Skateboarders fight stereotypes at skate hangar

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Public Affairs
For a sport that is notorious for nurturing young societal mavericks, skateboarding inside a converted airplane hangar is taking skaters to new heights.

Mike Kays, also known as "Big Daddy Kays," has been the propulsion over the years in transforming the Hickam Skate Hanger for young aspiring skaters to hone their craft in a safe and unconventional environment.

The park is the only indoor wooden facility on all the Hawaiian islands. It also boasts the only wooden keyhole bowls, or empty swimming pool shaped ramps, on Oahu. In addition, it has a 15,000 square foot street course, multiple mini ramps, 12-foot vertical ramp with a 14-foot tombstone connected to a saddle and three-quarter pipe.

"It's a challenging course," Kays said. "The skaters that come here are here to progress and enjoy the sport of skateboarding. The typical skater is here because they love to skateboard."

The rapid click-clack of wheels moving quickly over the multi-colored plywood planks, interrupted by a momentary silence as the skater goes airborne, and then the sudden smack of wheels back on the wooden contraption, or asphalt that holds it up, constantly echoes off the hangar walls. For the skaters at Hickam Hangar, their dedication, passion and commitment to the art of skateboarding stares directly in the face of the negative stereotypical connotation that is historically associated with the sport.

"The people that come here, well, it is their skate park too," Kays said. "Even though there are plenty of skate parks off base on Oahu, things that go on around the corners aren't really good for youth to see."

From certain points of view, the sport has seen its share of stereotypes over the years. Those dark alley, behind the ramp drug deals, territorial fights or general anarchical attitudes while wearing funky hairstyles, all of which are ideas that most people associate with the persona of skaters and graffitied skate parks, are not present at the 808 Skate hangar.

"For the most part, public skate parks are not controlled and it's a free-for-all (environment)," said Chris Kays, a professional skater and son of the hangar's proprietor. "Teenagers are going to do what teenagers are going to do. (Here) kids can have fun and be totally safe away from violence, drug activity or anything you would find at a public park."

Mothers, like Kristen Hawk, who has three skateboarding gurus ranging from five to 13 years of age, appreciates a place she can take her kids to skate.

"I bring my kids up here because it's a safe environment," Hawk said. "The majority of the kids that come here are great kids. The older teens actually take their time to mentor the younger ones if they ask, which is not something you'll find in very many places nowadays. This is the place (they) can really excel."

Kays, and his team of instructors, constantly provide opportunities to teach anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of skating during weeklong camps or one-on-one lessons. Chris Kays, son of the hangar's proprietor, is a professionally sponsored skateboarder who provides lessons for any level of skater.

"This is one of the only places on the islands that you can go to and you can send your kids to not knowing anything about skating and get skate lessons," Chris Kays said. "They will go from not being able to stand on the board to being able to skate around the park by themselves."

Sean Woodward, 13-year-old skater, loves the skate park and looks for any reason he can to ride the ramps. The skate camps he has attended at the hangar during the past year has transformed his art.

"(They teach) everything you need to know for the basics," Woodward said. "There are certain things you need to know or you're gonna get hurt."

He described that knowing how to fall properly is key to not getting hurt and "kissing the ramp or asphalt" while falling. But the most enjoyable aspect about the skate hangar for skaters like Woodward is getting to learn from more advanced skaters who take the time to show them how to do the tricks without any criticism.

"It's really cool to just hang out too," he said. "It's cool because they know how to do a lot of tricks. They've mastered them and can teach you how to do it too."

Mike Kays said the large group lessons are broken down into skill levels. The beginning of the lessons is group instruction while the second part is free skate, concentrating on the earlier techniques. They work on the art of skateboarding throughout the week and have a demonstration on the final day. Matt Reynolds, one of the skate instructors, gets on the speaker system at the park and introduces each one like a pro.

"Matt's the greatest. Each kid feels like Tony Hawk," Mike Kays said. "He's on the mike the whole time. It doesn't matter if for that week all they learned was to push correctly and roll down a ramp, he'll make them feel like Tony Hawk."

Since it's initial concept in the mid 1980s when ragtag groups of skaters started decorating the hangar with portable ramps, the park has become more than a place to skate - it's become a second home for those who love the board.