It doesn’t get any more rad than this. Skateboarding has become a school sport with teams and competitions right here in Fresno. We caught up with Sunnyside HS Ceramics teacher and Sunnyside Riders Club sponsor, Lance Anderson, to get the lowdown on what’s going on and how we can help our local students have fun and learn to take care of their own community as well.
Those of us who have had some experience in the skateboarding world know that stigma of skaters always being up to no good. That stigma is being fought off in service oriented school clubs across Fresno Unified. Perhaps in the near future, we’ll see skaters as great humans doing great things for other humans, all while having as much fun as possible. TCBFresno would like to congratulate all the club sponsors in Fresno Unified and give the prestigious #TCBFresno award to all of you. Cheers!
Jump to 7:19 to see the Sunnyside Riders Club in action!
Now for the interview with Lance Anderson
TCB: When and how did the skateboarding club get started at Sunnyside HS? Are there others like it at other schools?
LA: The current co-presidents of the club—two students—found out about a skateboard competition Fresno Unified was going to have and went to the Activities Director, who also knew that this was going to happen. She came to me and asked if I would sponsor the club. Of course I said yes, as I would have loved to have a skateboarding club when I was in school. For my whole life I have always had a skateboard to roll around on from time to time.
The amount of support I have at my school is great. Our principal, Tim Liles, is very supportive in what we are doing and the kids see that. He even installed skateboard lockers for the kids who want to skate to school. It’s awesome for the kids to see some acceptance. There are clubs like ours at other Fresno Unified middle and high schools. I would love to see clubs at every middle and high school and more teams being put together for the competition as well.
TCB: It’s great to see that kind of support for something that used to be thought of as something only the hooligans took part in. How many kids are involved with your club?
LA: There are about 20 members in the club and still growing.
TCB: And this is an official school activity?
LA: Yes. It is an official student ran school club and also a team. The students wrote a constitution and presented it to the Inter-Club Council to become official. We are still young as a club/team and want to grow, but there is one thing that holds us up and that is that Fresno Unified does not yet allow us to skate on campus. To make this club really take off we need to be able to have an area where the kids can skate before school, during lunch, or after school with me in a supervised area and have some fun. Are they going to get hurt? Maybe, but football players do, too.
The district is beginning to recognize the sport end of skateboarding and held the very first skate competition between schools last year, but at the same time did not allow the kids to practice at school. This seems like such a inequity compared to other sports. It really makes the kids feel like they are not valued or respected yet. To really reach these kids I would like this to happen. It would give me more time to build relationships and mentor the students while doing something positive in a safe place. I am very hopeful that this policy will change in the future, and we can really get this thing rolling.
TCB: Wow, yeah, hopefully so! What cool things has the club done?
LA: Some members of the club had the opportunity to attend the Element Skate Camp last summer in Lake Sequoia. If you don’t know about skate camp check it out. It is a magical place for skateboarders. Life changing.
We also entered a team in the first ever Fresno Unified Skateboard Competition last year at Lion’s Skate Park and plan to do it again this coming spring.
We are always looking for service projects to do to help our school and community.
We have taken field trips to local skateparks, like Rotary Park in Clovis and Melody Park in Fresno. These trips have rejuvenated me as a skateboarder and I ride with them a little, too. It’s super fun.
This year the students, through a donation from Tim Cohee and some fundraising, earned enough to help pay for a bus and took a trip to China Peak to go snowboarding.
TCB: That’s fantastic! What other stuff has the club done outside skateboarding?
LA: We are slowly working on getting a screen printing system up to make our own art, shirts, and possibly our own skate decks as well. The kids have been working up some designs and we will soon get those designs ready for printing.
A few kids are starting to get into shaping after seeing some of the boards I have reclaimed on Instagram. We are in the process of shaping a cruiser board out of a worn out popsicle deck for one of the members. Learning how to use a jigsaw and sander while having some fun. We also built a fun box out of some leftover wood with rails to use when we get the chance to skate on campus.
