You can learn a lot in this old world if you just keep a few things open — like your ears, and your mind and your heart and, maybe, if a special occasion calls for it, your wallet.
We learned this yesterday when we wandered into Surfin’ Bird in search of a really good skateboard.
Freddie, the owner, asked us a few key questions like foot size and decor preference, and then he built us what turned out to be the perfect board for a 12-year old’s birthday.
As we watched him work, he enlightened us a little about Appleton’s skateboard scene, which we’d previously only observed from a distance. It turns out, Freddie not only builds great boards, he also advocates for the skating community.
He grew up in Appleton and understands the uphill battle to get a skate park approved. The Telulah Skatepark, in fact, took years of passionate debate before it opened in 2015. These days, the park attracts all ages of skaters, bikers and scooter riders. In fact, it gets so busy it could use an expansion, or maybe a second skatepark somewhere else in the city.
According to Freddie, the city does plan to open an indoor skatepark soon and he hopes to see another outdoor park as well.
We chatted a little as he checked the bearings and wheel alignment and asked my young friend to test out his new board. He offered to teach him a trick or two once the young guy felt more comfortable on the board and he told us we could come back anytime for a free adjustment.
Then, we went straight to the park to test it out.
We watched for a little while before jumping in. People can do amazing tricks on that course. I saw a young man complete two full rotations in the air on his scooter, and then land with ease. I also saw that same talented rider fall a few times, pick himself up, and try again.
What a great message to the rest of the crew, I thought. Everyone falls in the skatepark, so no one gets embarrassed or discouraged. They just get up, collect their board, and try again.
My young friend started out cautiously in the parking lot and then made his way around the outside. Eventually, he got up his nerve and zoomed down a ramp or two. He fell and I thought for a moment we were done for the day. But, he got right back up, jumped on his board and kept at it.
We’re heading back to the skatepark today, weather permitting (which only means an actual downpour. I’ve learned bikers and skaters have very broad definitions of appropriate weather.)
We’d like to take a moment to thank Freddie at the Surfin’ Bird for his kind attention to our board and the skating community at large.