Posted on Monday, April 9, 2007 by Randy
As hard as it may be to believe, there are parts of the world where skateboarding simply does not exist. There are places where kids don’t read Thrasher or know where Hubba Hideout is, random strangers don’t know who Bam Margera is or who won the X-Games, and skateable concrete—not to mention skate parks—is hard to come by. The rural indigenous village of Caluqui, Ecuador, located high in the Andes, is just such a place.
This spring break I had the great fortune to be able to travel to Ecuador for a week and a half with a group of Eckerd College students who were doing service work at a school in Caluqui. As many of you probably know, I only work at the Skatepark of Tampa part-time because my full-time job is at Eckerd, helping to organize service opportunities for students. Each year Eckerd students travel around the world doing all sorts of service projects, and this particular one was aimed at painting a school and giving the children in the community a playground—not a bad way to spend spring break, right?
When I began to learn more about Caluqui I realized that bringing boards into the community would be an incredible experience. I’ve traveled throughout Latin America for years, and even lived in Argentina for a time, so I knew how hard a good, American setup was to find. I also had this past December’s “Boards for Bros” in mind, and thought that it was only natural to expand our reach far beyond the ghettos of Tampa. Clements was down, and the Skatepark of Tampa donated five complete setups, which I packed in a box to take with me to Caluqui.
Without going into great detail—the pictures speak for themselves—let me just say that the trip was an amazing experience and one that none of us who were there will ever forget. Caluqui is an extremely poor area (the average monthly household income is about $200), a place where the children speak their native Quichua before learning Spanish and work the land much as previous generations have done for thousands of years. Few homes have electricity, there are no stores or paved roads, and some of the kids have to walk more than two hours through the mountains just to get to school.
In order to decide who was going to get the six skateboards (there was no way I was leaving without donating my own setup, too), we took the Principal’s advice and had a reading contest in which one student from each grade (1-6) won a board. I got to judge it, and after about half an hour we had our winners. I won’t even try to describe how happy the kids were to have these boards—you can see it in the photos.
I left Caluqui feeling great. We were able meet new people, see some spectacular scenery, and make an impact on a part of the world that few tourists see. We introduced skateboarding to a part of the world that had never seen it, and I can’t wait to go back six months or a year from now and see the kids who will, by then, be landing kickflips and making their own ramps. When we rolled out of town, I realized that this is exactly what skateboarding is really all about—exploring new places, making new friends, giving back to something you love, and making the worldwide community of skateboarders stronger and larger.