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Skate mom offers lessons on etiquette

Diane Rothdram spent time at skateparks to develop guidelines for local parents



With the snow finally gone, Sea to Sky kids and teens are busting out their skateboards and scooters and heading to their local skatepark. Pemberton and Whistler's are already busy at times—and it's only going to get crazier as summer unfolds.

With all those people ripping around in a confined area, accidents can happen, and veteran skaters can grow frustrated.

After spending her fair share of time around skateboarding, a Pemberton skate mom has learned a thing or two about skate etiquette, and she's looking to share what she's learned with other parents.

"Without logging some time in the (skatepark) and understanding the way things work, you just wouldn't know," explained Diane Rothdram, whose eight-year-old son Theo is totally hooked.

In a Facebook post on Pemberton's community forum page, Rothdram laid out a set of helpful (and humorous) guidelines directed at parents, starting with the need to avoid using features, like the ledges that often line skateparks, as seats.

"While the ledges and edges may seem like the perfect place to sit, they are designed to be skateable," wrote Rothdram. "They are not benches or shelves for your crap ... If you want to sit, bring a chair and place it outside the park."

Rothdram also underlined the need for kids to wait their turn, to queue up for features. "It's cute that your kid is stoked on scooting and doesn't want to stop, however, while he is cruising the bowl endlessly, it is essentially out of order for everyone else."

Rothdram said she was prompted to write the post after a friend asked a couple of parents who were sitting on a box (a skate park feature) to move and got a chilly reception.

"(The parents) didn't want to hear it. They did get up and move, but they kind of grumbled about it ... They weren't very happy about it," she said.

Clearly enthralled with the sport, Rothdram said skateboarding has changed her son's life, introducing him to a wide array of people he might not otherwise meet.

"It's been amazing for him," she said. "It's built his confidence like crazy."

John Martin, a Whistler skatepark regular and manager at The Circle, said that getting the skate etiquette message out is important, especially in Whistler and Pemberton, where the level of general understanding seems to be lower than in other places, like Vancouver.

A while back Martin was rolling into a bank at the Squamish skatepark when a kid cut in front of him.

Martin jumped off his board, narrowly avoiding him.

"My reaction was, 'Oh my God, I almost killed this kid!'" he explained.

What surprised him was the reaction of the kid's mom.

"She was basically yelling at me—even though her kid was in the wrong," explained Martin, adding that everyone needs to learn and he is supportive of new kids in the park.

"And that happens a lot. The parents aren't aware of proper etiquette, so if their kid almost gets hit, the parent just freaks out."

Martin added that it's important for mountain bikers, who are not permitted in the Whistler skatepark, to stay out of the parks.

In addition to tracking in dirt, they also pose a safety risk.

"The way they ride around is different than how skaters do ... They're silent ... So you could come over something and you don't even hear the bike—so it's like, 'Oh man!' And then you get hit by a bike."

Both Martin and Rothdram said it's great to see kids enjoy the skateparks, especially when their parents are on the sidelines encouraging them to follow the rules.

"Until you can trust that your grom understands the complexities and etiquette you should be close at hand," wrote Rothdramf at the end of her post. "(Skateparks offer) a fun vibe and an opportunity to meet some new people, hope to see you there."

Diane Rothdram’s Skate park Public Service Announcement

I didn’t grow up using skate parks but I have had massive exposure over the last two years as my son’s passion has become a full blown addiction. I’ve been to parks all over the Lower Mainland and the corridor and have witnessed my share of conflict. Skateboarders often get the reputation of being surly and angry with other users but I think I can shed some light and hopefully help everyone get along. While there is a playground vibe at certain times of the day, etiquette is about safety for all users and it is our responsibility as parents to teach our kids. Here’s what I’ve learned---

  1. Know your place: Everything inside the skate park should be considered out of bounds for parents and spectators. While the ledges and edges may seem like the perfect place to sit they are designed to be skateable, they are not benches or shelves for your crap. Standing on the edge of the bowl is dangerous for you and the park users, you are potentially blocking a line anytime that you are in bounds. If you want to sit, bring a chair and place it outside the park.
  2. It’s a sprint not a marathon: The beauty of scooters is that they’re easy, the beauty of skateboards is that they’re hard. This is a major source of conflict. It’s cute that your kid is stoked on scooting and doesn’t want to stop however while he is cruising the bowl endlessly it is essentially out of order for everyone else. It doesn’t have to be the bowl, if there are skaters (or scooters or BMX’ers) waiting to drop in anywhere it should be taught that cutting in front of them is bad form.
  3. No soccer pitch dramatics: there is a lot of falling, and the ground is hard, but there are also other people moving at high speed who may not be able to put the brakes on quickly enough. Once you determine that your child is ok please get them out of the park for everyone’s safety. En route to rescuing your kid, grab their bike, skateboard or scooter and get it out of there. Teach your kid to yell out “board” if they lose control of their skateboard, it gives everyone else a heads up.
  4. Dirty tires are a dirty trick: the No Bikes sentiment isn’t to be exclusionary, it’s about safety. Treads are designed to dig deeply into the ground, when treads are doing their job they pick up rocks and mud. Once they hit a smooth, dry surface, they expel rocks and mud. When that surface is a skate park it becomes very dangerous for skaters, rolling over a small rock can have the same impact as hitting a bomb hole on your bike.
  5. It’s not a daycare: hopefully the above points have illustrated that there are actually quite a few unwritten “rules” at the skate park. Until you can trust that your grom understands the complexities and etiquette you should be close at hand. It’s actually a fun vibe and an opportunity to meet some new people, hope to see you there.

The PSA was originally published on the Pemberton Community Forum Facebook page on April 23.