How boarding helps Woody escape the daily grind

Longboarder Chris Ward is to 'push' from Southport to Fleetwood and back to raise money for an autism charity and to raise awareness of the condition.'Chris tries out his board in trip sponsors Big Woody's skateboard shop on Talbot Road in Blackpool.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'20-7-2012
Longboarder Chris Ward is to 'push' from Southport to Fleetwood and back to raise money for an autism charity and to raise awareness of the condition.'Chris tries out his board in trip sponsors Big Woody's skateboard shop on Talbot Road in Blackpool. PIC BY ROB LOCK'20-7-2012
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The Penny Original, like the Penny Black of postage stamps, has made its stamp on social history.

For older visitors to Big Woody’s shop on Talbot Road, Blackpool, it is a magic carpet.

The very sight of the retro skateboards in lime, yellow and pink carry them back to childhood.

At £80, it’s not cheap, but light enough to carry in rucksacks and bright enough to capture the attention of today’s kids. The replicas of the 1970s original skateboards are the best sellers at Big Woody’s specialist skateboard shop – second only to the top trender: scooters.

The scooters wheel in at under £100 to more than £500. “They’ll never last,” says Woody, a skateboarder at heart, body, soul and sole. If Hells Angels had skateboarding chapters, Woody would be a member.

Instead, he divides time between his outlet at Ramp City WSA skatepark, Blackpool, his base for 10 years, and his stylish shop of the last two years in the town centre, selling skateboards, skates, scooters, clothes, and accessories. Woody’s still a skateboarder himself and also sponsors the shop’s team at competitive events regionally.

Woody – the name by which he’s known to one and all – says skateboarding’s riding high. Not that it’s ever gone away. “Back in the ’70s they said it wouldn’t last.” Woody says the same of scooters, but sells the most stylish models and starter kits, streets apart from the tinny ones of yesteryear.

“They’re great, but don’t have the speed or grace of skateboards,” he says. “They haven’t the character. They haven’t the staying power. Skateboarders are fiercely individualistic. You find they are very creative, or artistic, or loners. They are like surfing dudes.”

At Ramp City, the rivalry is friendly between scooters, skateboarders and skaters, but the emphasis is on etiquette at all times. “I think skateboarders are naturally more courteous,” says Woody.

Ten-year-old Jack Hesbrook, from Rochdale, at Ramp City to celebrate his 10th birthday with pals Ben Pealin, Fletcher Harrop, and Seb Devine, also 10, disagrees. “We’re really polite,” he adds. The “scootaz” with attitude – and altitude – rate Ramp City the best in the North West. “I’ve tried skateboarding, but I prefer scooters,” says Jack. “You can do just as many tricks on a scooter, but it’s more fun.”

Macauley Titley, 12, from Longton, prefers skateboarding, and has boards for each occasion. “I’m too tall for scooters,” he adds. “Skateboarding’s cool.”

His father Carl agrees. “I think skateboarding’s great, I did it myself, not to this level of expertise. It’s improved Macauley’s fitness no end. He’s fearless. He’s hurtling around these walls and inclines and ramps and I watch, palms sweating.”

Macauley reckons skateboarding should be an Olympic sport. “Snowboarding’s in the Winter Olympics,” he adds. “It would make a good demonstration sport. It really IS a sport.”

It’s attracting its share of born-again skateboarders – with demand rising for long boards in middle age.

Chris Ward, 48, says: “The power of skateboarding has never faded. I was 12 when I first started skateboarding, and it was the making of me, the start of a love affair with the creativity which encourages individuals to flourish.”

He favours long boards. At just after 9am on August 11, he will set off on the first leg of a 100-mile round trip from Southport to Fleetwood by long board – and back next day after overnight stay. The Long Push – Long Boarding for Autism Awareness will raise funds for specialist North West charity Families Connected. The son of Chris’s partner has been diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder.

“An autism diagnosis, especially a late one, changes everything within a family,” says Chris. “All the landmarks you expected your child would reach, are no longer certainties.

“It’s when things reach ‘meltdown’ that parents need support most, and that’s what Families Connected offers.”

Woody’s a key sponsor of the Long Push, and is urging local skateboarders to form a guard of honour along the route, or escort Chris part of the way. To sponsor him or join in, see www.thelongpush.blogspot.com, The Long Push 2012 on Facebook or @TheLongPush on Twitter.

jacqui.morley@blackpoolgazette.co.uk or tweet her @jacquimorley