Vancouver’s relationship with skateboarding has a lot in common with the five stages of grief.
Back in the ’60s, there was denial. See the 1966 film The Devil’s Toy for proof.
Anger followed. Look no further than the recent Mount Pleasant skate park brouhaha for evidence here.
The Vancouver Skateboard Coalition has made it its mission to bypass stage four — depression — and work on the two other tenets: bargaining and acceptance.
To that end, the group is getting political. Members have sent three questions to dozens of mayoral, council and park board candidates to gauge their knowledge of the city’s current skate climate and plans for the future.
Those answers will be revealed Thursday, Oct. 18 at SBC Restaurant (formerly known as the Smilin' Buddha Cabaret), so skaters can get a sense of where their future overlords stand on the issues that matter most to them.
“Skateboarders, in general and also younger people who skate, are a good demographic to engage with to get them involved in the political process,” coalition spokesperson Vlad Tucakov told the Courier.
The three questions sent to candidates are both open-ended and specific: how candidates value Vancouver skaters, how they’d advocate for the community’s needs and what steps they’d take to ensure an indoor facility gets built in the city.
A few sample answers were provided to the Courier without attribution and there’s a surprising level of detail and specificity in each. There are pledges to build a new indoor park along with promises to start a new initiative that repurposes old parts into new skateboards for underprivileged kids.
“By and large the answers have been very positive,” Tucakov said. “That’s maybe in keeping with how elections go, so we take the answers at face value and then whoever gets elected, we look at those answers and say, ‘This is what you said before you got elected, so how about it now?’”
Established in 1996, the coalition holds monthly meetings and boasts a fluid membership that can range anywhere from a couple hundred to a few thousand. The group loosely tracks numbers, and Tucakov estimates there around 25,000 skaters in Vancouver alone.
“You find skaters in all walks of life,” he said. “I am 46 years old, I have had a very successful career in high tech and I’m getting back to being very involved in skateboarding.”
About $2.4 million has been earmarked for skateboarding and cycling facilities in the city’s 2019 to 2022 capital plan, and getting an indoor park in Vancouver is priority number one for Tucakov’s crew. As it stands, there are only two indoor facilities open to the public in Metro Vancouver: SBC and at Tsawwassen Mills shopping mall.
Tucakov points to the Le TAZ skate park in Montreal as Canada’s gold standard and a template for what his group wants in Vancouver. The massive facility is the largest indoor park in Canada and is open to skateboarding, rollerblades, bikes, scooters and more.
Skateboarding will be included in the 2020 Olympics for the first time, and some of Canada’s best and most recognized skaters — Ryan Decenzo, Micky Papa and Breana Geering — call the 604 home.
Using the Olympics and high-profile names are ideal leveraging tools for the coalition to get its needs met.
“The coalition is really trying to get engaged with the community and there are people who are willing to listen,” Tucakov said. “People do seem to be a lot more open to skateboarding today. Approaching things in a respectful and cooperative way goes a long way.”
Thursday’s meeting at SBC starts at 7 p.m. For info, see vsbc.ca.