As spring arrives and Calgary begins to dry, the Calgary Longboard Club is once again hosting free clinics for new longboarders.
The clinics are held at Buckmaster Park in Bankview every Wednesday and focus on teaching basic skills to newcomers. The park offers two distinct trails, or hills, with one being deemed rideable for beginners and the other for more advanced boarders.
Originally the clinics were run by the Royal Board shop, which shut down in 2019. Thanks to efforts from the club, this was only a minor speed bump.
The club is active on Facebook and there the group’s 842 members plan group rides, discuss gear, and share video clips and photos.
Tristan Lawton, 27, is an administrator of the Facebook group and a driving force behind operating the clinics in a post-Royal world.
“The clinic kind of started up because of Park Tek League Skate Company”, said Lawton, ‘they support everything.”
“I’m the [brand] representative that shows up every week.”
Lawton, as well as the other “core” members, made the decision to move the clinic from the hill at 1404 Russell Rd N.E. to the more beginner friendly Buckmaster Park, as the former is peppered with guard rails all the way down.
“Many people have been injured severely,” said Lawton of the old spot. He went on to describe one of his own experiences with the Russel hill.
“[Al Hannigan and I] were pushing as fast as we could and tucking with the tailwind and [going about] 55 km/h down the bike path, and I went to slide and hit a crack and just lost it,” said Lawton.
“I hit the pole perfectly. I tried to hit it with my foot and my ankle just flipped around it — I didn’t even get injured.”
Thanks to the affability of Lawton and company, the clinics play host weekly to an assortment of beginners and more advanced riders who feel a sense of kinship within the club.
Anthony Vandekerkhovem, 22, has recently found himself attending the clinics again.
“I got cancer in 2020 and then did all this chemo[therapy],” said Vandekerkhovem, “and at the end of it, they’re just like, oh, we’re gonna have to take out all the scar tissue.”
“And it was either a reconstruction surgery which would have been a year-long of me being in a wheelchair, or I get the amputation and I can learn to walk on the prosthetic in three months.”
Vandekerkhovem elected for the amputation of his right foot. He is now happily working in construction and cruising around on his longboard, but he says it is tough.
“I don’t have [my] heel when I put my foot down [and] it’s like all the weight is on the toe and I instantly just [slip out].”
Vandekerkhovem said it was the sense of community that inspired him to attend clinics again, as well as a yearning to get back on a board.
“It was like, really fun.”
The clinics are typically held at 5pm every Wednesday at Buckmaster park, but that can change depending on the whims of the riders. For those interested in attending, the club maintains that helmets are mandatory, and also highly recommend specialized longboarding gloves.