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WNY's skateboarding community grows, skaters share mixed opinions on the sport's Olympic debut

Greg Brown started skating in WNY last year
Posted at 4:51 AM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 05:53:44-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Western New York has four skateparks, each full of a lot of young, passionate skaters. Many say there’s something special about this sport and it’s been growing here in WNY way before it got to the Olympics.

“We’re coming out of a pandemic, a lot of people are looking to be outside, it’s a good, inexpensive way to be outside with your friends and have fun,” said Frank Knab, General Manager at Phatman Boardshop.

Knab has been skating for 20 years. He says the WNY skating community is tight knit.

Phatman Boardshop has an indoor park where people can try out skateboarding
Phatman Boardshop has an indoor park where people can try out skateboarding

"Huge family feel. Between those four skateparks you’re always gonna see someone you know," said Knab.

Greg brown is new to the area and new to the sport. He says he used to long board back home on Long Island, but when he came to Buffalo, switched to skateboarding.

“I saw everyone skating here and cruising, I’m like you know what let me invest in one of those popsicle sticks and see what it’s all about, so I got one and haven’t looked back, it’s only really been a year," said Brown.

It hasn't always been this way.

"It kind of started as a rebellious act, when I started skateboarding there was relatively no skateparks at all, it’s been really great to see the growth of skateboarding," said Knab.

That growth is international, with skateboarding on the list of Olympic events in Tokyo this year for the first time ever. But a lot of skaters have mixed opinions about the addition.

"You’re almost getting everyone to do the same tricks and it becomes robotic and they end up all looking the same. But the creativity aspect is really what makes it popular," said Knab.

They say it’s an art form, an expression, before a sport with rules and restrictions.

"That’s why I do it it’s a way for me to totally express myself," said Brown.

But they are glad their sport is getting exposure.

"Now these skaters get an opportunity to get some money doing their passion, it gives skateboarding a whole new avenue to hit so many of these young kids, I see so many young kids out here," said Brown.

They both say they're seeing an increase in younger skaters and female skaters, with silver and bronze medalists Hiraki Kokona and Sky Brown just 12 and 13 years old.

Tokyo Olympics Skateboarding
Sky Brown of Britain competes in the women's park skateboarding finals at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Knab says the rise in popularity locally started before skateboarding was added to the Olympics. He credits donations from the Tony Hawk Foundation and that close community. Which gives him high hopes for the future.

“I hope to see as many skate parks as there are soccer fields and baseball diamonds," said Knab.

Another reason more people are skateboarding is the easy access to the sport since skateparks are free, according to Knab. He says a standard skateboard will cost you about $100 bucks, plus safety gear like helmets and pads which should be worn at all times in the park.

And if you’re looking to try it out, Phatman Boardshop has lessons for $25-50/hr or if they see you out at the park, they'll come over and help you out for free.