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Skateboarding scene could grow in the coulee

 

Ben Hughes no longer has fluorescent hair, but demonstrates that he can still ride at the "SK8 Park" at North Dam Park, which he'd like to see further developed. - Scott Hunter photo

A guy who had brightly colored hair in his youth, but wears a tie to work now, would like to see the local skateboarding scene grow to include more features at the park, local competitions, and more, and would like all the support he can get from local skaters.

Ben Hughes, a commissioner on the Coulee Area Park and Recreation District since February, has a background in skateboarding himself.

"I started skating in 1985 on a bright orange banana board (now called Penny boards)," Hughes says, and he just messed around on them until he was a teenager when a kid, a skateboarder from L.A., moved to Wenatchee.

The teenage Hughes wasn't into organized sports offered by the school system, but he enjoyed the challenges of skateboarding and the culture that eventually formed around it.

"In 1993, popular Seattle-based skateboarding company Zumiez came to ... Wenatchee, and I began skating with the guys that ran that shop," Hughes says. "They taught me everything I needed to know, and by 1996 I started competing in skateboarding and snowboarding events with Zumiez as a sponsor."

The company hired him at the age of 16.

"Those guys, with their leadership, kept me from being a hoodlum a bit," Hughes says with a grin. He and his buddies, he admits, managed to find a little trouble, but they stayed away from drugs and alcohol.

Hughes worked for Zumiez, skating and working for them all over the country, helping build locations for the company in Alaska, eventually becoming a district manager over Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Southern California.

In that time, Hughes also ran several skate competitions and programs.

In Las Vegas, he and a friend started a cultural foundation to cater to kids who had ended up homeless.

"The cards that life dealt them, they just ended up on the streets," Hughes says.

The foundation helped them get guidance and shelter, and started skateboard teams at schools, where the kids had to pull a 3.5 grade point average, read three books and do 20 hours of community service a month to stay qualified.

"I see a need within the kids here," Hughes says.

Hughes, who currently works for Coulee Medical Center as the patient access manager, says he would like to see the current skateboarding scene develop into a "safe but challenging recreational spot for athletes of all ages that may not exactly fit the current school sports options." And he'd eventually like to see Lake Roosevelt Schools adopt skating as an afterschool sport, requiring the same academic standards as any of the other sports.

For the park itself, Hughes would like to see more features installed, including ramps, a pyramid, a bowl, a rainbow rail, a kink rail, boxes, and stairs, all of which can be used by skaters to perform different stunts and tricks.

More than that, Hughes would like to see competitions in the area.

"I'd like to have one to two contests a year that will, hopefully, organically grow into local traditions and annual events," Hughes says. "Best Foot Forward is a great small-town skate contest tour that takes the best skaters from around the country and gets them to a national competition when the tour ends."

Hughes is seeking support from the Rob Dyrdek Foundation, which helps build skate plazas in cities; the Zumiez Foundation; and from Mervin Manufacturing, a Seattle-based company that makes extreme sports gear.

Hughes has a message to local skaters: "We're working on it!" he says. "It helps if I have support from local athletes. Kids and adults who want a great skatepark and some potential competitions and events, reach out to me at hughespuzzle@gmail.com and we'll start organizing. The more skateboarders that participate, the better!"

Hughes told the CAPRD board of commissioners Monday night that the base of local skater support is already building.

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