Many students share a common complaint that there is nothing to do in Abilene. But for those interested in picking up a new recreational sport, skateboarding beckons.
“Skateboarding has always been there for me and I’ve never said I was bored,” said Johnny Thornton, who has been skating for most of his life. “Bored people are going to be bored anywhere. It’s their lack of creativity that’s keeping them from doing something.”
Johnny Thornton, skater and owner of Primal Skateshop located at 2642 Post Oak Road, said all it really takes is a skateboard, a parking lot, a concrete parking block and a friend to easily kill four hours without ever getting bored.
“It’s free, fun and good for the soul,” Thornton said. “When people ask why I skate it’s like asking me, ‘Why would you want to have any fun in your life?’.”
Nic Noblique, artist and former professional skateboarder who resides in Clyde, said skateboarding can teach someone a lot beyond balance and some cool tricks.
“There’s something to be said for someone who takes the time to learn, and who focuses enough to teach themselves how to do something,” Noblique said.
Noblique, who started skateboarding when he was seven years old, has a history full of skateboarding. He placed top ten in Vans’ Warped Tour and rode for Sector 9 Skateboards. He has owned and operated skate and snow retail shops across the country and engineered a new center point concave skateboard that is now used by major skateboard manufacturers nation-wide.
“It’s not easy,” Noblique said. “When you see these guys out there that are doing tre-flips down 20 step stairs and sliding down 15 foot rails, these are things that not only require a certain level of determination and stamina, but you also have to have a lot of brains.”
Despite the positives, the skate culture has received a lot of negative attention over the years. “No Skateboarding” signs plague some of the city’s best concrete spans and, in some larger cities, skaters can get ticketed for cruising down the wrong sidewalks.
Noblique said a lot of people label skateboarders as punks, but he believes skaters to be the next generation of leaders.
“Sitting around and playing video games isn’t going to get you anywhere,” Noblique said. “But getting out there and teaching yourself something is going to give you a much better future. All the kids I grew up skating with went somewhere, and that is pretty amazing.”
Additionally, Thornton said he has noticed that skateboarding helps people build up their self-confidence.
“There are kids that come into my shop that won’t say a word to anyone and they’re all shy,” Thornton said. “And they’ll start learning some tricks and you’ll notice them instantly become a lot more outgoing and interactive because their confidence is way up.”
Gallen Pierce-Lackey, 27-year-old Texas native who will be staffing the Youth With A Mission Boarders Discipleship Training School this January, said he appreciates the ministry opportunities that skateboarding provides because of the way that it brings people together.
“Skaters are a community. Jesus loves community,” Pierce-Lackey said. “When we bring skaters together and live our lives within the reality of heaven, we welcome heaven and the Spirit into the skate culture.”
Pierce-Lackey said he experienced his first true Christian discipleship with his former boss at Quiksilver Skateboarding through being taught how to skateboard.
“The alternative culture is rebellious because they feel the need to validate who they are and what they do,” Pierce-Lackey said. “We as the church are warming up, but have been very guilty of focusing more on changing them in
stead of showing them Jesus by bringing heaven and loving them. Jesus loves skateboarding and football; he loves hardcore music and contemporary Christian music. We have to stop branding one culture or style as ‘best’ or ‘correct’ or ‘Christian’.”
Thornton also said skateboarding was not as dangerous as people tend to think.
“People worry about falling off a skateboard, but at least they’re not running into each other really hard like in other sports,” Thornton said. “I’ve never understood that double standard or why they think skateboarding is so much more dangerous than football or baseball; it’s a misconception.”
Noblique said skateboarding not only is healthy and a useful and environmentally friendly means of transportation, but it offers the opportunity to get a lot more out of friendships and to join a very unique community.
“There’s a brotherhood for sure in skateboarding,” Noblique said. “You get a couple guys who have determination who are doing something that they feel the same drive, emotion and work ethic over, and those are the people that will bond together.”
Thornton said skateboarding is an activity that overcomes any language barrier and cultural difference. He said you can go anywhere in the world and find that the skateboarding community is really tight-knit and it is a sport that allows for sharing between generations.
“I’ve seen that the older skateboarders are always willing to help out the younger skaters when they’re learning and they’ve always got a pointer for them about foot placement and all that. They love teaching new skaters things,” Thornton said. “And when you see them learn a trick, you’ll know why.”
Once skateboarders start it, is hard for them to stay away, especially after they get a taste of the variety of skate spots across the nation. Even Abilene has a public con
crete skate park of its own located at Rose Park. Thornton also maintains an indoor skate park complete with a half pipe, quarter pipe, rail, vert ramp and pyramid that are available for use. He even hosts occasional skateboarding competitions and organizes out-of-town skate trips.
On the ACU campus, the population of longboarders has been growing. Thornton said that even he has begun to warm up to longboarding.
“But skateboarding is way more creative,” Thornton said. “There’s nothing like the art behind skateboarding.”