Charlie Samuels watched as his young pupils showed him their homework late Monday afternoon.
Together, the roughly dozen boys between the ages of 4 and 8 lifted the nose of their skateboards and then moved them from left to right with varying success.
At first, a few fell; several others struggled to pull off the move known as a “tic tac” with any viable success. But within a few moments, they all seemed to have the move down. Samuels, a veteran of nearly four decades of skateboarding, was elated.
“All right,” he said enthusiastically. “That’s an essential move.”
The class was the second of four in the “Save the Skatepark for Groms” program Samuels and two other volunteers organized at the East Side Recreation Field. The goal is to impart the fundamentals of skateboarding to a new generation, so they can one day use them creatively on some of the skate park’s more challenging features.
“We’re teaching them and inspiring them in the hope they become skaters for life,” he said.
The program was conceived after Samuels, Benj Gleeksman and Chris Wildy lobbied the city to reopen the park’s cement skate bowl after it was filled in with dirt nearly two years ago. The city’s Recreation Commission and Safety Committee reviewed the issue last fall and recommended that the skate bowl be restored for use, provided signs clearly state that people using the bowl do so at their own risk.
For the trio, the reopened bowl offered a chance to bring reinvigorated life to the park. In coordination with the commission, they planned two four-class teaching sessions at the park this summer along with a Skate Jam slated for the end of the month to serve as an exhibition for experienced skateboarders.
“It’s about doing your best no matter what you can do,” Samuels said.
Children attending the training Monday afternoon were far from bashful on their boards. They enthusiastically tried any of the beginner techniques their teachers showed them and didn’t flinch even when the tricks ended in a wipe-out on the hard pavement circle surrounding the skate park.
Of course, the beginners weren’t pulling the tricks on the park’s ramps, much less in the restored bowl. Samuels said they’d need a lot more experience before trying the park’s more complicated features.
Still, he said teaching them the fundamentals at such a young age is important because they seem to bounce right back even after they take a nasty spill. Even better, they seem uninhibited from trying new tricks.
“This is the best time for them to learn,” he said.
Student Keenan Paris agreed. At 7 years old and already a veteran skateboarder of two years, he likes the freedom and creativity of the sport.
“There are no rules about it,” he said.
And falling off his board didn’t seem to pose much of an issue either. He proudly lifted his elbow to show a scab that had formed over a half-dollar-sized scrap he got during a fall last week.
“Which didn’t hurt at all,” he proclaimed.
Samuels hopes his young pupils stay inspired by the sport. With a bit of work and effort, he said they could someday find themselves riding in the bowl.
“They better they get, the more likely they’ll go into the bowl and get the Holy Grail of skateboard, which is going vertical,” he said. “Hopefully, this is enough of a push.”