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Here's to You: Skateboarding has many benefits

In recent years, skateboarding has grown into one of the most popular youth activities in the United States.

Skate-boarding's popularity originated in the 1970s as the sport developed from the sunny Southern California sidewalks where California kids cruised the streets. As with all trends, the appeal of skateboarding faded and other forms of recreation filled the space of the youth around the country. But the sport has seen resurgence with stars like Tony Hawk and his mystifying moves plastered all over ESPN2 and the X-games.

Now cities and towns across the United States are taking notice of the sport's popularity and warming up to the idea of having a place for those boarders to go. Skate parks are being built and jungle gyms are giving way to half-pipes, bowls and other obstacles that allow skaters to polish their skills and learn new tricks.

Bemidji is one of those cities that took notice of the skateboarding popularity. The city built the Bemidji Skate Park in the summer of 2010. The park held its grand opening in November to a crowd of people who were filled with excitement and anticipation for the new park. The excitement carried through the months as boarders shoveled out the bowl, just to get another run in, and now with the snow melting, the park is filled with new riders and experienced riders from all over the city.

But this has many people asking is skateboarding safe? What do we gain from having a skate park?

Benefits of skateboarding

As humans, we are naturally curious. Especially as children, we are attracted to activities like skateboarding. When practiced safely and correctly, skateboarding can be a vehicle in the development of building essential skills, both mentally and physically. These are skills that will help children in future successes and in facing everyday challenges. Self-esteem, satisfaction, coordination, cardiovascular endurance, team building, communication, problem solving and overcoming fears are only a few of the benefits of skateboarding participation.

Yes, many other physical activities can provide and assist in a child's development of these skills. It is said that the activity that holds the greatest impact on a child's life is the one the child has chosen. If your child has an interest, let him or her roll with it. Skateboarding provides some very unique qualities - it is intrinsically satisfying and the dedication to the conquering of tricks and skills will provide a self-confidence unlike any other activity. The rules of skateboarding (yes, there are rules) need to be learned and followed. Some rules are unvarying - the physical laws (think Newton) have both very real consequences if these rules are broken - and there are rules that relate to the safety of an individual and the safety of others. These rules create a community or team; they provide structure and require communication. The lessons learned in this community will be more effectively retained, due to the nature of the environment.

So what do we gain from having a skate park? We gain the benefit of having a youth community that experiences the success of setting goals and achieving them, that develops a strong sense of confidence and self esteem and can relate and interact positively with others. We gain a community that will undoubtedly face obstacles and challenges in the future and will conquer those challenges with a greater success. We as a greater community gain so much from having happier and healthier kids!

Is skateboarding safe?

Sure it's dangerous, just as basketball, football and hockey are dangerous. Skateboarding has risks, but it is far less dangerous than one might believe. In an October 2002 article written by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it was determined that the number of skateboarding injuries per active skateboarder compared to those numbers to inline skating and basketball. Skateboarding had an injury rate of 8.9 per 1,000 participants. Inline skating was 3.9 per 1,000 and basketball produced 21.2 emergency room-treated injuries per 1,000 players.

So what this really means is that statistically, skateboarding is safer than basketball. When performed properly under supervision, wearing the appropriate safety gear and with correct techniques, skateboarding is safe and less dangerous than it appears from the outside.

Skateboarding injuries occur most often in the first week of participating in the sport. These injuries cannot be totally avoided, but the severity of them can be significantly decreased if proper technique is learned and appropriate protective wear in fitted properly and worn.

A helmet should be worn at all times to avoid potential head injury. The helmet should fit properly; when the chin strap is in place, the helmet shouldn't block vision or hearing. Look for a helmet that moves with you, not against you. There shouldn't be any slipping or sliding of the helmet position, and it shouldn't be so tight that there isn't any movement.

Learning proper technique

The Bemidji Parks and Recreation Department is taking the steps to teach you the proper techniques with our Skateboarding Lessons that will be taking place this spring/summer.

The skateboard program is a three week course that will go over the basics - turning, balancing techniques, manuals, ollies, riding transitions and much more. Classes will begin in May and are $12 for the session. Class size will be limited to receive the greatest experience and for the greatest learning potential.

Registration is taking place now for the May, June and July sessions. More information about this program is available online at the city website,, or you can contact the Parks and Recreation Department at or 333-1857.

We look forward to seeing you in the park and learning new skills.

Samantha Parker is events coordinator for the Bemidji Parks and Recreation Department.