Grinders thrive at Strawberry Hill Park

Skaters take turn riding the transitions of the bowl during Grade School Grinders camp Tuesday at Strawberry Hill Park. - Brad Camp/For the Review
Skaters take turn riding the transitions of the bowl during Grade School Grinders camp Tuesday at Strawberry Hill Park.
— image credit: Brad Camp/For the Review

As the sun shines down on the rippled, graffiti-covered concrete, 17 novice grinders weave past one another – narrowly avoiding collision – at Strawberry Hill’s skate park.

All equipped with snug-fitting helmets and elbow and knee pads, the students in the Bainbridge Park and Recreation District’s Grade School Grinders camp are building their skills from the ground up.

“With this age, it’s just confidence and practice,” said Camp Director Craig Hammond.

The skateboarding camp, which has been offered since 2006, ran Monday through Thursday as the park district’s first skateboarding camp of the summer.

“The Grade School Grinders camps have been very popular,” Sports and Fitness Coordinator Julie Miller said. “The grinders camps often fill.”

In response to the demand, the park district is offering a combined beginner and intermediate camp next week, with a possible multi-age session during the week of Aug. 23, Miller said.

For three hours a day, skaters ages 5-8 practiced their stances, push-off skills and riding the transitions of the bowl.

“It’s a little bit chaotic because you don’t want to be drilling – regimented training like a dog training school or anything,” said Hammond, currently in his first year as skate camp director. “This is more of letting them doing their own thing and encouraging them.”

The key to skateboarding is progressing at a steady rate, Hammond said. Attempting too big a trick can discourage a young skaters and even cause the student to give up.

“My goal is to get them to do a good kick turn or backside turn,” he said. “Dropping in is one of those big tricks. It’s a milestone.”

Hammond, who owns Bayside Engravers and launched Skate Anatomi Skateboards a year ago, believes in teaching by example.

“We’re kind of into the group skating, trying to show them,” he said. “It’s one of those kinds of things that are really hard to have a classroom environment. You show them, you kind of learn by example. They watch the other kids who are just a little bit better and they learn. If you see some bad habit forming you say, ‘Let’s try this.’”

Bainbridge High School students Tyler Horner and Nile Gibbs also work as camp instructors, and strive to help the campers learn the basics in four days.

“Trying to build their confidence is a big deal,” Horner said. “If they land something and get confident, they’ll try things they wouldn’t normally try.”

The camaraderie and positive encouragement from their peers gives confidence to the campers, Gibbs said. “If you’re stoked on them landing it they’ll probably try it again,” Gibbs said. “They want that respect.”

While the Strawberry Hill site can look like a scramble of helmets and pads for the three hours of camp, the young grinders are also learning important skate park etiquette.

“The trick is to keep them focused, and [also] sportsmanship,” Hammond said. “You’re not hogging the place and skating in the wrong direction. We’re trying to emphasize the technique and the abilities. It’s about the skating and not about the fanfare.”

Taking turns and self-awareness are cornerstones of a successful experience.

“Especially in a skate park, you’re watching out for each other,” Gibbs said.

Hammond has seen interest in skating fluctuate in the last 30 years.

“It’s up and down,” he said. “It follows the economy and anytime there’s a recession it falls off.”

The difference now, Hammond said, is having locations like Strawberry Hill, which offer a skating venue, regardless of the economy.

“I think what’s different this time around is there’s parks,” he said. “Before we didn’t have any parks. Now we have a place.”

Upcoming camp

10 a.m. -1 p.m.

Jul. 19-22

Strawberry Hill Park

For beginning and intermediate skaters

Registration: 842-2306

Contact: Julie Miller,

Fee: $80

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