Skating alive – but not so well
Barbados has a vibrant skate culture that has been in existence for over a decade, with a spike in interest in the last three years, increasing momentum and followers along the way.
Careful observation reveals several No Skating signs, which have been erected by businesses and other concerns around the island.
The SATURDAY SUN got an inside look at this way of life as some of Barbados’ best skateboarders converged on their secret course, aptly called the F-Spot (Foundation Spot), located in the southern part of the island.
The members from Irie One Skate Team, Movement Sk8 Team, Alliance Skate Team and Cartell Skate Team, unable to practise in places with firm infrastructure as a result of the No Skating signs, were forced to build their own temporary fixtures.
Paul Wilson, one of the earliest local skaters and leader of Irie One Skate Team, says that the non-acceptance of the sport stems from people not seeing it as something positive.
“They are thinking that we are just vandalizing property,” he said.
However, with time, money and collective energy dedicated to the project, the teams were able to call the F-Spot their home after three days of toiling in the sun, clearing and patching and building.
According to Mikul Elcock, member of the Movement Sk8 Team, after a meeting and numerous calls to the National Sports Council nothing had been done concerning the constitutions they twice prepared. All of this effort was put in so as to be able to form an association so that the sport could be officially recognized in Barbados.
Without official status and with no professionally built skate park, practitioners fear the sport will not be able to produce professionals born and trained in Barbados.
“If you are a very talented skater in this island and you do not leave Barbados to get exposure, you will be forgotten. That’s the harsh reality!” said Paul Layne, founder of the Cartell Skate Team.
Wilson added: “If we have a skate park, we could get pro skaters the same way how pro surfers come here; and that’s the level that we need to get skateboarding to.”
He said the sport could have many benefits for sports tourism. “It isn’t like we’re just advertising our skaters; we’re advertising Barbados as a destination for pro skaters to come to,” he said.
Members of the teams all believe that even with the Foundation Spot, a skate park is still needed.
As one looked around the F-Spot, it was evident that there was a high likelihood of injury. The materials used are not the most durable, and some of the ramps were built with whatever was available.
Even sheet metal was used, being placed at the bottom of each ramp so that the skaters can transition smoothly from the ground onto ramp. This only works if the sheet metal stays put, but on the odd occasion it can send one of the skaters flying through the air. Despite these dangers, the skaters practise daily.
Wilson recalled incidents where they would be skating and people would taunt them, saying things such as “you doan know you should fall down and brek you neck”.
Founder of the Alliance Skate Team, Matthew Humphrey, said that although the Government may not be in a position to assist at the moment, there were alternatives.
“Skateboarding is a billion-dollar industry in the developed world . . . Because of the capital and overheads, the cost of building a skate-park would have to come from a philanthropist because it is serious infrastructure cost, and insurance is a very high cost as well.”
Despite the difficulties, the skateboarders’ passion is undiminished.
“The skateboard community in Barbados is underground, but it is so alive at the same time . . . We’re a family! At the end of the day, regardless of the teams, we are all one; we all represent Barbados. So, we’re just trying to get it out there,” Layne said.
Up to press time, the SATURDAY SUN was unable to reach director of the Sports Council, Erskine King, for comment.