SUMMERSIDE — He may be an ‘old fella,’ but Winston Gallant has serious skills.
At the ripe old age of 24, Gallant and his friends are the seniors at the city’s outdoor skateboard park, The Bowl.
“That’s actually our name,” he said with a laugh. “We are the old fellas.”
But Gallant and his buddies aren’t ready for retirement quite just yet.
This Saturday, they plan to show young upstarts just how it’s done at the inaugural Summerside Lobster Bowl Skate Park Competition.
Gallant will have his board ready for fierce competition.
“Oh, I’ll be there,” he said with a confident and cocky air. “I’ll be showing them an odd trick or two.”
Gallant quickly sets aside his coffee, scoops up his beat-up board, jumps on and glides with ease through The Bowl, almost floating on air before landing on all four wheels without flinching.
After a few minutes of death defying stunts, he steps off the board, asks if it’s enough, and walks over to the cheers and jeers of his buddies.
Gallant barely misses a beat and isn’t even out of breath as he sits down to chat.
“A guy at my school skateboarded and I just kind of took it from there,” said Gallant of his start in the sport at age 12. “I remember my first kick flip. I was wearing cleats. I never went to my game and I never went back to baseball.”
“The only other sports I played were rugby and baseball. Skateboarding was my passion. You could do it whenever you wanted.”
Back then, there were few places to skateboard in Summerside and he was too young to skate at Generation XX.
“You kind of got kicked out of everywhere by police and workplaces because if you skated over a set of stairs, generally, that set of stairs is outside a business,” Gallant recalled. “I skated on the streets, my driveway.”
Now it’s different. With The Bowl open for business, skateboarding is encouraged and, he added, the sport is growing.
“Ever since it opened I come here every Sunday with the guys and rip around. There are a few older guys that all come down and we usually just skate the bowl.”
Often, he and the ‘old fellas’ are able to one-up the younger skaters.
“There’s always a young kid that just comes out of no where and does a few tricks.”
He’s competed — and is still competing — throughout the Maritimes, even going to the nationals at age 17.
“I didn’t do great but it was my first time getting into something like that and some of the guys I was skateboarding against are pro now,” Gallant said about competing at the national level. “You had us, the guys from a little Island, and guys from B.C. that came down for it. It was an experience, that’s for sure.”
Showing off what you have learned is part of the thrill of skateboarding, he added.
“It takes a lot of heart. If you fall on a trick 50 times in a row, this concrete is not very forgiving,” said Gallant. “I fell on a hand rail and fell off and cracked my orbital bone before, from my nose to my cheek, and was puking blood on the side.”
Three days later he was back on the board.
Gallant’s excited about Saturday’s event and the chance for up and coming young skaters in the city to compete, most for the first time.
“It will be a great experience. They practice here all the time and get to show off the skills they have learned over the years,” said Gallant.
“We don’t bang ourselves up, cut and bruise ourselves,” he stops for a second, and then continues, “well, we do do it for the hell of it but, at the end of the day, you are trying to land a trick and it you land that trick, it’s awesome.”
The thrill of landing an Ollie and flying across the half pipe is in his blood.
“It is part of me. Even when I am not skateboarding I will be driving down the road and see something that will look fun and stop my car, grab my board and get out,” added Gallant.
“It’s almost euphoric. You get on your board and all your worries just kind of go out the window and you are just here to have fun at the end of the day.”
Jordan Ellis, the city’s special events intern, expects to have upwards to 40 competitors sign up for Saturday’s event.
Planning for the competition began in March when it was decided to hire a skate park instructor/attendee.
“We wanted to make sure that we had a competition, tied it into Lobster Festival, made it on the Saturday and really invested in the skate park,” added Ellis.
Registration starts at 10:15 a.m. with competition running from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There are three categories — beginner, intermediate and advanced, the last being the category of which that Gallant and his buddies will be competing.
Competitors runs in pairs, starting with the beginners followed by a best trick competition on the half pipe at about 12:30 p.m. There is also a second best trick competition, this time on the tabletop, after the second heat.
“Then, after that, it’s the final heat,” said Ellis. “We extend the time from three minutes to five minutes for the advanced class.”
He believes that the sport is seeing a rebirth in the city, adding that hiring Conor Arsenault as the skateboard park instructor/attendee has helped.
“There are a lot of stereotypes towards skateboarding, like if you skateboard you do drugs and you drink all the time. Really, we have full-time jobs. We just skateboard,” he added. “It is wicked to have an instructor here. Plus you don’t have kids breaking stuff and throwing things into the skate park when there is someone looking after it.
“You only get a spot like this once.”
There’s no cost to register for Saturday’s competition. Helmets are mandatory and prizes include skateboards.
For more information, summersidelobsterfest.ca.