Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back to my west coast longboard roots

Today was one of the best Sunday Fundays I have had in a very long time. Granted it was a late start due to an amazing Saturday evening dinner party but better late than never!

My trainer and I had planned on doing a public sparring session in a park down in the Kensington Market area. We met up there at 5 and it turned out to be a zoo!!! Kensington on Sundays apparently goes off with a mixture of hipsters, free spirits and fun loving earthy folk interested in vintage fashion, grass roots music and un-flashy yet highly touted restaurants and cafes. We strolled around people watching for a bit and then Kriston came up with the idea of throwing 20 tennis balls to people in the park to see how they responded. Super neat idea and it was our first experiment in our joint mission to interact, challenge and inspire people to become more active. 

We strolled up to the full park and started throwing the balls to kids playing on the jungle gyms and sand boxes. They had no idea what to do with them but they had no choice but to catch the balls after I made eye contact with them. We started throwing them back and forth, making games and I focused in on the kids who saw this as a challenge and unique opportunity. Other people in the park got into it and kids began playing games with strangers (in a good way) they had never met before. It was such a joyful experiment challenging the kids with tosses, teaching them how to throw and causing social interaction through a simple game of hot potato. Even more hilarious when I rolled a ball to a kid who wasn't looking. Seeing their faces light up when a tennis ball appeared at their feet was priceless. 

We then left the kids with the balls and hung out with some pretty funky individuals hanging around the multi level chin up bars. These guys were there doing a form of Parkour and Kriston being a specialist and lover of the sport got along famously with them. He threw down a couple impressive moves and I got in there for some hanging funzies for some street cred; good times!

We then went over to the longboard crew and started mingling with them. Kriston had met one of the owners of the Longboard living shop. He hung out over some longboarding sessions around a large concrete circle and discussed the longboarding movement in Toronto and where Longboard Living was looking to positively influence it. 

As some of you may know, I come from a boarding background and I rode a stylie Sector 9 original pintail longboard all the way through college in Victoria and University in Vancouver. In my opinion it is the most efficient mode of transportation and also the most fluent and graceful as it requires long pushes and arcing carves to get from A to B. I also believe it is more sophisticated than the short board and attracts a mellower more well spoken demographic. I haven't boarded in a while but had been yearning for the freedom, creativeness and balance of the sport as of late. We rolled to the shop and Ryan hooked me up with a Skulls skates loaner then we hit the town. 

Our path took us to a large parkade where we hiked 5 flights of stairs and cruised in circles all the way down! It was amazing, like riding a mountain with chair lifts in the form of stairs and on the top we had an amazing view of the CN tower and the downtown core. We then commuted to Dundas square through downtown streets. I had really missed the speed on flats and propelling myself with balance and grace but most of all I missed passing the bicyclists! They are always surprised when a long boarder cruises past then rips a couple turns in front of them before taking off again. Beautiful. 

We arrived at Dundas square to find a massive event taking place. Ryan of longboard living was aware of the situation and took us to the breakdancing section where he introduced us to a pivotal player in the TO break scene. The event was called Manifesto and was the 5 year anniversary. Manifesto is a non-profit grassroots organization working to unite, energize, support and celebrate Toronto’s vibrant and diverse music and arts community, and find innovative ways of working together towards common goals. Such an amazing initiative and felt fitting that we found ourselves there to network with some integral people in different Toronto scenes.

We left there and returned to the Kensington market to end our evening but parted on a few thoughts. I realized I haven't been adventurous in the big city because I have been restricted and dependent on transit. With the use of a long board I was able to explore, experience and acquaint myself with some of the smaller streets and areas hidden in the shadows of mainstream places. I felt like I was able to connect with the city and experience an event I wouldn't have even known about had I not gone for a cruise. I was exposed to new stores, restaurants and businesses in passing as well as being introduced to very key characters in different TO scenes. I was able to take out a four wheeled paint brush and carve creative lines throughout a city I would normally experience from the seat of a bus, street car or underground subway. The session energized, elevated and pumped me up while connecting me with people who believe in green transportation, social responsibility and community.

The lifestyle of longboarding in Toronto is definitely different than in BC but it still attracts the same people. Without flowing hills Ryan and his posse at Longboard Lifestyle have catalyzed a scene based around community cruise sessions, leadership, learning, green transport and physical activity. Ryan brought up a great point that he believes longboarding is a life skill, something that should be learnt at a young age and he plans on integrating it into society. They are socially aware, safety conscious and highly organized and after the wonderful boost back into the sport tonight, I can't wait to get after more riding and exploration with this quality group of people. 

With a new light on Toronto, I can't help but become even more excited fully commit my life to the big smoke. Slowly I am finding ways to bring out the west coast and the more I embrace it, the more I meet incredible people who seek to inspire and ignite Canadians in their communities. 

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