The main thing we want to do is to change the way people think about skateboarders. There is a stigma out there that skaters are just punks and do nothing for society except destroy property. The classic rebellious attitude is still there, but they also just want to feel like what they do is valued and respected. They have a ton of talent, work ethic, and creativity when it comes to skateboarding, and we are working to have that passion transfer into other aspects of their lives.
I want to guide them to have that same amount of passion about their education. With an education they can do many things within the skateboarding industry if their dream of being a pro skater falls short. I tell them they have to earn the respect they want, to be the change they want to see, and above all to be kind. It’s a work in progress, but I like the way things are going so far.
TCB: This is seriously really awesome. You are doing a great thing with these kids. Have any businesses stepped up with sponsorships?
LA: Last year the Central Valley YMCA and the Element Skateboard Company sponsored two of my club members to attend a week at the Element Skate Camp free of charge. Pro-Tec also donated sets of pads to take to camp.
Tim Cohee, you definitely get a #TCBFresno award for doing this!
This year, Tim Cohee, the owner of China Peak has graciously donated rentals, lessons, and lift tickets for an upcoming snowboarding trip. This is going to be really special because there are many members of the club that have never seen snow before let alone ride on it. I am really looking forward to it.
And the owner of Stay Grindin Co. came out earlier this year and gave a motivational speech and a bunch of stickers.
We are always looking for donations of any kind of skateboarding equipment, new and used. It is required to wear a helmet when we go to the skatepark, and also good sense, but not every kid has the means to get one and that leaves them out of the skatepark field trips. I have a few for them to borrow but it’s hard sometimes. If anyone has anything skateboard related (boards, trucks, bearings, hardware, wheels, protective gear, shoes, etc.) that they would like to donate—or would like to sponsor the club—please contact me at Lance.Anderson@fresnounified.org.
I buy decks and parts for the kids from time to time but I can only do so much. If they break their board it may be a week or longer before they could get a new one. I would like to have a set of boards that I could lend out as loaners or even give to the kids in the greatest need and there are many. This is where sponsorships and donations could really help us.
We are currently looking for sponsors to help us get t-shirts, hats, and skate decks to screen print our club logo on.
TCB: We’ll definitely get the word out! So, what kinds of kids are joining the Sunnyside Riders Club?
LA: 9-12 grade students, boys and girls, who are into skateboarding and want to be a part of that culture. Some that want to compete in the district competition and some that just want to be a part of a family.
TCB: And what changes are you seeing in them after becoming part of this family?
LA: Some of the changes I am seeing is improved behavior, grades, leadership skills and above all self worth. I have witnessed a great growing sense of community and a group of us that have become a family.
TCB: Great work, Lance! Again, fantastic! Can anyone join? Do you need to have to have a skateboard? Pads? Helmet?
LA: No. I have a few extras if they are in need, but am starting to get a low on gear.
The club is open to all students at Sunnyside High. I do not believe in the idea that you need to be able to do an ollie or flip trick to be a skateboarder. I flat out do not like the word poser because you cannot do something like someone else. To me skateboarding is really about creativity and breaking down social norms while having some fun. Not limiting yourself to what everyone else can do or does. Be yourself. Whether you want to learn tricks, make big turns down a hill, or ride a board down the street to buy a slurpee, wanting and having that feeling of moving forward on a skateboard is shared throughout and cherished by all who ride. We should be welcoming to all individuals that share that same feeling and not hate on them because they ride a different shape. So that is one reason why we welcome all types of riders (longboarders, cruisers, street skaters, vert skaters, etc.) and non-riders to join our club. Anyone that loves or is interested in what skateboarding is all about is welcome and hopefully will make some new friends.
TCB: Lance, thanks for taking the time to meet and chat. You are doing things for your community that will have a lasting effect for years to come. Can’t wait for the next event. We will definitely be there!
If you’d like to know how to get your kids involved in a campus skate club or team, contact their school’s Activities Director. If they don’t have a club, ask the director to help start one!