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Beyond the Board: An Interview with the NW Arkansas Skateboarding Foundation

The Northwest Arkansas Skateboarding Foundation mission is to grow and support the regional skateboarding community.

The Northwest Arkansas Skateboarding Foundation was founded in late 2018 by skateboarders for skateboarders. The founding team includes Roy Rodezno, Wesley McDonald (owner of Stash Skate Supply), Brandon Herbert (co-founder of Gnarkansas.com), and Jonathan Camacho. We recently sat down with Roy to learn more about the organization. Check out the interview below.

Founder Roy Rodezno, President/Design & Marketing

Q: Ok Roy, let's take it from the top, why did you create the organization and what is the mission?

I've been skateboarding for 17 years. Brandon, Jonathan, and I grew up skateboarding in Northwest Arkansas; Jonathan and I used to skateboard on the same block in Rogers. We were primarily street skating because during those days the closest skatepark was in Bentonville and we didn't have a car.

Brandon Herbert, Audio Visual Director/Events Coordinator

Later on, a skate shop came to Rogers, and that is where all of the local skateboarders would go hang out. I remember when we started attending city meetings when they were considering adding the Rogers skatepark and saying, 'We want this park; we need it.' And it worked, we got it.

We had a lot of skaters back in the day. You'd go to the skatepark, and it would be crowded. Now, not so much. Compared to my generation, it seems like the number of skaters has diminished quite a bit.

Local Competition in 2012

Recently, I've been seeing and hearing from other skaters that there isn't support for skateboarding; it's all going toward biking. But that's because people are pushing for that. For years now, I've been hearing things like 'Man, I wish we had a new park' from people in Fayetteville. If you go there, there are cracks. In Bentonville, skateboarders are expressing the same frustrations. If we had an organized voice for skateboarding, we could probably achieve the same thing as the cycling community.

All that together kinda just brewed in my head and popped up as: 'We need an organization that can represent skateboarders as a whole.' We want to represent current and future skaters.

The mission is to grow and support skateboarding in Northwest Arkansas. To organize and to show people that we're serious. This is who we are, and we are here for the long run.

Q: In the short-term, what are your plans?

One of the first things we wanted to do is launch a skateboarding competition. Every now and then there are competitions, but once they are over, everyone is left wondering what's next. We thought: 'What if, instead, we did multiple stops and a final for the crown?' That's when we landed on the idea for the Arkansas Crown, Arkansas' first skateboarding championship competition. There were a lot of skaters I talked to who believed that that would be cool, that they would be interested in it.

Anthony Dezaldivar Longest Ollie at Bentonville Crown Stop

So, we planned six stops: five competitions and then the final. Four of the stops are located within the region, one in Fort Smith and one in Little Rock. We had the first one on May 25th, 2019 at the Bentonville Skatepark. It was an excellent turnout, a lot of people came out. The next stop in Northwest Arkansas will be on August 11th in Fayetteville, you all should come check it out.

NWASF Arkansas Crown Skateboarding Championship // Stop 1: Bentonville // Highlights

There was this guy that competed in Bentonville, 19 years old named Niccy. I believe he just started skating last year. It was his first competition ever, and he got first place in the beginner's competition. He was like: 'Man, this was the first one; I've never done this before.' That's skateboarding: it makes you try things you have never tried before. It pushes you to go outside your limits. And if you fail, you fail. But then you get back up and try it again⁠—the same goes in life. This is what it is all about.

Niccy's boardslide at Bentonville Crown Stop

Q: Skateboarding for life?

Yes. Look, we all have things going on in our lives. Whether it's family problems, addiction issues, or things like that. A lot of us skateboard to vent that—redirect and channel that energy. I know I did. I made skateboarding my life, and during any negative times I would tell myself: "Skate for life," and that would help me refocus and overcome.

Q: Can you share more about that personal experience?

When I was younger, I got in trouble. Just dumb stuff. I fell into depression, and it took me a while to figure out what the problem was. In truth, it was a lot of things. Around that same time, my parents got divorced. It was tough, and I had a lot of anger built up, but skateboarding was always there. I would go skate, and I would feel better. Ultimately, the skateboarding mentality just kicked in, and I said: 'OK, what's the problem?' That's what you do in skateboarding. You're not accomplishing a particular thing; it's not going right over and over. So you think to yourself, what are you doing that's wrong? Why isn't my board doing what I want it to do? It may take a few times to figure it out, but eventually, you figure it out. And that's how I started getting back on track. It's because of skateboarding. That problem-solving, motivation, self-discipline, and persistence that skateboarding requires helped me get back on the right path.

