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The next Tony Hawk? Interest in skateboarding growing among adults, women across Atlantic Canada

Andrew Hawthorn says he’s keen on keeping up with the sport and hoping to keep building his skateboarding skills.
Andrew Hawthorn says he’s keen on keeping up with the sport and hoping to keep building his skateboarding skills. - Contributed

Andrew Hawthorn had never tried skateboarding until the fall of 2020, when he took on a new job in St. John’s, N.L. within a short commute of his house.

Instead of driving or biking, he decided he'd learn to skateboard. He’d never thought to pick one up as a youth because he didn’t think he fit the skateboarder mould. But the timing felt right at 40, when a mild mid-life crisis took hold and left him wondering whether the time had come to learn.

The parking lot near his grandparents’ house was where he’d learned to bike three decades prior. Hawthorn is now the owner of this house and that same lot is where he’d soon learn to skateboard.

“There is a kind of full-circle time aspect to this. I’m now over there as fully grown man, attempting to learn to ride something else,” he says.

New rulers of the ledge

Hawthorn is among the increasing number of Canadians learning to skateboard, according to a Pinterest Trends business report, which found searches on skateboarding for beginners increased by 115 per cent in 2020 over 2019 searches and states numbers are expected to climb once again this year.

Whether that number is made up mostly of people trying for the first time, or reliving a childhood hobby, might be hard to say, but Nick Moore of Pro Skates skateboard shop in Halifax, N.S. says he’s seen a lot of what he calls ‘the rad dads’ – men who skateboarded as kids that are now picking up the sport alongside their kids.

Moore says that even more than rad dads or first-time boarders, it’s women that he’s noticed picking up the sport for the first time and who he thinks make up the biggest new demographic across the sport.

“They’re becoming what we call the new rulers of the ledge – they’re out there, sitting on the skatepark ledge like the guys are,” says Moore.

Surewood Skateboards owner Jamie Crawford says his Sherwood, P.E.I. skateboard design business, which he runs with business partner and board designer Jeff Lockert, sells skateboards to Atlantic Canada skate shops and has also seen more women getting into the sport.

Crawford says skateboarding’ addition as an Olympic sport in the upcoming Summer Olympics, along with increased interest in women’s skateboarding, is making the sport more exciting and accessible than ever.

“Many women in their 30s have been reaching out to us about getting started and riding boards. This demographic has been growing and expanding at a very exciting pace to watch,” says Crawford.


Surewood Skateboards owner Jamie Crawford says he’s seen more women than ever taking up skateboarding and says this has made it an exciting time for the sport.  - Contributed
Surewood Skateboards owner Jamie Crawford says he’s seen more women than ever taking up skateboarding and says this has made it an exciting time for the sport. - Contributed


Start with the right board

Hawthorn says that being a kid of the 80s, he’d wanted to skateboard since forever.

“It was everywhere, especially in the movies I watched like Back to the Future and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” he says.

Any beginner skateboarder, whether 40 like Hawthorn, or older or younger, is faced with a steep learning curve. But, Hawthorn says, this also makes any progress feels extremely rewarding. He soon moved from that nearby parking lot to city streets and even skateparks, suited up with a board, helmet, and pads.

“I’d started out with what’s known as a ‘Walmart board,’ or a cheap board that’s sure to break. That was a mistake – starting with a high-quality board is the way to go here,” he says.

Crawford says answering the surge of interest in skateboarding with quality, locally made boards is why he and Lockert got into business in July 2020.

Crawford says all beginners should start out with a board that’s well-designed and made to last.

“We were shocked to find boards still cost the same as they did when we were kids and realized they weren’t nearly the same quality as boards years ago. Jeff was very confident he could make boards the way they used to be made,” says Crawford.


Skateboarding beginner Andrew Hawthorn has taken up the sport for the first time ever at the age of 40. Growing up in the 1980s, says the St. John's man, skateboarding was everywhere, and it's always something he wanted to learn. - Contributed
Skateboarding beginner Andrew Hawthorn has taken up the sport for the first time ever at the age of 40. Growing up in the 1980s, says the St. John's man, skateboarding was everywhere, and it's always something he wanted to learn. - Contributed


A welcoming community

This new hobby was not just a convenient commute fix for Hawthorn, but also a response to the mid-life crisis he felt creeping up ahead of his fortieth birthday. It’s a feeling Crawford says may also have inspired the opening of his skateboard business.

“All of these things I did in my teen years came back in my mind and it felt like the right time to start this. It also feels like everybody I used to skateboard with is picking it up again,” says Crawford.

Hawthorn started writing about his skateboarding start online and began receiving emails from both individuals and groups of people learning to skate later in life, just as he was.

“People all over world are writing to me since I’ve started looking into this – other people who’ve wanted to do it and are deciding now they will do it. It’s kind of like a little support group,” he says.

Hawthorn says it wasn’t just online where he found a community of like-minded individuals, but also at skateboard shops themselves. Moore agrees that being social is a huge component of skateboarding - and one that’s changed its perception from a fringe activity to a welcoming community.

“Myself and the people around me are part of the community and trying to get more people out there. There’s nothing more exhilarating than setting up someone’s board for the first time,” says Moore.

It’s a community Hawthorn intends to remain involved with and a sport he’s not soon to lose interest in, with difficult gains bringing with them rewarding wins when he masters a new skill.

“I couldn’t stand on it when I started. Now I can turn, carve around the neighbourhood, and break. I’m not trying to do anything crazy on the thing, but there’s always another goal to meet,” he says.

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