Skateboarding has always been a niche activity. Skateboarders are used to not feeling welcome and to putting up with their share of “no-skateboarding” signs. It is this general shunning that gives the skateboard community its alternative edge and makes them such a proud and passionate group. For years, here on the Island, this group had no focal point, nowhere to convene. This all changed when the M.V. Skate Park was built by the Skate Park Association in 2003.
The Park itself was a great victory for the Island skateboarding community, the culmination of a huge effort. Facing some tough opposition, the Association finally managed to get the go-ahead to build, financing the project through extensive fundraising and donations from the Island towns. The Park, which sits across from the MVRHS in Oak Bluffs, has become the skating epicenter of the Island.
Starting this summer, the park now has a Skate Camp to go with it. “It’s pretty common for a skate park to have its own camp,” says Eliot Coutts, who along with fellow Island natives Nick Briggs (a member of the Skate Park association who played a major role in getting the park built) and Zeb Weisman founded the M.V. Skate Camp this summer. The camp is open to skaters of all skill levels between the ages of 7 and 17 and runs from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm Monday through Friday through the end of August. There are both daily and weekly rates, and private lessons are offered after camp hours. Teaching comes from Coutts, Briggs, and Weisman, along with volunteer help from local skaters.
The goal of the camp, Coutts says, “is to bring skateboarders, whether native or not, together to make new friends, have a great time, and help them improve and build their confidence. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at as a skater, it’s just about learning new things and supporting one another.”
Almost everyone who has ever picked up a board has at least skinned a knee, so naturally there is a strong focus on safety. All three counselors are CPR-trained and First-Aid certified. “Safety is our main concern,” says Weisman, “Along with teaching skating we want to teach kids how to use safety equipment and how to be safe and responsible out there.”
Coutts, Briggs, and Weisman all grew up on the Island and have been skateboarding since their early childhoods. All are accomplished, experienced skaters and Weisman is even sponsored by RAW Skateboards in Boston. Growing up on the Island, it was difficult to find places to skate and all three attended summer camps off-Island which they say gave them the inspiration for the camp. “We all spent time as kids at Woodward Skate Camp in Pennsylvania (one of the most well-known skate camps in the U.S.), and always had the time of our lives and always wished there was something like this on the Island,” Coutts says. “And ever since the skate park opened we’ve had the idea of starting a camp.” Now, after two successful weekend clinics last summer, the idea gained traction and has become reality.
M.V. Skate Camp works closely with the Skate Park and the Skate Park Association and donates a portion of its proceeds to the maintenance and further development of the Park. “The Park is the center of the skate community,” Briggs says, “and we hope that the camp can add to that. Skate places are few and far between and it’s great to have a place solely for skating, where kids can be outside and active, and we all need to work together to keep it going.”
Along with providing a place for kids to learn and improve their skating, M.V. Skate Camp also hopes to continue to improve the Skate Park itself for the future. “One of our goals is to raise enough money to build some new obstacles and to keep improving the Park,” Coutts says, “We want to keep it safe and to get more and more kids out there skating.”
Support both for the Park and the Camp from the community has also been vital for the Skate Camp as local businesses such as the Green Room, Corner 5, Aboveground Records, Nectar’s, and the Boneyard have all been very generous in their backing.
Skateboarding has come a long way on the Island and thanks to the Skate Park and now to M.V. Skate Camp, it is here to stay. M.V. Skate Camp is the result of the progression of skating here on the Vineyard, but above all it is about the collective passion of Coutts, Briggs, and Weisman for skateboarding and its community. “We want to give kids an opportunity,” Coutts says, “and to give something back to the skating community, something we love and that as kids we never had.”
For more information, visit the Skate Camp’s website http://www.mvskatecamp.com.