A skateboard culture for Crown Heights, Brooklyn
by Tammy Scileppi
Dec 16, 2011 | 25113 views | 0 0 comments | 1035 1035 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Traci Johnson stands in the center with her team, “Culture Skateboards”, which has members from ages 7-21.
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A young Crown Heights couple who are longtime skateboarding enthusiasts decided to teach the sport to a small group of kids in their Brooklyn neighborhood, who seemed eager to learn all the moves. As the sport’s appeal took hold in their nabe, it eventually became popular in other areas of the borough.

Unfortunately, the only place where the kids could practice that was nearby and skateboard-friendly, was a basketball court in Brower Park. Traci Johnson and husband Jay were convinced that a real skate park was the only solution.

Recognizing the growing culture of skateboarding, with its own clothing style, language and attitude, the Johnsons started Culture Skateboards – from their skate team of 7 – in 2007. Traci became team manager and event coordinator.

Jay was instrumental in helping a lot of skaters learn how to ride on ramps - he built one over the Christmas holiday and gave lessons on the court.

Before long the group of kids grew larger.

“I used to teach in the public school system, and had experience starting athletic programs for students so I applied some of those techniques to help organize the skate program,” said Traci. “There was a strong interest in skateboarding in my community and it was being ignored.”

Her skate program grew in two years into a company with a reputable team, but there were very few skate parks in N.Y.

“I couldn’t understand why a city with such a large number of skaters didn’t have more places for them to skate,” she said. “I felt Brower Park was the perfect location because it would service the skaters in the surrounding communities.”

So, in 2009 Traci started fighting for a skate park. The first step was asking skaters to join her in convincing representatives there was a need for it in the area.

It was an uphill battle.

“Only State Senator Eric Adams’ office finally invited me in. The meeting went well and he asked me to return with plans for a park,” said Traci. So with petition in hand, and 100 kids in tow, Traci got the Senator’s undivided attention, and ultimately, her efforts paid off - Senator Adams promised the skaters they’d get their park. “It was a great moment for my team,” Traci said, proudly.

“After selecting the construction company, we met with the N.Y.C. Parks Department to get clearance. Four months later, we finally had a second concrete skate park in Brooklyn (Owl’s Head is the first). Our park opened September 10, 2011 in Brower Park Crown Heights North.”

Most of the skaters are from Brooklyn, but the group has members from Atlanta, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California, and all skate on an amateur level, competing in local competitions, meeting both amateur and professional skaters, she said. A few members were even offered sponsorships.

The prize for winning a skate competition usually means receiving skate gear and a deck (the wooden part over the wheels). If the competition has a lot of sponsors, then the reward for winning or placing may involve money and/or a trophy - profits are put back into the company, to pay for trips, emergency spare equipment, and apparel for the team.

“Three members specialize in skating ramps and bowls while the others are street skaters with skills on ledges, handrails, and stairs. As a whole, the team can skate anywhere because of their creative ability and experience skating on New York City streets,” Traci said. “They perform standard skate tricks with flare on very difficult obstacles and the combination of tricks they put together always draws a crowd. “

Summer is skate season so the group competed in local competitions sponsored by shops and smaller companies. But they skate year-round and when it gets colder, a lot of time is spent at indoor parks to keep their skills sharp and to have some fun.

“We held a competition in our skate park in September called “Brower Bash” and we will have more events like that in 2012. Our next event is an indoor competition on December 17th in Rutland City, Vermont at Plaza Skate Park,” she said.

“The best part of creating our park is seeing tons of local and visiting skaters of all ages hit the park.”

To connect with cultureskateboards, visit Facebook page, and to see upcoming events and even buy products such as hoodies and T-shirts and skateboard decks, visit www.cultureskateboards.com.
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