On February 22nd, 2011, at 12:51pm, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake and numerous aftershocks tore through the city center of Christchurch, New Zealand. 185 people were killed and thousands were displaced with their lives forever changed. Inspired by other recent Levi’s skatepark builds around the world, several members of the Christchurch skateboarding community reached out to the Levi’s brand seeking support to help revive the skate community in Christchurch.
The crew at Levi’s quickly signed on to help, recruiting eager team ambassadors Josh Matthews, Joey Pepper, Al Partanen, Marius Syvanen, Pat Moran and Dan Plunkett. An all-star cast rolled up their sleeves to help the Christchurch skate community. With bags packed, the crew departed for New Zealand where they were determined to work closely with the locals of Christchurch to help create something that would be a meaningful contribution towards rebuilding their community. In less than 48 hours this past December 2016, Christchurch locals and the Levi’s Skateboarding crew banned together to find an available plot of land, cleared it of all plants and debris and built a skatepark. If you don’t think it’s possible, watch here and be convinced otherwise.
This marks the sixth skate park built around the world by the Levi’s brand and skate team ambassadors. Other global park builds include Bangalore, India, La Paz, Bolivia, Oakland, California, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota and Johannesburg, South Africa.
On February 22nd, 2011 a 6.3 magnitude earthquake ripped through the centre of Christchurch followed by severe aftershocks killing 185 people, destroying a city, a community and the lives of thousands of people. 5-years on and the rubble still lies in the streets of Christchurch as a cold reminder of what mother nature is capable of.
Thanks to Levi’s® Skateboarding we were able to give back to a community in need, following the lead from previous projects from Levi’s Skateboarding in Bolivia, India, Oakland and most recently Pine Ridge. Red the full story at Monster Children by clicking here.
While checking out the Levi’s Skateboarding build project in Pine Ridge, SD, the guys went out and found some spots away from the parks. Follow Josh Matthews, Pat Moran, Marius Syvanen, Joey Pepper, and Jerry Mraz around South Dakota, from the newly built parks in Pine Ridge to the streets of Rapid City.
This past summer I was invited to get together with a collective group of hard working skateboarders, lensmen, artists, webmasters and media types for a first-hand visit to the historical Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Through Levi’s Skateboarding, our primary purpose in this visit to the Oglala Lakota Native American reservation was to join several of Levi’s Skateboarding ambassadors including Marius Syvanen, Josh Matthews, Joey Pepper, and Pat Moran for the grand opening ceremony and celebration of a new skatepark in the small town of Manderson, not far from the historical site of the Wounded Knee Massacre which took place on December 29, 1890.
This was the second skatepark constructed on weather-beaten Pine Ridge Reservation and it was aimed directly at providing the Lakota Oglala youth another creative hub to gain confidence, share physical activity and to nurture self-esteem.
Located at the southern edge of Badlands National Park, The Pine Ridge Reservation is an underprivileged region with a storied and tough to swallow past. Its terrain is arid and crusty, well worn and time tested. Past the geographic roughness of this expansive territory, the daily life of Lakota Oglala people can be very heavy and the greater community on the res is among the poorest in the nation. Alcohol possession and consumption has been illegal on the reservation for decades, yet just over the border to the south in Whiteclay, Nebraska there are four liquor stores situated along the two lane interstate route to a population of just a dozen people. These liquor outlets sold over 4.9 million 12-ounce cans of beer in 2010 almost exclusively to Oglala Lakota from the reservation for gross sales of 3 million dollars.
Thankfully, on the much brighter side, the Lakota youth have Oglala Sioux Tribe member and veteran skateboarder Walt Pourier doing a tremendous job through his Stronghold Society organization to share messages of hope and inspiration to help give these kids and young people a fair chance at a long and healthy life. Assisted by former pro skateboarder Jim Murphy and their youth mentors, much of this work is conveyed through the freedom and positive power of skateboarding. Since its inception, it’s turning the outlook on life for these teens from dismal to hopeful to optimistic.
Grindline Skateparks constructed the first concrete skatepark at Pine Ridge in 2012 upon a rough 6,000 square foot patch of dirt littered with broken bottles. Its development came through in kind donations and support from Jeff Ament and Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy Foundation, Vans and The Tony Hawk Foundation. And since its opening, the Four Directions Toby Eagle Memorial Skatepark has become a significant fixture in the community and a hub where teens get together to share creativity and physical activity away from pressures at home, influence of gangs and other adverse effects of daily life on the res. Prior to the initial Pine Ridge build, there were less than a dozen skateboarders throughout the community. Two years later, there are now over one hundred.
Our visit to Pine Ridge also included the opportunity to attend the colorful festivities of the 30th Annual Oglala Lakota Nation Pow Wow at the fairgrounds adjacent to the skatepark. Native American families gathered from across the country in decorative dress and entertained traditional dances among all generations in attendance.
Afterwards, we hung out and skated the Pine Ridge skatepark including its newly completed section with a smaller banks, hips and a handrail. Jim Murphy, Joey Pepper, Josh Matthews, Pat Moran and Marius Syvanen shared the stoke with the locals, signed autographs and put on a great impromptu skate demo until an abrupt and blustery hailstorm enveloped the region and soaked everyone gathered below. Our skating was done for the day and it was soon time to make our way back home.
The gallery of photos below exhibits several of the images that I captured during our two-day visit to the reservation. To utter the words, “skateboarding saves lives” is quite cliché, but it’s so very true and profound amongst the Lakota Youth of Pine Ridge. We experienced it first hand and saw the positive power that it yields for these kids.
The Northern entrance of the Pine Ridge Reservation along Highway 27.
Todd Bratrud voluntarily planks himself during our visit to Badlands National Park.
Bombing hills on skateboards through Badlands National Park is a big no no. We got off without fines due to our upcoming visit with the Lakota Skate Club of Pine Ridge.
(Left to right) Jeff Ament, Jim Murphy, Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele, Walt Pourier and Erik Wolsky gather for a great cause at the Manderson skatepark opening.
Many thanks go out to Levi’s Skateboarding, Walt Pourier, Jeff Ament, Jim Murphy, Grindline Skateparks, Erik Wolsky, Matt Sharkey, Marius Syvanen, Josh Matthews, Joey Pepper, Pat Moran, David Pajo, Cat Power and Greg Hunt for their great work and kinds hearts to unify their efforts to make life better for those that otherwise might not have the chance. Without question, skateboarding saves lives!