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19th November 2018

Learning to skate with the University of Manchester Skateboard Club

Sports Editor James Gill talks to UMSC President Finn Vautier about how the society tries to build confidence in new skaters.
Learning to skate with the University of Manchester Skateboard Club
Photo: UMSC

Learning to skate may seem daunting. At the skatepark, everyone seems far better than you and it feels like all eyes are on you when you try a simple trick. The University of Manchester Skateboard Club (UMSC) is trying to tackle this by making the sport inclusive for everyone, regardless of gender or ability.

Finn Vautier, President of the society, invited me to one of their beginner skateboard sessions. Held every Wednesday, the sessions last for five hours and are aimed at people of all skill levels. The UMSC team are there to teach everything, from basic movement on the board to more complex tricks. Included in the five-pound price too is all the equipment you’d need so there’s no need to buy your own.

“We’re trying to foster an atmosphere of inclusion and confidence,” Vautier said. “As an activity skateboarding can often appear intimidating and unapproachable for beginners. We’re trying to introduce skateboarding to all students and to create a diverse member base. It’s a massive social too, as can be seen by the success of our sessions and socials, with the skatepark being a safe social space full of activity and life.”

Part of what makes these sessions so great for those that attend is the venue, Projekts MCR Skatepark. The large and varied skatepark is off the main road so you don’t have to worry about people constantly walking past. Not only that but it’s underneath the Mancunian Way near the city centre, so no matter the weather, you can have a great time.

In addition to this, all the coaches who run the sessions are incredibly friendly and supportive, interested in making sure everyone has a great time. One of the things they feel proudest of is the people who come one week to try the sport out for the first time and come back the next week with their own board.

Vautier and the team have worked very hard to create a value-for-money event for students. They took over from a team last year who did not organise many events and because of this, there was no funding from the Union this year. As a result, they have had to rebuild the society almost from scratch.

“The society was non-existent last year, there was only a facebook group,” he said. “There were no foundations when the new committee took over. This is to say we had to build a relationship with the skatepark in order to run our events.”

Alongside the for-all coaching events, UMSC also works with the skatepark on women-only skating events on Thursday nights. The sessions are for all ages and abilities and mostly serve as beginners lessons. Again all equipment is provided so these events are perfect to try skateboarding for the first time.

Learning how to skate can be an especially daunting as a girl, with skateparks dominated by men. Connie Gascoyne, who runs these events, said they are aimed at people who ‘are too nervous to come to the skatepark on their own’. Both weekly sessions are aimed at building confidence and bringing the sport to people that lacked the confidence to learn on their own.

Away from the skatepark, UMSC has run a number of socials including a skate tour at the start of the year of skate shops and spots. There wasn’t a lot of interest in the event online so the organisers were a bit worried that no one would be interested. When they arrived at the start spot they were blown away to see over 50 people with skateboards, longboards and bikes, all wanting to have fun and meeting new people.

Moving forwards, Vautier sees the society expanding far beyond where it currently is. “In the future, we hope that the society can collaborate and form strong links with other societies. We’re in the process of organising a few sponsorships. We’re also hoping to run our own skate jams in the future where we will donate the proceeds to charities like skatepal, who build skateparks in Palestine. Another idea we’re looking into is having our own apparel.”

The society is looking forward to the opening of a massive new skatepark in Salford this December. Graystone Action Sports Manchester will boast a venue much larger than their current one and will be a destination for events in the new year.

For more information about the society and their events check out the UMSC Facebook page.

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