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Pro skateboarders coach next-gen athletes in Melbourne parks

17 July 2023

Head to the Kensington and Riverslide skate parks to enjoy welcoming and inclusive skateboarding sessions every week. Supported by top coaches, some participants have Olympic dreams in sight.

Richard Flude, an award-winning skater and Secretary of the Victorian Skateboard Association, said Melbourne’s skateboarding culture has come a long way over the years.

World champions like Shane O’Neil and Hayley Wilson have soared to fame, and now more stars are emerging through weekly workshops that welcome young people from diverse backgrounds.

“I grew up in the City of Melbourne and I’ve skated since QV was a car park with ramps and the YMCA managed the facility out of a shipping container there,” Richard said

“The city has changed so much since then, and society has become more accepting of skateboarding. I’d say Melbourne is among the top three skating cities in the world.

“Melbourne and Victoria are used as a model for what community engagement around skateboarding can be, and we’re sharing this with other cities and countries through our World Skate connections.”

An adult and child at a skate park high-fiving each other.
Pro athlete Hayley Wilson encourages a young skater

Inclusive skateboarding lessons in your neighbourhood

The City of Melbourne supports skateboarding programs through community grants and our Active Melbourne division to empower local people and promote wellbeing and connectedness. Our support includes funding coach accreditation and dedicated sessions for women and girls.

The YMCA runs free All Aboard workshops at Kensington Skate Park every week, in collaboration with the Victorian Skateboarding Association. The sessions also run in neighbouring council areas.

The team has been actively reengaging communities and recruiting diverse new participants post-pandemic, forming key partnerships with Crime Stoppers Victoria, VicHealth, School Sport Victoria, and a refugee service.

“Our All Aboard sessions are about inclusivity and embracing whoever you are. We had a rainbow disco once at the Edinburgh Gardens in Fitzroy,” Richard said.

“Over the years we’ve worked hard to champion the female skateboarding scene, support new female coaches and get out into schools to help make the sport more accessible.

“It’s a great time to be part of skateboarding. Thirteen-year-old Arisa Trew from the Gold Coast recently made history as the first female to land a 720 – that’s two full rotations in the air.”

The All Aboard program supports young women to complete in Melbourne’s annual Daughters of Doom competition

Olympic dreams in sight for diverse Melbourne skaters

Skateboarding made its debut as an Olympic sport in Tokyo in 2020, and local workshops are growing in popularity. The sessions are also becoming more specialised to service various demographics and skill levels.

“We’ve been getting massive traction since the pandemic. Our programs are getting bigger, and that’s a positive thing for the next generation,” Richard said.

“It’s great seeing young people run over to the Kensington Skate Park from The Venny, or arriving on the train from the outer suburbs. Some of them are getting really, really good.

“There’s all this Olympic talk, and those dreams are within reach with our great facilities and top coaches. Hayley Wilson got accredited as a skate coach in Kensington. Now she’s a world-recognised icon.”

Many Olympic hopefuls compete for the first time right here in the City of Melbourne at Riverslide Skate Park, which hosts the Australian skateboarding championships during Moomba.

“This year I spent two days judging the skateboarding at Moomba. Hamed Anvari took out the title,” Richard said.

“It was awesome watching a new generation of skaters do their thing, including young people from Islamic and African communities. They were so athletic, and they have such great potential. For people who are newly-arrived in Australia, there are a great amount of opportunities to participate in skating in Melbourne.”

Skateboarding for fun and friendship

No Olympic daydreams? No problem. For many young people, heading to the park for a skate is a casual pastime.

“The skateboarding community is a really good group of friends and supportive of the next generation coming up. It’s quite ‘sticky’ when you get into the scene,” Richard said.

“We’ve done a lot of groundwork to show parents that they can bring their kids to the park and know that they are safe and welcome.”

Primary schoolers at one of the popular weekend sessions at Kensington Skate Park

How to skate safe in Melbourne

While most skaters respect one another, and the places where they skate, Richard acknowledges there are still some occasions when more negative stereotypes of skating culture can shine through. While there’s still a little way to go, Richard feels positive about the future.

“Our coaches instil accountability in people, letting them know where to skate and where’s off-limits. Overall, skaters get along and do the right thing,” Richard said.

“Having well-supported skateboarding programs really helps. More than other cities in Australia, Melbourne understands the social importance of a skate park – a youth centre doesn’t always fit the bill. We are very lucky.

“Former Lord Mayor John So was clapping for our tricks way back in the early 2000s, and the City of Melbourne has been supportive ever since.”

Richard with former Lord Mayor John So, many years ago

Learn how to skate safe in Melbourne and view our Skate Melbourne Plan.

Why skateboarding can help tackle climate change

Need another reason to hop on a board? Alongside walking, cycling and public transport, skateboarding is a sustainable way to get around.

Transport accounts for 16 per cent of all emissions in the municipality. To achieve our goal of net zero emissions by 2040, we need to rapidly reduce transport emissions.

“We’ve got congestion issues, so skateboarding can be a relaxing way to get around. I love riding my cruiser board under the Bolte Bridge to get to Docklands, Kensington, and along the beautiful Maribyrnong River.” Richard said.

“Lots of people get around on bikes and skateboards in Copenhagen and other places in Europe, and I think it’s slowly catching on in Melbourne. With so many places to stop along the way, there might even be skate tourism.”

What’s next for Melbourne’s skateboarding scene

Richard and his network have big plans for the future of Melbourne’s skate-coaching scene.

They’re working to create clear pathways from wobbly first attempts to the world stage, and a more nuanced program that matches the right coaches with the right groups, based on terrain and ability.

There’s talk of new office space for strategic program coordination and greater connectivity with national sporting organisations to support upcoming athletes.

“Our new accelerated All Aboard program offers updated tech, advanced coaches and more opportunities for progression in park and street styles – those are the two Olympic disciplines,” Richard said.

“We can help skaters set tangible goals and access structured learning suitable for their skill level – from beginners to high-performance athletes.”

Two generations of the same family get involved in local skate lessons

How to find free skateboarding lessons in your neighbourhood

The All Aboard program offers free, inclusive and accessible skateboarding workshops for children and young people, led by experienced instructors. Sessions take place in the City of Melbourne and around Australia.

Participants can expect a fun and social environment where they can build their confidence while learning about skate skills, injury prevention, skate-park etiquette and equipment maintenance.

To book your spot, visit the YMCA’s All Aboard webpage and click on your preferred location. Please note that new sessions at Kensington Skate Park will commence in August. To keep in touch with all the latest news, you can also follow All Aboard on Facebook.

Private lessons, a skate club and progression sessions for women and girls are also available at Riverslide Skate Park, on the banks of the river in the central city.

Richard shows off his skills for a Channel 7 camera crew

The best skate parks in the City of Melbourne

Riverslide Skate Park
Boathouse Drive, Melbourne

Riverslide Skate Park in the Alexandra Gardens is a five-minute walk from Flinders Street train station. Designed in consultation with skaters, it’s the biggest of our skate parks with 1800 sqm of skating surfaces.

The park has a street-skating focus with ramps and fun-boxes. Riverslide also offers supervision, first-aid, lessons, competitions, events, a cafe, chill-out spots, and a skate shop with board and safety-equipment hire.

Kensington Skate Park
JJ Holland Park, Kensington

Kensington Skate Park is a large concrete course located in JJ Holland Park, near South Kensington train station and The Venny – a free communal backyard and safe place for children aged 5 to 16.

The skate park is known as one of Melbourne’s best for those that enjoy half pipes. It also has several sizer ramps and a street section with several features to entertain street skaters.

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