safety release. For more information, go to www.kingstoncares.org/events/.

“This brings generations together and it builds community,” Ifland said. “This says to young people, ‘We care about you and we care about what you want.’ ”

Ebeling encourages those who are interested in resources, and other information help diversify the skateboard community in their hometown, to contact her at seattle@skatelikea girl.com.

— Sophie Bonomi is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. Contact her at sbonomi@soundpublishing.com. Kingston Community News Rotary columnist Ron Carter contributed to this report.