E.Y. skateboard activists look to improve pastime’s image

Big girls don’t cry, even when they fall off their skateboards.

At least that’s the case at the East York Skate Loft.

Located on Curity Avenue just off of O’Connor Drive, the Skate Loft is an indoor skateboarding facility that welcomes and encourages female skateboarders, young and old alike.

With a reputation as an aggressive pastime, skateboarding has long been a male-dominated sport. Everett Maclean, who owns and operates the facility, hopes to see this change in the near future.

“I think in such a male-dominated sport, there is a lot of intimidation that goes on for a girl taking part,” he said.

In an attempt to encourage more girls and women to participate, Skate Loft waives the mandatory $10 entry fee for female skaters, allowing them to enjoy the park for free.

“We do that to try and promote and encourage more girls into skateboarding,” Everett said. “In the future, we’re even planning on having all girl instructors. I think it is a bit scary for the young girls even being taught by the guys.”

As skateboarding’s mainstream popularity continues to grow for males and females alike, the need for indoor skate parks is on the rise, he added.

Opening its doors in late 2010, the Skate Loft is the result of the combined efforts of Team EY, a group of passionate, motivated Toronto skateboarders.

The popularity and usage of the facility has grown since those early days.

“We consist of a diverse group of skateboarders, of varying skill levels, who aim to promote a positive skateboarding community in Toronto, with a focus on East York,” explained Team EY co-founder Nick Pierre.

Since its creation in 1998, Team EY has been dedicated to bringing a positive and inspiring skateboarding experience to East York. In addition to the Skate Loft, Team EY was instrumental in the approval and construction of the permanent East York Skate Park in Stan Wadlow Park and has been offering skateboard camps every summer since 2006.

Through its hard work and dedication, Team EY is trying to shift the common perception of skateboarders held by the public. In addition to running summer camps, it also partnered with Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation to organize winter skateboarding lessons and drop-in programs at S.H. Armstrong Community Centre and the St. Lawrence Market.

“Before the mainstream view of skateboarding, where it is more accepted by the community, we were viewed as hoodlums and almost vilified,” Maclean said.

“Convincing the people in power in Toronto that investing in the skateboarders and their community would have a benefit that would transcend beyond skateboarding is really important.”

Since its inception, Team EY has garnered recognition and even praise. It was named the City of Toronto Youth Group of the Year in 2007 and more recently was included in a collection of 14 essays entitled Local Motion: The Art of Civic Engagement in Toronto.