A moderate breeze accompanied Madison’s youth while they skated laps around Goodman Skatepark earlier today. Helmets and knee pads whizzed by in unison, children dropping in on embankments and tick-tacking their boards on flatter ground.
Around half-past eight, the kids gathered around an array of decks from past decades. It was time to learn about the history of skateboarding. After that, they participated in group instruction.
It’s all a part of an annual summer camp from local skateboarding shop, Freedom Skate Shop. It’s the shop’s fifth year of holding the three-part camp in conjunction with the Madison Parks Department.
From 8 to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, Madison youth will learn things from skateboard history to board setup at Goodman Skatepark on East Wilson Street.
“We do camp instruction, we do a skateboard history lesson, we have a media and art day where the kids get to design their own grip tape that we will then put on a skateboard for them. And then we do, obviously, board setup and maintenance and park etiquette, kinda teaching them, you know, all the different components of the skateboard and how they work together,” says Kopski.
“Assembling, disassembling, cleaning of the skateboard, everything like that. So we do a couple of different lessons throughout the week and then, obviously, there’s instruction time during the camps as well. You know, a few hours each day in the morning, so.”
That’s Geoff Kopski, owner of Freedom Skate Shop. Though the camp is open to participants of all ages, Kopski says the median age demographic for participants is seven to 10 years old.
Kopski runs the summer camp with other instructors, Jeff Halleran, Leon Clouthier and Matt Behm, also known as Donut. Since he started the summer camp five years ago, Kopski says there has been an increased interest in attending.
“Prior years I had only done 10 kids per camp, 30 kids a summer. But we had so much interest, even last year. I mean, every year we’ve grown in size, essentially, but with the added interest, we expanded camps to 15 kids this year,” says Kopski.
Not only has public interest in skateboarding heightened in the past several years, but Kopski also says that the pandemic, which allowed people to explore more outdoor activities like skateboarding, could have something to do with the extra increase in people attending camp this year.
Due to the increase in camp attendance, Kopski says it’s possible that they will add a fourth week-long session to the camp’s itinerary next year.
Kopski says he grew up skating and appreciates seeing progress in a new generation.
“Seeing, you know, kids that are gonna find their passion in skating here and stick with it for years to come, you know, and see them grow with it, it’s just cool, you know? I was one of those kids and now I’m in my thirties. I own a skate shop, and I’m, you know, kinda able to give that back, too.”
Clouthier and Behm say they enjoy seeing skaters progress, too.
“Just watching the kids progress, just having fun with them and hootin’ and hollerin’ when the kids get tricks, you know, spreading the stoke and just building the vibe,” says Behm.
“I just love how much the kids progress in five days. You know, from the beginning, from Monday to Friday, it’s like they learn so much. And that’s my favorite part,” says Clouthier.
The next section of this year’s camp will be held from July 5 to July 9. The third one will be held from Aug. 2 to Aug. 6.
Reporting for WORT News, I’m Hailey Griffin.
Image Courtesy: Hailey Griffin / WORT News