60. Ontario Skateboarding

June 17, 2022

Welcome to another week of Comacan Questions, this week we are stoked to share a different kind of interview with a non-profit organization involved in something near and dear to us, the Skateboarding Scene. Our guest today specifically highlights the skateboarding within the province that Comacan calls home, Ontario. Our guest today shines a light on all that is wrapped up in the Ontario skate scene, from events and clips from skateboarders to shop featurettes and everything in between it is all covered under the big umbrella that our guest shares with the world. Please enjoy this week’s interview with our friends at Ontario Skateboarding.

What was the motivation for starting an Ontario Skateboarding page?
Skateboarding in the early 2000’s in a small town in Ontario, there was a certain amount of isolation given that high speed internet was just getting going in these areas at this time. The first culture site that I was ever introduced to was ‘ontariopunk.com‘, which featured content and tour information on all the bands that I had been discovering on Napster or the record labels that released my favorite music. This was the first time that I ever remember being part of something bigger than and more radical than anything previously. This site led me to the notion that a culture hub connects everyone from everywhere and it drives the scene to a level that can’t be achieved without a certain amount of organization.

In 2016, I had recently returned back to the province from working abroad for 3 years. I began seriously scouting the provincial skateboard scene over IG and at live events. It was evident at the time that there was a tremendous amount of talent in every region of Ontario, but the major publications and social media platforms only had the capacity to showcase a small percentage of what actually existed. I had many discussions with skaters at events from 2017 – 2018 and it became very clear that with skateboarding becoming more corporate and the potential for it to be accepted in the Tokyo Olympics that if I were to be the one to launch OS. I would need to put it in motion immediately or regret missing the opportunity to do something good, something for everyone, something that could help us, Ontario skaters and the counterculture make our mark.

What made you want to focus on Skateboarding within Ontario?
I grew up here, but have lived in other provinces and countries and despite all its shortcomings, Ontario is a great and talented place full of every kind of personality. In putting a business strategy together, it was clear from the beginning that it isn’t a level playing field for skaters to get deserved exposure unless you’re lucky enough to break through. By limiting my focus to the talent and scene within the province, there is a real ability to give recognition to the contributors of not only the here and now, but everything that came before and to what will be in the future.

Ontario has, in my opinion, the most talented pool of skaters in Canada. Our independent shops across the communities are extremely dedicated to the cause. The brands that are coming out are one of a kind and the skaters are athletic and fearless. I just want to unite it.

How do you highlight Ontario skateboarding?
My mandate has always been to showcase what Ontario brings to the scene at large. I don’t care who you are or where you are from, if you love skateboarding, I want you to be a part of what we’re building. It is apparent that the established publications that exist do a great job of highlighting specific skaters and contributors, but there’s a lot that falls through the cracks. My niche is to recognize those who aren’t getting the recognition they deserve and rectify that.

I also want to reinforce the importance of independent skate shops and small-scale skate brands that are being established. Our scene has a ton of people involved in small-scale craftsmanship or artistic design, whether it be decks, wheels, grip, or hardware, they all have invested their own money in a passion project that, if supported, could become something that actually lasts and benefits many. I try to use social media and conceptional contests to help connect people and promote their products and the skaters that participate. Maybe these things will generate opportunities for skaters to travel or get sponsored or just meet people that have similar interests outside their own geographical region contributing to a more robust scene. Everything we do right now is just building the foundation of what will be a hardcore and progressive developmental program steeped in culture.

Do you sell any products?
At the moment we are locking down our trademark and in promo phase. If we do this properly then once all the business items are in place, we can start ramping things up for larger inventories, limited edition prints and art collabs to boost fundraising. What is important today is to become established as an organization that acts with integrity and has the best interest of the scene at heart. Sales at this scale help with overhead costs but are largely peripheral at this time.

How can people get involved?
We’ve tried to contact people from all over the province to become involved. We certainly encourage anyone to holler at us at any time, but for now, you determine your own level of involvement. At the minimum, I think positive reinforcement is the best way for anyone to be involved. If you skate and you see someone post a clip that is dope or something they are really stoked over, let them know because that small action can generate a big boost in confidence for someone. All said, participation is key. Whether it’s in our events or local in person events it’s another way to just add to the energy, so turnout and throwdown.

If you’re a shop owner, be open to letting us feature your shop so that everyone knows how awesome you are and be sure to carry inventory of local brands. Most of this is already being done, but that’s a great way for them to be involved.

On an organizational level, if you have something in mind, a direction that you’d like to see us go, we want you to reach out. An example of this is right now we are working with a professional Athletic Therapist to help us develop a sports injury sector, so we can try to establish a duty of care for skaters. This wouldn’t have been possible this quickly without people wanting to be involved for the right reasons.

How can people contact you?
The website has a contact page that has been active since June 2021, so anyone can leave comments or suggestions. Our organizational email can be reached at admin@ontarioskateboarding.ca. The other way is through the IG page. We respond as quickly as possible, but everyone gets a word back.

What makes the page special?
Our page is unique because we limit our posts to emphasize the importance of content management. We don’t discriminate and we don’t play favorites. The objective is to equally represent the regions of Ontario without bias.

What does skateboarding mean to you personally?
I grew up playing hockey and soccer since the time I could walk. Skateboarding was the first thing that I chose for myself besides the music I listened to. It was an identity that I have held close to me even if time to indulge in it has lessened. The culture is inclusive and is not self-serving. A skater is many things and can be anything.

How did you get involved within the community?
As a teenager and into my 20’s I skated with my friends and bandmates. I ran punk and ska shows throughout that time in Cobourg and throughout Toronto. After University and working abroad, I returned home and connected with Jay Mandarino at CJ’s skatepark in 2016 to begin event promoting within the scene. He allowed me to promote his final contest at the Etobicoke location before it closed. I began my outreach in 2017 with an affiliation with CJ’s as a “Provincial Contest Coordinator” and became a registered Skateboard Instructor through the ICP-SKATZ program. In 2018, I went independent without affiliation and began building Ontario Skateboarding.

How do you give back?
I have given hundreds of hours of personal time to organize an unbiased community strategy to build a development program that will archive the rich history of Ontario Skateboarding, support our skaters with many services (to be unveiled soon time), and to encourage progression and growth without the stigmas of the past. I do this at no cost to anyone. At the moment, I use personal money for shipping out prizes for our events.

What does working with local skateboard companies mean to you?
I am of the opinion that main brand skateboard companies are oversaturated. It’s very difficult to separate an individual skater and for them to get a breakthrough opportunity. It is a better investment to grow local brands into brands that have the means to support our local skaters and provide that opportunity for growth and experience. The local brands and companies that I have associated with have all consistently manufactured a high-quality product with creative artistic tendencies. This standard will only increase in the future and their success is something that I celebrate.

What are your goals with the page?
The goals of the page are diversified and strategic. For now, we want to build up the foundation of the scene into a more representative community and create more collaborations and opportunities for skaters and brands. We want a strong and resilient scene that specializes in provincial stoke, gnar and tech. Our success is your success and as we grow, so will the sizes of events and the degree in which we can showcase what we’ve got here.

Anyone you’d like to thank?
I want to give credence to everyone that has paid attention to what we’ve given the scene in such a short time. I’m grateful to everyone that has participated in our events, shares our content, and likes what they see. We work for you, and we’ve got your back. No apologies and no excuses. We hope to work with every single shop, brand, media person, and skater that contributes to the scene in every corner of the province.