Sundays at skatepark special for femmes, queers

Julie Thompson packs her skateboard and pink helmet into her car and heads to the Heritage Skatepark every Sunday.

Between 1-5 p.m. is a skate session for femmes and queer folk.

“These spaces are very important for marginalized communities,” said Thompson. “It can be hard to branch out into spaces that may not always be welcoming.”

She first picked up a longboard when she was 17 because she enjoyed doing it with friends in Saskatoon. She always wanted to try skateboarding and bought her first board in 2020.

Thompson moved to Regina last March and wanted to find a winter activity when she stumbled upon the indoor skatepark and its allotted timeslot for queer individuals.

Video: Julie Thompson skating onto a ramp. Video taken by Nicole Garn. 

The skateboarding community has had a bad reputation for being exclusive and male-dominated. But Thompson sees change happening within the community.

She acknowledges the skatepark’s use of inclusive language and how that small act can make a big difference in making someone feel welcome. Inclusive language includes things like “femme” and “queer,” as they are more accepted terms by the community. 

She said her experience within the community has been lovely.

“Everyone I’ve met has been really inclusive and kind and welcoming,” said Thompson. “It hasn’t felt like an exclusive club.”

William Spencer is an employee at the skatepark. He’s been skateboarding for 17 years and has been a part of the Regina skateboarding community for 11 years.

He said the community saw a burst of youth interested in skateboarding during COVID-19.

“That’s the beauty of it,” said Spencer. “We’re all doing it individually, but none of us can do it individually without the community having been there. None of us would know how to ollie or kickflip without having the community there.”

An ollie is a skateboarding trick that involves snapping the tail of the board off of a surface and bringing the board up into the air. This is the foundation of almost every trick.

A kickflip is a common trick where the skater goes into the air and uses their feet to flip the board a full rotation.

Video: William Spencer doing an ollie onto a bar. Video taken by Nicole Garn.

One of the skatepark’s rules is as follows: “Profanity and abusive behaviour towards other participants, staff or spectators will not be tolerated. The Heritage Skatepark is an inclusive safe space and zero-tolerance zone for harassment of any kind, including, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism and ableism. Bullying will not be tolerated in the park — towards anyone.”

Spencer also sees positive change within the community. He started skateboarding in the early 2000s when it was “common to be bullied.”

Now, he said the community is more welcoming.

“Here we attempt to foster an environment that allows people that are three and just stepping on a board, to someone that’s 65 and still wants to push around,” said Spencer. “All skill levels, all the time.”

The skatepark is working on getting more grants to continue adding phases to the park. They are also looking to provide more beginner-friendly obstacles.

The Heritage Skateboard Park is located in the REAL District in the Canada Centre Building. It will celebrate its one-year anniversary March 19.

Part of the heritage skatepark.

Featured image: Julie Thompson at the Heritage Skatepark. Photo taken by Nicole Garn. 

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