by DWAYNE GIBBS firstname.lastname@example.org
SKATEBOARDING HAS SEEN tremendous development locally throughout the years, leading to the establishment of the Skateboard Association of Barbados, which was officially registered with the Corporate Affairs Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO) in 2019, despite being active many years before.
The association comprised various skateboarding enthusiasts who laid the groundwork for the popularisation of skate culture in Barbados over the last 20 years, forming a local community in the process.
Between 2017 and 2018, members of the association went through the lengthy process of creating a proposal to have a skatepark constructed.
The Maria Holder Memorial Trust, in conjunction with the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Community Empowerment, facilitated and funded the concept, culminating in the establishment of a brand new skatepark on May 11 at the Wildey Gymnasium under the auspices of the National Sports Council, which owns and maintains the facility.
The creation of the skatepark led to a spike in avid young skaters, who now had an official home for their activities.
Since then, the association has made strides to ensure they met the requirements to be listed as an official member of the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA). They have also remained active in the community by conducting numerous training and athlete development programmes.
In late November, 2022, the BOA was contacted by the United States Embassy with regards to their Sports Envoy Programme, which deploys American athletes and coaches around the world to participate in community outreach activities.
BOA programme officer Kendia Brathwaite, said the association decided it was a great opportunity to have skateboarding – which is the newest of its 39 federations – benefit from the sports envoy programme.
As a result, a three-day skateboarding clinic was held at the Wildey Skatepark where American skateboarding sensation Adrianne Sloboh and Dr Neftalie Williams were brought in to work with local skateboarders.
Over the three days, young skaters were coached in the fundamentals with the added assistance of Ashan Haynes, Jonathan Austin and association president Adrian Bowen, who were supporting coaches on the association’s behalf.
On Tuesday, April 11, the clinic moved from the confines of the skatepark over to Oistins, Christ Church, where the young skaters did public demonstrations much to the delight of onlookers.
Sloboh, who is a professional skateboarder and stuntwoman based in Simi Valley, California, was visiting the island for the first time and shared what the experience was like.
“It was definitely a culture shock seeing how excited the kids were on the first day of the clinic and how motivated they were amplified the inner child in me. I am happy I got to be there for them. Skateboarding will teach many life lessons but it’s the same thing as chasing any professional sports career. The main thing to learn is perseverance and to never give up even if it seems impossible.”
Williams is a sociologist who lectures at the University of Southern California through the Annenberg school for communication and journalism.
He is also a skater and has spent years researching not only the cultural significance of skateboarding for black Americans, but also how the sport can be used to save young black lives through providing educational and employment opportunities.
This research led him to write various books examining social and political aspects of the culture. His next publication, which is currently in the works, will be entitled Colour In The Lines: The Politics And Possibilities Of US Skateboarding Culture.
Williams said he felt moved by what he experienced in what was also his first trip to Barbados.
“I want to thank the US Embassy in Barbados and the Barbados Skateboarding Association because they have been doing all of the groundwork and supporting us here for years, so it means a lot to be here,” Williams said.
“They’re the ones keeping young people excited and letting them know they are part of a global community. It’s an honour and I’m excited to come back and see the talent we saw on display come to fruition a few years from now.”
US Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and OECS Linda Taglialatela spoke on what the sports envoy programme meant to her as an ambassador to her country with regards to helping with the development of skateboarding in Barbados.
“One of the most important things in being a diplomat and representing my country is being able to bring my country to Barbados and sharing our culture and experiences with those of the Bajan people.
“It’s being out there and having people see you so you can get endorsements like Adrianne and/or going on to tertiary [education] like Neftalie and taking that skateboard ambition and turn it into something important from skateboard diplomacy to teaching about culture and media and how you integrate them.”
Bowen, appointed president of the Skateboard Association in 2021, reiterated the importance of the sports envoy programme to the development of skateboarding for young Barbadians.
He extended profound gratitude to the BOA and the US Embassy for making it all possible.
“It was really good for us to take advantage of the sports envoy programme. Having active pros like Adrianne, who is a female on the skate scene, and Neftalie, who is very much into skating culture, was a great experience.
“For us in Barbados in a developing sport on the island, it is good that we can get a better scope of what is out there for our young athletes. Even if they don’t become elite, they can realise there are other avenues they can pursue through skateboarding that can then serve in other aspects of their lives.”
With skateboarding now being recognised as an official Olympic event since the Tokyo 2020 Games, opportunities will be provided for local competitive skaters to possibly represent their country through the BOA if they meet the necessary qualification standards.
The ever-evolving state of skateboarding globally has now opened doors for more Barbadians to consider it as a viable career option both on and off the skateboard.
(left) doing a demonstration for young Barbadian skateboarders at the Wildey Skatepark.
(Picture courtesy Cornerstone Creatives.)