Ben Stainer's School of Stoke

On a stormy September day, I was asked by a teacher at a local school if I wanted to set up a skate school as a daytime lesson. 

I see myself as a verbal explosion, teaching kids from the ages of 7 to 10, the art of skating, honestly scared me into a new universe. 

First recommending what set-ups to get on a budget nerved me on an entirely new level. Even more scary were the questions spinning round my head like a hamster wheel. Will I collapse like a straw house in a hurricane? Will I be able to achieve the same level of stoke that I feel when I hurtle down a hill and have the exhilaration of still being alive? Could I survive not being an ass for more than 55 minutes? 

I finally arrived at the school on a damp but pleasant Thursday afternoon, having gone through enough child protection checks to gain access to GCHQ. Pressing the school bell I felt a sweeping range of emotions. I swung open the great black gate, walked to the main building, stepped into the reception and vast swath of skateboards filled the area. It was stoke overload as I tore the plastic clamshell packaging away. A thunder of legs came downstairs, 35 school kids leaping around the room like kangaroos. Very few things are as awesome as seeing the excitement on the faces of the kids you’re about to teach.

The heavens opened outside, giving me a very valid reason to encourage the art of sticker bombing. A trail of sticker backings littered the floor as everyone’s board became their own masterpiece.

Owing to the rain, it was barely a 15 minute session, but we all got antiquated with our boards, some began balancing straight away while others decided to belly push through the puddles and rain! Several also decided to just go for it, with many falls happening and the sound of boards slamming around like a fatal game of Jenga. It was an awesome time nonetheless.

The next few weeks were awesome. Teaching how to shuvit and balance to just encouraging a few to break their fear barriers made the experience as awesome as bombing down a dream hill. The teacher who had got me involved was incredible. Putting up with my sometimes crazy ideas and being overly daft at times. During the 3rd session, several of the kids decided to do skeleton bobsleighs, making me laugh with how spontaneous and inventive it was. The kids were made (In conclusion) of much harder stuff then steel. Fall after fall emerged, with even greater dedication to land a trick or two. Injuries did emerge, but after all, THIS IS SKATEBOARDING!

The last three weeks had a fair share of laughter and learning a ton about myself and those I tried to stoke as much as possible. Organising a flat ground luge race in the 5th week was one hell of a laugh. It was the sense of fun and enjoyment that I taught, rather than street skating. Don’t take life too seriously, you’re not getting out of it alive by any means became an echo during that week. Kids asking what could make them faster came up more often than cases of hay fever in summer. 

The second to last week was incredible. Kids getting super stoked on getting pivot 180s and one lad getting 360s, it was an incredible session. Laughter rang like church organs. The philosophy of ‘if you’re not falling you’re not trying’ is a tempting one to enforce. Several kids managed to get the hang of street tricks, since many new faces abounded and got straight into wiping each other out. It was hilarious to watch and great to see such humanity when something was about to go too far. Keeping the attention of children for an hour is near impossible, give them something to work on that they love, is easy days. 

The last week came around with a glimmer of happiness. Dressing up and surprising the children who I had been teaching for just under 2 months was an awesome feeling. Being a slim Santa did have a drawback of being called an impostor. The girls even had the awesome idea of doing a pivot contest, involving a lot of dizziness and a hefty knock on the elbow. Even at the end everyone was still giving it a go, with 2 youngsters deciding to do a team luge on my longboard. Hilarity ensued, with the plucky two nearly slamming into one of the girls, who leapt out the way faster than gazelles from a crocodile.

 

The best thing about doing the skate school was the sheer variety of learning and progression. It was more challenging than sowing with boxing gloves at times, but it means a ton for me to see the children stoking it and asking me where to get the most awesome skate gear. I gave away a skate tool and two sets of bearings, since I have way too much gear already as it is. All I can hope is that I’ve done enough to stoke these kids to be awesome skaters and even more incredible shredders. The attitude of being chilled out is a marvellous thing, and doing the skate school in such a way was perhaps one of the most enjoyable experiences of skating in the UK I’ve had. Get out there and stoke wherever you are.

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