Local skater and volunteer instructor Jimmy Leaphart glanced to where I crouched on the lip of the nine-foot bowl at the skate park at the Breckenridge Recreation Center on Thursday. I steadied my camera hand, adjusted the focus and nodded.
Leaphart turned to look at 12-year-old Michael Sarber, poised at the far, shallow end of the swimming pool feature.
Michael stepped forward, dropping down on his skateboard, riding the undulating concrete waves, swooping into the deep bowl, then popping up into the air and hanging suspended for just a few seconds — click-click-click! — before returning to gravity and riding back down the steep side of the bowl.
His nearby friends rushed over, crowding in to look at the camera’s viewscreen and critique the shot. From below, Michael shouts that he can do it again, while his friends clamor eagerly for their turn in the limelight.
These young skateboarders, eager to show off their skills, are all part of the Afterschool Skateboarding program, held three times a week at the Breckenridge Recreation Center.
Ginger Ebbinghaus has been a skating instructor for the past 12 years, including the after-school program as well as summer sessions. Ages generally range from 5 to 12, and she accepts all skill levels. A helmet and kneepads are required at all times, and she recommends that beginners starting out should have elbow pads, as well.
“I think around here it’s gotten more and more popular,” she said of the sport of skateboarding. “Once they get that bug, then they don’t stop.”
The after-school program sees about a dozen kids a day on average, and while the majority are boys, there are a few girls, with more coming all the time.
Sean Ebbinghaus, Ginger’s husband, volunteers with her, along with other recreation center employees and Leaphart. He said that the younger skaters especially feel safe with Ginger, who provides a calm, confident presence they can draw upon while learning the basics.
Ginger also emphasizes the safety aspects of the class.
“I’m a mom myself. Our whole family skates,” she said.
Parents can feel good about bringing their children to the after-school program because of the safety gear rules, as well as the convenience of nearby recreation center facilities. Moreover, she and the instructors are always watching the kids to make sure they’re acting safely and responsibly and aren’t trying skills that are too advanced.
“If you have the right instruction early, it’s not dangerous,” she said.
Also on the sidelines Thursday were a handful of parents, watching their children move around the park.
“It’s amazing what these kids can do,” said Matt Brewer, whose 7-year-old son, Luke, has taken classes with Ginger before.
“He just has so much confidence,” Luke’s mom, Mindy, said. “He’s just a different kid. He’s doing good in school, and it’s something to look forward to (after school).”
At one end of the skate park, the advanced riders — Michael and his friends — swoop in and out of the swimming pool feature, trying a few aerial tricks and getting pointers from Leaphart, while at the other end, Ginger coaches the younger kids as they roll slowly forward and make tentative runs up a curved ramp. She takes the hands of one particularly wobbly skater, helping him balance as the board moves.
“There’s more to skating than attitude and style,” said Sean, watching this. It encompasses self-confidence and independence.
The other noticeable aspect is the atmosphere of camaraderie and friendship among the young skaters.
“My favorite part about skateboarding is it just gives me a place to express my feelings in a smooth area where I can rip it,” said 10-year-old Collin Hyon. “And totally hang out with my bros,” he added, gesturing to Michael and Luke. The boys quickly fall into a discussion of how many times they’ve argued with one another at the skate park. The answer — none.
The parents share their children’s sense of positivity when it comes to skateboarding.
“They have been skating every day,” said Colin’s mother, Tricia, referring to her son and 6-year-old daughter Emma, who also skates. “Ginger does a fantastic job. It’s a really nice little community.”
Her family has gotten so caught up in the sport that Tricia is also part of a task force of instructors and skateboard parents who are petitioning for improvements to Summit County’s skate parks.
Their next move is to attend the Sept. 24 Breckenridge Town Council meeting, hoping to make some progress on expanding the current parks or even adding a new one.
“It’s just a great sport,” Tricia said. “We’re really trying to figure out how to get a better, safer park for our kids.”
The Afterschool Skateboarding program is considered a drop-in class at the rec center.
Parents whose kids are interested in participating should sign up at least a day ahead of time, or by noon of the same day at the absolute latest, said rec center employees.
Registration can be done online or over the phone. Buses are available to take children from either Breckenridge Elementary or Upper Blue Elementary over to the rec center.