Some recent feature films and documentaries which detail the beginnings of modern-style skateboarding in 1970’s southern California paint a decidedly negative picture of skater’s attitudes toward the police.
A similar film done here in Cayman 30 years from now might put the cradle of the island’s skate scene at a policeman’s house.
Police Constable Steve Myers has a six foot tall half-pipe (a type of skate ramp) in his backyard. He even skates on it himself sometimes.
‘The reason I built it was because I saw a need, an idea to get kids off the street,’ Mr. Myers said. ‘And it’s just got bigger and bigger with more and more kids getting interested in skateboarding.’
The afternoon of 5 April there were no fewer than 10 boys and young men in the constable’s backyard taking turns ‘dropping in’, ‘catching air’ and falling as they rode the ramp back and forth. One of the boys was 15-year-old Alex Brunelle from Colorado who had come to Grand Cayman on vacation with his parents.
‘We came last year and met (officer Myers) at Black Pearl Skate Park,’ said Alex’s father Clark Brunelle. ‘We started talking and then he let us know he had this ramp and invited us over.’
Alex, as a sponsored skater, showed a bit more experience and skill than most of the other boys using the ramp at the Myers’ home. Mr. Myers said as of today there are no professionally sponsored skateboarders who live in Cayman.
He hopes that will change one day soon.
‘My aim is to get the sport recognised in the Cayman Islands as a great sport that everybody can get involved in,’ Officer Myers said.
There are a few reasons to believe Mr. Myers’ goal is within reach.
First, the Black Pearl boasts one of the largest outdoor concrete skate parks in the world with three main skating courses encompassing 52,000 square feet.
Kids age six and above are allowed admission into the park. An after school programme is being planned for local kids to include transportation to and from schools in the districts.
Second, Cayman was featured 8 April in a programme on Fuel TV in the U.S. The Black Pearl and Officer Myers’ backyard ramp both appeared in the show, which was entitled ‘Drive.’
The show was hosted by professional skater Mike Vallely who visited the islands last year to film it.
‘That’s going to be huge for Cayman,’ Mr. Myers said.
Officer Myers also views the growth in skating’s popularity world-wide as a way to help him communicate with kids here at home in his capacity as West Bay’s neighbourhood policing officer.
‘I think skateboarding is a way to get through to them, because at the same time…I can also deal with issues with them and if they have any problems they always speak to me,’ Mr. Myers said. ‘They feel open to speak to me because I have an interest in their sport.’
Mr. Brunelle, who said he spends a lot of time sitting around skate parks while his son practices, agreed that skating was a positive sport for those who participate.
‘(Alex) tried soccer, he tried football, he tried baseball, he tried basketball…and the coaches wanted him to get out there and break other kids legs,’ said Mr. Brunelle. ‘Skateboarding is just the opposite. They’re all cheering each other on even through they’re competing for money.’
‘It takes a lot of self-discipline too. I’ve seen (Alex) try a trick 75-80 times before he got it.’
For the immediate future, Officer Myers goal is to bring in some overhead lights so the kids can skate in his backyard at night as well. He said that also allows him to be home to watch the younger skaters so they won’t get hurt.
‘I want to be there to supervise them, and to make them realise that they shouldn’t be in fear of the police,’ he said. ‘The police are there to help.’