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Grand reopening for Rotary Skateboard Park

Joe Buffalo will be the guest of honour at the grand reopening of the Rotary Skateboard Park.
Joe Buffalo
Professional skateboarder Joe Buffalo will be the guest of honour at the grand reopening of the Rotary Skateboard Park, Sept. 12 from 1-3 p.m.

Joe Buffalo will be the guest of honour at the grand reopening of the Rotary Skateboard Park.

The professional skateboarder and actor made a surprise visit to the park earlier this year and was so impressed, he has agreed to come back to the Sunshine Coast to meet his many fans at the reopening, which runs Sept. 12 from 1-3 p.m. at the skateboard park next to Chatelech Secondary School.

“As crazy as it sounds, skateboarding most definitely saved my life,” the Cree from Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, Alta., says in The Rise of Joe Buffalo, a documentary short produced by Vancouver media company True Calling.

Buffalo, 45, endured five years in residential schools and overcame some serious addictions before going clean and turning pro with Colonialism Skateboards at age 41. A big part of the company’s mission is to educate the public about the impacts of colonialism in Canada.

Buffalo summarizes what skateboarding has taught him in three short sentences: “Be true to yourself. Focus on your passion. You have to take risks.”

This summer, Buffalo has been speaking online to audiences around the world in support of the award-winning documentary Joe Buffalo, directed by Amar Chebib, which is getting rave reviews on the film festival circuit.

“I speak my truth. It has been a trip, you know. You can’t have reconciliation if you are not telling the truth.”

It’s not an easy process for him, though.

“I leave 90 per cent of me behind when I speak. It breaks off chunks of myself.”

Members and friends of the two Rotary Clubs in Sechelt have been working since spring to clear blackberries, repair damaged concrete, add a new feature and paint new murals at the skateboard park – but they couldn’t have done it without huge community support.

Local businesses, including Spani Development, Central Coast Concrete, Cloverdale Paint, Rent-it Canada and others, donated tools, machinery and even work crews for the project.

Dayton Point, general manager for Gibsons Building Supplies, has been one of the most enthusiastic contributors – for good reason.

A few decades ago, he and his friends were “little punks” with nowhere to skateboard.

“We were kicked out of everywhere. I understand it. Disrespect went both ways back then. We were a little bit badass. Red bandanas, baggy pants …”

But they were punks with a purpose.

“We approached the Town of Gibsons and said we wanted a place to skate. We were rebuffed.”

Undeterred, the kids started a petition and got 2,000 signatures.

“They had to listen to us then,” Point said. “We were given a vacant piece of land behind Gibsons Building Supply and soon began digging a huge hole for a skateboarding bowl.

“One day a tractor was going by and the driver asked, ‘What the hell are you kids doing?’ He offered to go in with his backhoe. Then Gibsons Redi-Mix donated concrete. Two weeks later, we had our skateboard bowl.

“After that, we were seen a little differently. It was the greatest victory by us young punks.”

Now he is happy to have a chance to pay forward all those favours he and his friends received long ago.

Local businesses have donated some great prizes for a raffle, including a Weber portable barbecue, an iPad from Telus and a spa/beauty package. The winner will be drawn Dec. 1. As well, three skateboards donated by Chemistry Clothing Co. in Gibsons will be raffled off at the grand reopening.

Trent Alcock of Coast FM will emcee the event. Admission, food and drinks are free by donation, thanks to the generosity of IGA Marketplace in Wilson Creek.