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Young skaters shred at Telluride's skate camp

 Coach and owner of The Drop Board Shop Craig Wasserman guides a young skater at the Telluride Skate Camp
Grace Richards
/
KOTO
Coach and owner of The Drop Board Shop Craig Wasserman guides a young skater at the Telluride Skate Camp

It’s 9 a.m. on a Friday, and the Telluride skate park is a beautiful kind of chaos.

Everywhere you look, kids careen over the dips and curves of the rolling grey sea of cement, caught in an ephemeral rush of momentum and balance.

They wear outrageously colorful knee pads and wrist guards, cheetah-print leggings.

There’s even a fuchsia unicorn-horn helmet in the distance.

Close your eyes and you can hear the squeak of their trucks underfoot, “Hey Ya” by Outkast on distant speakers, and coaches encouraging kids to be brave, to try again when they fall down.

This is Telluride Skate Camp, a 16-years running program for people of all ages to learn the physics-defying art of skateboarding.

 Two young participants in the Telluride Skate Camp at Town Park.
Grace Richards
/
KOTO
Two young participants in the Telluride Skate Camp at Town Park.

Coach and owner of The Drop Board Shop Craig Wasserman stands in the middle of the fray, guiding a wobbly-kneed child into her center of gravity on the board.

Every so often he calls out words of motivation to someone.

“Keep doing that! Repetition’s what’s getting that in your muscles,” he calls.

Wasserman, a retired art teacher, has been running the program since 2007.

Skateboarding has long been a male-dominated sport, but Wasserman says he sees that changing.

During the school year, he hosts an all-girls skate day once a week.

“If you look out here, there are more girls than boys at this skatepark,” he said.

“It reflects this global shift where you see more girls shredding.”

There is no shortage of little girls shredding the dips and hills of the skatepark.

Two boys crash into each other in a tangle of arms and legs.

It takes them only a second before they dust off and run after their boards, which have shot in opposite directions.

Falls happen, injuries happen.

It’s part of the sport, and it takes toughness to stick it out.

A young girl in a purple helmet named Shelby says she’s been skating for eight years.

She’s taken her share of tumbles.

No doubt about it, skateboarding is hard.

It takes coordination, consistent practice, and a willingness to fall (a lot).

Across this rolling swath of concrete, something invaluable is being cultivated.

Kids are learning how to push themselves, to surmount self-doubt.

 Craig Wasserman, a retired art teacher, has been running the skate program since 2007.
Grace Richards
/
KOTO
Craig Wasserman, a retired art teacher, has been running the skate program since 2007.

Wasserman says that skating cultivates the soft skills he remembers trying to teach to kids in the classroom.

“We teach them respect and confidence, to walk tall outside the skatepark too,” he notes.

For children, fear often feels bigger than they are.

Proverbial monsters under the bed can feel almost tangible.

Skating gives these small children the confidence, scrappiness, and self-esteem to hit that steep drop, shift their weight into a kickturn, or shred the bowl.

“Foreign language, math class, dancing in front of people,” Wasserman muses, “whatever it is, you learn to face your fear.”

This story was shared with Aspen Public Radio via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including KDNK.

Grace Richards