Western Heights School, AK - Skateboard Programme

A generation of young West Aucklanders are learning to skate at school.

Funding from KiwiSport of about $32,000 is enabling 3500 kids from 15 primary schools out west to learn the basics of using a skateboard.

OnBoard Skate chief executive Steve Hodges says he started his company in 2012 to give kids an alternative to adult-controlled sport.

OnBoard Skate chief executive Steve Hodges and Western Heights School student Manav Treekam, 11, a member of the school's skate club.
SIMON SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ
 
OnBoard Skate chief executive Steve Hodges and Western Heights School student Manav Treekam, 11, a member of the school's skate club.

The barriers to play are low compared to organised sport, which is "becoming more elitist and expensive", he says.

 

"There are no teams and there's no winning and losing. It's a non-judgmental activity. Failure is actually something that's celebrated."

Over the past year and a half, OnBoard has been giving children a 45-minute lesson each week at school for five weeks, teaching them how to skate safely.

Helmets, knee pads and arm protection are essential.
 
Helmets, knee pads, and arm protection are essential.

"If kids are going to injure themselves, it's going to be in those first few weeks of learning. And we can minimise those risks."

At Western Heights School, Sport Waitakere has followed up on the students' enthusiasm with their Growing Leaders Programme to help a group of kids organise skating for their classmates.

A club was organised and equipment purchased – including rails and ramps for use at skate sessions and lunchtime.

Steve Hodges guides a young Western Heights School skater.
 
Steve Hodges guides a young Western Heights School skater.

Skate competitions are being organised and money raised to buy more boards and helmets.

Connor Walker, 10, is one of those eager to promote the sport to his fellow Western Heights School pupils.

"My favourite part about skating at school is working with my classmates and friends, and getting new people to come in and try skating," he says.

"It's about helping people learn how to skate."

Hodges, 55, says he used to skate in his youth, and he is keen to break some of the negative stereotypes around skateboarders.

"I have always had a bit of a softer side for the underdog and I felt that skaters get a lot of a raw deal."

Skating is good for kids, he says, as it builds their self-confidence and teaches them to become resilient and less fearful of taking risks.

Hodges is planning an inter-school West Auckland skate festival in term four.

This article was first published in the Western Leader newspaper on May 24th, 2016