By KELLY NICHOLAIDES
For Montclair Local
Skateboarding is a sport, but unlike team sports, it thrives on individuality and a come-as-you-are attitude. On Friday, March 6, members of the Montclair High School Skate Club and Skate Essex gathered at Montclair Vegan, 10 Park St., to sell T-shirts, skateboard art (painted skateboard decks), used skateboards, and photography, in order to buy ramps and rails for new digs at the Rand Park tennis courts.
As of that Sunday night, the teens had raised more than $400.
“I was drawn to skateboarding for the freedom and creativity,” said Antonello Terrana, the 17-year-old president of the MHS Skate Club, at last Friday’s event. “I play basketball too. With team sports, I have to dress a certain way. With skateboarding, I express myself the way I want. Learning to skateboard is a commitment. The mental part is the hardest, before you throw down the board and try jumping down steps. We push forward and help each other, so there’s a camaraderie. We teach each other tricks.”
The skateboarders, and their friends and family congregated at tables, grabbed some food and chattered about their love for the sport while sharing YouTube videos and Instagram posts. Skateboards preferences varied. Terrana likes a “hockey” popsicle-shaped deck for its ease in movement and ideal street use. He prefers a simple centerpiece design to his board, with few colors throughout. Other skaters like longboards for coasting, and complex designs and multicolored hues.
MHS student and artist Sophie Bugat, 14, used acrylic and permanent marker for her “Exploding in Monsters” character art on one of around a dozen used skateboards for sale. “I was inspired by artists Keith Haring and Mr. Doodle [Sam Cox],” she said.
Other skateboard art included designs with dripping ice cream cones, tortoiseshell and hares, and a jungle scene. Most were tagged with “Montclair Needs a SkatePark,” underscoring the groups’ commitment. Artists included Maggie Faulkner, Lorelai McAndrews, Rowan Downie, Stasia Mitchell, Davida Task, and Antonio Vecchione.
International Center of Photographer lensman Roberto Terrana had captured the groups in action at a skatepark in East Orange. At Montclair Vegan, he displayed 15 black-and-white images for sale at the event, and by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A wrestler and soccer player, MHS Skate Club Treasurer Ross Berkowitz, 15, said, “If you put in the work, you’ll see the results and your progression. I love skateboarding because nobody is telling you what to do. You just go have fun. Expect to land a trick and you will. Just commit and come to Rand Park with us on Wednesdays.”
Skate Essex has 250 families, including 18 in Montclair. Last year, Council members Robin Schlager and Renée Baskerville asked the group for ideas about a space for them. “We wanted a safe place that’s big enough and with good visibility. It should be in an existing park, not tucked away in a corner. Our mission is to get a permanent space and incorporate skateboarding in parks programs, camps, lessons, and more,” said Paul King, Skate Club president.
Last month, the group got their wish when the council approved the use of two tennis courts for the skaters.
Arizona transplant Kris McCarty said her daughter Willow, 9, who attends Edgemont School, has been skateboarding since age 4, and is the MHS Skate Club mascot. “When we moved here, it was a hard transition because she had nowhere to skate. The Montclair skateboard community has the nicest kids. You never hear booing or jealousy. They coach each other and don’t laugh when you fall. They’ve got each other’s backs. They fall and achieve together,” McCarty said.