I remember going out onto my street and learning how to do it all on my own. It’s a struggle for everyone, really. Skateboarding’s hard, let’s face it.
When Jol from Flo Skatepark approached me and said he needed some skateboard instructors, I was like “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.” It was a good opportunity to take a step forward into something different, and to help people. It was the first time I’d really done anything like it, but it was good getting started; even just teaching kids to pop up their board and catch it, or getting them pushing it around. They’d leave the skatepark after an hour with big smiles on their faces like: “Yeah, this is super cool, like.” They always come back, and some of them are even tutors now.
Take Little Eddie, for example; we taught him a few things and that was it, he was off on his own way. You’d teach him one or two little things to help his style or make it more fun for him, and he would just invent it as he went along. He didn’t even know the names of the tricks, he’d just do them.
I find it so rewarding. You get to know the kids, and they learn to have that little bit of faith in you. They understand that you know what you’re doing. They’ll watch me skate and say “That was amazing! How did you do that?” So you teach them, and it gives them that opportunity to try. It gives me reason to get out of bed, go out, and do what I love doing: skateboarding.
A big thing about being an instructor is supporting people as much as you can. Give them all the advice that you’ve got, and then stand there like “Come on, you’ve got this. I know you’ve got this. I believe in you, even if so-and-so’s laughing.” As it happens, you do get other kids saying “Ahh, they’re not very good.” But you have to turn around and say “What have I taught you? It’s not about ability, it’s about having fun.” It’s the first thing I’ll actually teach people, before even standing on the skateboard. I’ll say “Don’t get upset about ability, because it’s just not worth it. Don’t worry if your friends are getting good quickly and you’re learning a little bit slowly.” Everyone learns at their own pace, that’s it. You’ve just got to accept that and have fun.
Sometimes kids don’t understand the commitment of skateboarding. It’s important to listen. Sometimes you have to say “Come on, this is quite important. It’s for your safety at the end of the day” and they still shrug. There’s only so much you can do, really.
Another challenge is having to hold their hands. It gets to a point where you know they can drop in, even on the big ramps, and they can ride along the skateboard comfortably without falling. But when it actually comes to trying something new, they rely on you to be there to catch them. It’s not as easy as that. I can’t just predict how someone’s going to fall, or how to catch them. You need to kind of show a level of: “No, I think you can do this without me.” At the end of the day, it’s you and your skateboard, it’s not a teamwork thing. But that’s the beautiful thing about skateboarding: it’s for you.
I’ve been skateboarding for nearly fifteen years now, and been an instructor for almost seven. I’ve been in love with it since day one, and I’m going to be doing it for the foreseeable future. If I can put my previous experience into other people, that’s a great feeling. I guess it’s the same as teaching people how to play an instrument, or how to play football; people who’ve been doing something for years passing on their wisdom. Skateboarding is all about people’s personal preferences, and people having their own styles, so there are loads of different things to learn.
The Nottingham skate scene is amazing. It’s just so diverse in terms of age ranges, sexes, races, and the rest. It doesn’t matter, we’re all there to do the same thing. I think Nottingham has this really special thing, where people are just accepting.