Yes, we are grinding, jumping off stairs and stuff, but we are focused. Once a skateboarder sets their mind on a trick, they'll try anything to pull it off. And that keeps their mind off of other things, other patterns that may get them in trouble. That is the underlying thing about skateboarding not many people consider, the impact it has on a person. It really makes you self-disciplined and self-motivated, goal-oriented and a creative problem-solver 'cause you're fighting against physics: 'Maybe I can pull my foot back; less pressure this way.'

Wesley McDonald, Events Director/Content Curator

We know there are kids out there going through some of the same things we, as an older generation, have been through. So, definitely mentoring is part of what we'd like to do. As an organization, we want to be there to tell them: 'Keep skating, dude. I've been there. It gets better. Just keep your mind positive'. Programs like that are gonna help us all stay connected.

Q: Other than events and mentorship, are there other ways you want to get people engaged?

Yes. This was just our way to get our foot in the door and show who we are. Our most ambitious goal is our campaign to raise $500,000 for a new, state-of-the-art skatepark, located near the Razorback Greenway, with unique modern obstacle levels of street/transition to not only challenge skaters but also upgrade from our older existing parks that are falling apart. It would be cool, you know, you walk on the trail and see this natural skate garden. Right now, our parks are outdated in terms of the obstacles. But imagine if you had more creative obstacles—if you had something that challenged skaters more. Skateboarding is now included in the Olympics, Tokyo 2020. We believe with the proper facility, we could have one of Northwest Arkansas' own compete in the Olympics.

Ultimately, we would also like to have back-to-school and Christmas drives to collect donations of gear and shoes for youth. With skateboarding, you go through your shoes, clothes, and boards a lot. We don't just want to inspire kids, we want to keep them skating.

Q: Anything else you want to say about skateboarding or skateboarders in the region?

Jonathan Camacho (Construction Director/Content Editor) and son

Beyond the board, I would point out two things. One, there is a strong case to be made that skate parks are a good economic development tool for cities. Skateboarders are travelers at heart. Nice skate parks would bring in folks from beyond the region. Many of us from Northwest Arkansas head to neighboring states like Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas to skate their parks and now, when I go there, I take my twins and wife, so we usually shop, buy food and gas, and get a hotel. And two, skaters tend to have an entrepreneurial/self-starter mindset, which also has an economic impact on the community with many of us having started or starting local businesses.

Bentonville Crown Winners

There are so many different types of skateboarders out there. Overall, it's a socially diverse and accepting group of people. Whenever I first brought my wife to skating, one of the first things she said she noticed is that we're all supportive of each other. You may not know me, and I may not know you, but if you're trying a tough trick or any trick and you're struggling to do it and need that motivation, it's just like automatic—you just cheer them on. All skaters seem to have similar traits: they have an open mind, they are self-motivated and goal-oriented. So you'll see people of different races, backgrounds, ages because it really doesn't matter. Once you're there at the skatepark with your board, eventually you just become like family.

Learn more at nwaskateboarding.org

Arts & Culture

Three Nonprofits Enlivening the 'Arts' in NW Arkansas

From the Indian arts to the media arts and fashion design—check out these pretty unique NW Arkansas nonprofits.

Cover photo by Emily McArthur Photography

When it comes to the arts in Northwest Arkansas, it's hard to see beyond the incredible programming of those such as Crystal Bridges, Walton Arts Center, and TheatreSquared. However, if you take a moment and look closer, you'll quickly discover a rich tapestry of smaller nonprofits contributing to the broader regional arts and culture ecosystem. Below, we'll introduce you to a few you may not have been aware of.

Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation

Photo credit: Emily McArthur Photography

The Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation was established in April 2018 by a group of performing arts enthusiasts. Their mission is to bring Indian Performing Arts, with an emphasis on the classical genre, to the forefront in Northwest Arkansas. To do this, they envision a threefold approach to increasing the exposure and opportunities for performing artists in the community – education, inspiration and sustenance of Indian Performing Arts.

The year-round programming includes two sets of 'community showcases' a year featuring local dancers and musicians and a 'master series' of concerts featuring established artists from India.

Read more about RVCF HERE.

Connect with Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation HERE.

PIXEL™: A School for Media Arts

PIXEL™ is teaching children and adults how to become successful digital artists one pixel at a time. Their programs are designed to help people of all ages identify their passion, develop their skills, and set them on a path to having a successful career in the creative arts. From summer camps to high school digital art classes to post-secondary programming and training for design careers—PIXEL™ is a hub for innovators and creatives of all ages.

PIXEL's instructors, advisors, directors, and leadership come from a wide variety of creative fields such as filmmaking, web and graphic design, jewelry design, programming, and animation. Combined, they have over 200 years of experience working for internationally-known companies and organizations including HBO, Walt Disney, and Sony. There is even an Academy Award winner among them.

