Once a year, on the second Saturday of September, the Vancouver Jaks Skate Club
invites local East Van kids to China Creek Skatepark for a skate competion. Yesterday was the 24th annual Jaks skate comp at China Creek - the oldest skatepark in Vancouver and the second oldest skatepark in Canada.
This year is China Creek's 30th birthday and we are lucky it's still here. It was nearly demolished in 2007, but a plan to bulldoze it was cancelled after local fans of the park
lobbied the Vancouver Parks Board and convinced them the China Creek Skatepark had value as a public space in an area that lacks parks. Kudos to the Vancouver Parks Commissioners for listening to the community and creating such a beautiful park renovation.
Yesterday China Creek was buzzing - with more than 100 at the Jaks comp and dozens more on the new playground.
"I talked to every Jak here and they think for sure this is the most people we've had in a skate comp ever," says Jaks veteran Simon Snotface
, whose recent novel Prisoner of Evil
has been described as "one of the most disgusting books ever written."
My son met Simon at a recent punk rock reunion party - and the two hit it off! Simon invited Toby to the comp and he has been excited about it for the past few weeks. On the big day, he started bugging me to take him to China Creek at 7:30 a.m. At 9:30 a.m., we were the very first people to arrive. Toby wanted to practice for the comp due to start around noon.
I noticed dew on the grass as I opened my lawn chair on the grassy hill above the skate bowls. I felt like a "skate mom" - similar to but different than a soccer mom. I chatted with a mom breast feeding her baby at a picnic table. I sat in my lawn chair and read twitter tweets on my iphone. I saw the first two teenaged boys who showed up.
"Everyone will be watching and clapping and cheering you on, no matter what you do," one of them said to my son.
"Don't be scared of falling," says the other, a Grade 11 boy named Tony who honed his skating skills while living beside China Creek.
Jaks members and their families and friends and local kids all showed up - along with a generous offering of prizes from Skull Skates, Zulu Records, and others (please comment and tell me who I missed). I recorded a little chat with Simon, using QuickVoice on my iPhone. He told me how the prizes have changed since the comp's early days.
"Back in the day, all of us were on welfare and no one had any jobs, so we had to go collect pop cans and save our empties and go to Value Village and buy bogus trophies," Simon says. "That was 20 years ago. Now we're all growed up and we're all better. Lots of us own businesses and have lots of cash so now we get very generous donations to make this thing go down. This year my entire purpose is to encourage young people and anyone who's being intimidated, like girls. It's been fantastic. This year, even the kid who came in last in juniors got a deck and all.."
My son came home with a new skate deck, a set of wheels, two t-shirts, and three music CDs. It was like Christmas morning for him. For these kids - many of whom are from low income families - it was an absolute delight to get these prizes. Our new pal Brendan - an 11-year old in Grade 6 - won skate shoes and sat beside me as he took them out of the box and put them on. That's one less pair of shoes for his family to pay for - a big help!
Sincere thanks to the Jaks for putting on another great event for our kids.
Let's all say thanks to the Jaks in the comments section here on this blog...