School's out, skateboarding's in!

Updated on 14/05/2024
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Children from leisure centers around Paris took part in skateboard initiation sessions with professionals from the US. An event that's part of the effort to get kids to take up sports in the lead up to the Olympic Games.
Stepping on to a skateboard for the first time isn't easy. It requires a lot a balance and a bit of bravery. At the Brèche-aux-Loups elementary school leisure center (12th arrondissement), a hundred or so enthusiastic children from different arrondissements safely took to their skateboards for an afternoon of freewheeling.
Martin Maillot, who runs the site, which is also a year-round skateboarding learning center for the 11th and 12th arrondissements, is running the days activities. Luckily for them, the kids got the chance to meet Amelia Brodka and Neftalie Williams, two champions from across the pond. Amelia Brodka represented Poland at the Tokyo 2021 Games while Neftalie Williams heads the Center for Skateboarding, Action Sports and Social Change at the University of San Diego (California).
For some, it was a chance to hone their technique with two world renowned athletes. For others, it was the opportunity to experience their first thrills on a skateboard.

Everyone can skate

Off they go! As the schoolchildren launched into gliding and balancing exercises, the two pros gave them advice. "Put your foot on the back of the board and turn. That's it!" shouted Neftalie, encouraging the students, who are learning quick.
"Skateboarding is really accessible to all children, even if they've never set foot on a board before, or aren't usually sporty. A beginner can learn the basics in just 15 minutes," explains Pierre Ravaud, committee instructor from the Comité Départemental Roller et Skateboard de Paris (CDRS75).
The committee's instructor works in Paris schools during school hours and at City of Paris leisure centers during vacations. "We train up to 48 children in two hours in association with local authorities. We are also involved in hospital leisure centers such as Robert-Debré (19th arrondissement), Pitié-Salpêtrière (13th arrondissement) and Bicêtre (Val-de-Marne)".

Back to the future

"We coordinated this initiative in collaboration with the Paris Departmental Roller and Skateboard Committee and in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Paris," comments Lucas Degrey, event organizer and manager at the City of Paris' Department of School Affairs (Dasco). This cooperation is all the more significant given that the next Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in Los Angeles, California, in 2028. "The aim was to highlight the present and future of skateboarding. The kids got a good session and also tested a new skateboard prototype."
The young skateboarders were delighted to discover "Bitume", a skateboard prototype, capable of detecting tricks and providing detailed data, such as the speed and height of jumps. All of this thanks to an integrated artificial intelligence system that sits in a small box attached to the underside of the board.
In addition to this futuristic experience, the students took part in an interactive exhibition raising awareness on issues such as discrimination in sport. They were also treated to a breathtaking show put on by a talented young skateboarder. It was safe to say some kids will be asking for skateboards for Christmas.
Skateboarding is more that just a sport
"On a board, I feel like I'm taking off - that's what I like best about it!" confides Aila, a CM1 pupil, under the watchful eye of Martin Maillot. "Everyone experiences different sensations on a board. For me, it's freedom," he adds. One thing is certain, skateboarding is not a competitive sport. Echoing Olympic values, the kids don't compete against each other. "Between us, there are no losers, only winners and enthusiasts!" concluded Neftalie Williams.