Learn more HERE.

Connect with PIXEL HERE.

The Arkansas Arts & Fashion Forum

The Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum was founded in 2017 to help creative producers in Arkansas find professional development resources, creative inspiration, and a community of support.

The mission of the Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum is to provide educational opportunities and professional support for aspiring avant-garde fashion designers, artists, and other creative professionals. They specifically seek to serve those who are committed to building a vibrant and inspired creative fashion community in Arkansas.

To date, educational workshops provided by The Forum have touched on everything from runway modeling to makeup artistry to beginners sewing to product development and more. Many of these have taken place throughout Northwest Arkansas, engaging groups like the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese and Stitches (a Latinx youth artist collective) in Springdale. In addition to workshops, the Forum has hosted multiple student designer showcases during Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week and several panel discussions to deepen regional understanding of the art of fashion.

Read more about The Forum HERE.

RSVP to their upcoming Pop-Up Shop and Designer Panel HERE.

Connect with AAFF HERE.

Know of other nonprofits we could feature? Feel free to reach out and let us know at alicia@findingnwa.com.

Community

Stregthening Community, One Batch at a Time

The Ozark Beer Company was founded on a hard-work-can-do attitude and the camaraderie found in community.

📷: @myheartsbeat on Instagram

If you ask around for a good craft brewery in Northwest Arkansas, it will not be long before you'll find yourself typing "Ozark Beer Company" into the GPS. Since 2013, OBC has lived by the motto of "Hard Work, Honest Beer", a recipe that has landed them atop many-a-national craft beer list e.g. The Best Craft Brewery in Every State by Thrillist and The 50 Best Craft Beers in the United States by Men's Journal.

At their core, OBC is all heart and their commitment to hard work and the national recognition they receive as a byproduct of that work may only matter insofar as it allows them to live out their love for community. This love for community is having a big impact on those in Northwest Arkansas and beyond. Below, we've collected a few recent examples of what this impact looks like in "batches."

Mr. Brig's Pale Ale // Scholarship Fund

In December, many throughout Northwest Arkansas were hit hard by the loss of local community leader, Brig Caldwell. Brig worked within the Rogers Public School System as the Student Relations and Community Liaison for Rogers Heritage High School. As OBC noted on Facebook, "Brig Caldwell donated an outsized portion of his time, love and heart to Rogers, especially its youth which includes his two daughters." In his honor, OBC committed to brewing a batch of beer each year and donating 100% of the proceeds to a scholarship that will be awarded annually to a Rogers Heritage student. The scholarship will begin in 2020 with the money raised this year going directly to his family for their immediate needs.

This year's brew is called Mr. Brig's Pale Ale as a nod to what some of his first students called him when he began his career as a Special Education Teacher's Aide. "Mr. Brigs," would be heard as Brig walked through the halls of the school or would run into a student out in town.

Open Avenues // Capable People, Meaningful Work

Open Avenues is a local organization that empowers adults with disabilities. They offer their clients real world experience in networking, walk-in visits to employers, job shadowing, and job searches and strive to find employment that matches each person's unique interests and abilities. Over the holiday, OBC dedicated $2 from every growler sale to their friends at Open Avenues. By the end of the fundraiser, they had raised enough money to cover three months of daily transportation to and from work for one of their clients.



Resilience // California Fire Victims

Lastly, did you know OBC joined Sierra Nevada and 1,000 other breweries around the nation (13 in Arkansas) to brew the Resilience "Butte County Proud" IPA? The call to action was organized by Sierra Nevada to help raise money to support communities in California affected by the deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century. 100% of the proceeds from this beer are going to the Sierra Nevada Camp Fire Relief Fund, which will distribute it to partner organizations that are dedicated to rebuilding and supporting the communities that have been affected. The IPA is available at the taproom in Rogers.

This is the Ozark Beer Company beyond the pint, a living and breathing story of hard work and community. And as with all good stories, the end was always there in the beginning. In the beginning, there was Lacie Bray and Andy Coates out in some tents along the Arkansas River in Colorado:

"It was an idyllic summer; rafting the river during the day and living in tents along the river at night. It was during their time in Colorado at the rafting company that Andy and Lacie learned to value two very important things: camaraderie in a community, and a hard-work-can-do attitude. When you are living out of a tent for the summer, there is no TV, no electricity, no distractions, and most free time is spent enjoying the company of others. Loyalty and respect grows when you truly get to know people, and the community as a whole benefits. Lacie and Andy had never experienced the true connections formed out of a seemingly random group of people, and the sense of belonging to a community and a deep appreciation for places with strong communities were born." (Read the complete founder's story HERE)

Cheers.

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