By: Brooke Feldman
On Tuesday nights this summer, Jose Ruiz Jr. shares his skateboarding skills with the next generation at his Grom Skate Camp.
Ruiz, who started the sport when he was 8 years old, established friendships with other skateboarders in the Downbeach area and never looked back.
Mike Nelson, the camp’s other skating coach, skated with Ruiz since he was 13 years old.
“Jose was already on the skateboard team so I looked up to him and started skating with him every day,” said Nelson, reminiscing about the time he met Ruiz. “Watching him do better tricks made me want to do better. He was my idol as a kid.”
Now, in their 40s, they want to provide Downbeach youth with the same sense of community that they felt.
“Growing up as skateboarders back in the day, we were always taught to take care of the younger kids,” Ruiz said. “Now that I am a little older and teaching my own son to skate, I figured I might as well try to include the other kids around here who don’t have a place to go skate.”
The camp takes place at the new Ventnor Memory Park on Ventnor Avenue between Nashville and Oakland avenues. The park is a private philanthropic endeavor designed to spark community engagement.
“The emphasis is youth,” said Paula DeLuca, one of the park’s co-founders. “The emphasis is culture. The emphasis is also some fun. Most of all, the emphasis is people meeting their neighbors face to face in a safe setting.”
Ruiz’s vision for the camp is just that. The alpine resort-inspired park with Victorian coastal architecture and large gate, provides a safe haven for the young skaters to learn their craft and develop skills that will last a lifetime.
“One lesson they will take from this, and as older skaters will still go through every day, would be perseverance,” said Ruiz, reflecting on his campers who range from 4 to 9 years old. “Trying over and over again until you get it, no matter what it is.”
The children fall on their knee pads and always get right back up. Foot placement and turning are some of the skills on the agenda, but the young skaters walk away learning so much more.
The beginner camp will run Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. through Aug. 24. Rates are available by the class or as a package. Gear is not provided. For more information, join the Downbeach Skateboarding page on Facebook.