Free Movement Skateboarding: A Global Attainable Goal?
It’s not often that we write about something so close to our hearts, yet so far from home. It’s also not often that lifelong friends begin an incredible movement that is changing the world through skateboarding.
Their aim is to empower young people within the refugee population of Athens by providing skateboard tuition, but their vision is so much more than this. Why skateboarding? Why Athens? Why is this movement so important to both the world and skateboarding? Let Lariatt answer these questions for you.Listen to the story of Free Movement Skateboarding. It offers so much more than just skateboarding. It is said that today we live in a ‘climate of fear,’ which may be true, but this program offers so much more to children than normality; it offers compassion.
“This is why skateboarding is so good for young people’s mental health...it’s just them improving themselves. With our sessions we try to get young people to encourage each other to create that culture you see within a skatepark; people shouting and cheering and supporting one another... there’s a sense of mental ease that comes with being integrated within the skateboarding community and that is something we encourage.” – Will Ascott (Founder)
Within our skateboarding world, certain social constructs are still prevalent today. By this we mean the presence of female skateboarders. Although growing fast, more could be done to welcome more women into our world. Free Movement Skateboarding recognises this as fact and reiterates that skateboarding is for everyone, and quite rightly so we think. By using skateboarding’s subjectivity and its creative nature, its promoted as a mixed activity with both male and female instructors. Encouraging female participation is one of many aims Free Movement Skateboarding addresses and by offering all women sessions, there seems to be a major influx in gender neutrality within learning action sports.
As much as we wouldn’t like to admit, the Western World of skateboarding is still today perceived as a male dominated sport, but within the refugee community, where these gender pre-conceptions are not so strong, the Free Movement crew address this imbalance strategically through FUN- what every child has a right to! Empowering young women within the Athens community can be seen as a droplet of water in a sea of inequality, but every journey starts somewhere. In Athens it starts on four wheels and ends hopefully, with more young people skateboarding.
Throughout Athens and neighbouring cities, the vast majority of refugees are awaiting asylum. This process is both long and tedious, and could take years to obtain. Throughout this time, an almost ‘limbo’ if you will, Free Movement insist that a sense of community within the camps and squats they stay in is a concept of great importance. What better way to introduce solidarity than through skateboarding; an activity with such extraordinary values! The skateboarding community is known for being so welcoming, which is what Will, Ruby and Osh (Founders) have experienced first-hand in the UK. By employing local skaters and including Athenian youths into their sessions, a new and diverse Greek skateboarding community is born... Truly unbelievable.
“Everyone slams when skateboarding. Everyone can help up a friend. Everyone likes to land new tricks. Everyone likes to see friends do the same.”-Free Movement Skateboarding
It is without a doubt that some of the young people Free Movement Skateboarding work with have been through hell and back in their short lives so far. Trauma, loss and a lack of mental stimulation affects all children both physically and mentally, but this doesn’t have to affect them forever. Skateboarding provides us all with a sense of mental ease. Without focus, determination and development, we would never learn anything new. Free Movement’s skate sessions allow these children to learn and adapt their behaviour in an all-new progressive environment focused on personal development that promotes the importance of physical and mental health.
It’s quite clear that skateboarding has a sense of community attached to it; a culture of its own some might suggest. Free Movement Skateboarding shares this within their work in Athens, creating their own community with boys and girls who are both young and old. As well as Greek, Syrian, Afghan and British pros and beginners!
It seems almost fairytale-like to even imagine a concept like this where we reside. These guys have created a safe haven for many participants and at Lariatt, we think this is truly one of a kind. As skateboarders and people who work within skateboarding, we really do appreciate how much skateboarding has done for us all; we always focus on improving ourselves and giving encouragement to our peers. Free Movement has started this journey for a new breed of skateboarders; a new generation who need it more than most.
Lastly, skateboarding has always been that helpful distraction from anything negative occurring in our lives. However, when given the stories of these young people and all that they’ve been through, it really puts things into perspective for us. Skateboarding has saved countless lives of children. Why else would the viral hashtag ‘#skateboardingsavedmylife’ exist in today’s digital world? Despite its toll on the human body, skateboarding is therapeutic for the mind and soul. Being at one with something you love is a feeling we all know...
We’ll let Free Movement sum it up for you all:
“...through the mental calm it necessitates, through the skate scene who support you, through the lust for new spots and tricks. It is a pure sanctuary. It could be mindful focus at your first session learning to push, it could be exploring new spots in a new city with a crew of local skateboarders, it could be defying gender stereotypes that limit your ability to participate in other sports...” –Free Movement Skateboarding
Owning and operating a skate store is a hard task and supporting our local skate community is always a priority for us. Why stop there? With your help we could transcend our borders and boundaries and extend our reach. Together we can and will change the lives of children who have been through more than we can imagine... Subsequently, Lariatt has teamed up with Free Movement Skateboarding to change the lives of children and keep them learning and loving skateboarding. By bringing your old skate equipment to us in-store, you will receive money off of your next purchase (see flyer below for details). Help us to spread the love and keep children safe within the realm of skateboarding.
These children have only seen a glimpse of generosity skateboarding has to offer. Skateboarding has changed all of our lives in such a beautiful way. Let's change theirs together.
(Photos: Demetrios Ioannou ©) Thank you to Will, Osh & Ruby and everyone at Free Movement Skateboarding.
Written by Charlie Spelzini