Deemed to be a ‘sport like no other’ by those in the know, reporter SOPHIE BROWNSON checks out the skateboarding scene in Gwent and finds out why the craze is rolling across the county.
A SPORT which has influenced fashion, music and even the way we talk, skateboarding is becoming hugely popular with people of all ages in Gwent.
Many skateboarders typically favour both indoor and outdoor skate parks and enjoy the sport for fun, fitness or as a mode of transport.
But for many in Gwent, it's also about the adrenaline factor as well.
Darran Ward, of Freestyle Skate Shop in Newport and Cwmbran, believes that it’s this ‘adrenaline’ that captivates skateboarders right from the start.
“It doesn’t matter how good you get at it, there is always the possibility it could go wrong,” Mr Ward said.
“But that is part of the appeal, it is an adrenaline sport and that adrenaline is addictive.”
The appeal also extends to the fact that it is a sport which brings the feeling of freedom.
As an anti-establishment sport, skating means that skateboarders across the Gwent area aren’t tied down to more regimented sports such as football where players have to meet at a certain time; they are free to do skateboarding whenever they want and to do the tricks they want.
“It’s an anti-establishment sport that you can do at your leisure,” Mr Ward added.
"This independent, no rules, free thinking mentality attracts the kind of people who like to do their own thing."
But despite being predominantly individual in what it is, the skateboarding scene is wholly social with skateboarders meeting to practice tricks together and to egg each other on to do more and more daring stunts.
The skateboarding scene in Gwent has changed over the years with the county gaining more and more skating facilities both indoors and outdoors as the councils get on board.
Mr Ward believes this is down to the authorities recognising the positive impact that the sport can have on young people keeping them out of trouble and reducing crime by giving them something to do as well as keeping them active.
“We have so much more now in the way of facilities,” he said.
“It is a sport for everyone, all walks of life.
“Recently I met a kid who had a bit of a drug problem with legal highs and he came into the shop and said that he is turning his life around though skateboarding.
"You get a buzz from hearing that.”
“It is a really good way to learn skills and it is good in the way that it gets young people out to do something positive rather than sitting in front of the computer.”
One of Gwent's skateboarding enthusiasts is Nathan Pritchard, 20 who has taken his hobby all around the world as well as keeping it local by skating around four times a week at Newport's Tredegar skate park.
He said: “I started skating when I was 12.
“Before that I had a disease called Perthes' Disease which meant that I had bad hips and was unable to walk, but I overcame that and ever since then I wanted to skate.
“I have been skating all around the world to places such as Copenhagen, and groups of us have a caravan which we used to travel around to skate.”
It is the development of new facilities for skating that has led to the sport becoming more mainstream.
The innovations that were made in the 90s brought skateboarding back slowly and made it an easily accessible and cool hobby, with its increasing popularity continuing into the millennium.
Such new facilities include Newport’s indoor skate park Fear and Rolling where owner Tom Bowman, 30, of Newport, has seen a wide demographic of skaters turn up to the park to take part in the addictive sport.’
“I started skating when I was 15 and when I was 18 I set up a skating clothing company called 2N which was sold in different shops.
“Following this I set up my own skate shop called Fear and Rolling which was going quite well at the time so I decide to start up my own skate park, also called Fear and Rolling.”
The indoor skate park is soon to become a registered charity along with charity ‘Just Add Spice’ which aims to give people in the area who do jobs in the community, time credits which they can spend as they choose including using the skate facility free of charge.
“People of all ages come along, parents bring their kids and we have adults in their 30s and 40s, so ages range from seven to 40," Mr Bowman added.
“We also have a range of skaters from skateboarders, to BMX to scooters.
“I think skating is a life-long hobby as the appeal is the adrenaline and learning something new.”
Mr Bowman agrees that the Gwent skating scene is very social helped along by the increasing skating facilities.
“Skate parks were a rare thing until recently.
“I think Newport only used to have one, but the councils have jumped on board and provided facilities.
“It is a lot more accessible now.”
Young skater Damon Jones, 16, of Lliswerry Sixth Form knows the positive effects of skating since he got into the sport last year.
Starting off as a skateboarder, he is now into rollerskating.
“I have been skating for a year and two months now,” he said.
“I went to the Fear and Rolling indoor skate park in Newport with a couple of mates when was 15.
“There is a good atmosphere.”