Published in  
Volume 2
February 14, 2024

01 - A Beginnig To The Ends

Wheels rolling across smooth pavement, the sound a board makes as the tail snaps the concrete beneath, grinding metal as trucks slide on a rail or coping–it’s a nostalgia every skateboarder knows oh so well. Elliot had only been skating for about a month; he had no clue what to expect from an actual skatepark, but he knew anything would be better than skating his Grandma’s back porch. When a friend from school invited him to check out a new park that had just opened up, he didn’t realize that a whole new world was just on the other side of town.

Up until now, school, soccer practice, and video games were the daily routine. A typical day-to-day life for the average kid, but for him, it had become mundane. More specifically, getting ready for soccer was the daily dread. You would think the more time teammates spend together the closer they would become; but this wasn’t the case for Elliot. The more he went to practice, the less a part of the team he actually felt. Getting picked on only because he was small, he became the target for many as he was pushed around both on and off the field. Being a part of a team sport had left him feeling more alone than when he was by himself. What used to bring him so much life felt like it was slowly doing the opposite.

Empty afternoons filled his time as he made the easy decision to hang up the cleats and retire his jersey. But when boredom got the best of him, he discovered an old skateboard left on the side of his Grandma’s house. Just a simple piece of wood with four wheels, yet love at first sight.

That skateboard translated loneliness to independence in a time where he felt that was his only option. It was just him and the board.

He no longer had to worry about meticulous rules or unfair judgement that team sports had cornered him into; the world went silent when he started rolling and the weight seemed to fall off of his shoulders the first time he pushed and took his foot off the ground.

In the midst of the pandemic, a teacher from a local private school randomly stumbled into The House of Ride Nature to grab a quick coffee. Having no idea the extent of the work being led in her community, she extended an invitation to one of our staff to come and speak to the students of the school. As Derek, one of the staff leading skate ministry through Ride Nature shared the mission and vision of the ministry, the pastor of the church that housed the private school overheard him speaking. After Derek finished sharing, Pastor John walked Derek to a fairly empty warehouse behind the church and asked if we would have any interest in potentially using that space for ministry. With the majority of our international trips being cancelled and nearly all of the local skateparks shut down, the timing couldn’t have been better for that proposal. We accepted the offer and with all hands on deck and the support from our local Lowes, The ENDS Skatepark was opened in less than 30 days–the first indoor skatepark in Southwest Florida.

Stepping into The ENDS was like sensory overload for Elliot. New friends eager to introduce themselves, the sound of people skating reverberating throughout the park, music floating overhead as the heat of summer crept into the warehouse. As curious as the day he found his skateboard, he put on a helmet and pads and began to push around. After a few times of falling in front of others or accidentally snaking someone, to his amazement, the expected remarks and frustration he knew far too well from soccer never came. On the contrary, several times after falling, he had others offer to help him up and new friends started giving him tips and advice.

After a couple of hours the music slowly faded off and everyone stopped skating. Derek, the same staff who had spoke at the school just a few months before, called for everyone to gather up as Skate Church was getting ready to start. Skaters of all ages–and sizes–downed their water bottles and huddled around. Elliot had never really spent much time in church, but this wasn’t anything like the churches he had attended. He followed the crowd, and somehow, a sense of peace and rest felt as close in that moment as the sweat on his face. He didn’t know what to expect from going to his first skatepark, but it was that night that left an impression that kept him coming back–and not just for the park. He loved the people. He loved the church.

When I compare Elliot’s first skatepark experience to mine, I can’t help but be a little jealous. I spent nearly a year skating before I mustered up the courage to step foot in a park. Once I got there, I was mesmerized by everything that surrounded me, but eventually the magic started to fade. It wasn’t long before I began to look beyond the ramps and those skating to notice the smoke filled air in the corners of the park. Dodging shattered glass became an obstacle of its own. The hurt that many carried to the park as an escape from their reality would be encouraging at times as I would see guys take each other in and care for one another, but oftentimes I would witness just the opposite. I saw friends turn to drugs and alcohol because they simply didn’t have someone to talk with about the things they were going through. I saw people who used the skatepark as a place to let out their pent up aggression and anger because they didn’t know how to cope with it. I eventually realized this beautiful skatepark wasn’t as beautiful as I thought it was. It was broken.

Elliot isn’t perfect, and the reality is, none of us are for that matter. Just like the park where I grew up skating, we are all just as broken. But it is in that brokenness that we have found hope. Not in ourselves or our empty attempts of self help, but in the surrender we have received hope not from what we’ve done but from what Jesus has done on our behalf.

The individuality that separates skating from team sports still remains, but at The ENDS, Elliot not only found a team to be a part of, he found a family. He went from getting overlooked by kids his own age to being recognized by guys old enough to be his dad. The same place he learned how to kickflip was the same place he found out that there was a God that loved and accepted him–just like all of his new friends he had met at the park.

It’s the place where everyone rallied together when he kickflipped his first stairset and the place where everyone bowed their heads and prayed alongside him when he needed it the most. For Elliot, this was the beginning to The ENDS.

On March 28th, 2021, our Skate Director Derek Shatto was in a severe car accident resulting in critical brain trauma. After months of intensive care, Derek has been transferred to a facility closer to his family in Pennsylvania. Please join us as we continue to pray for his family and a miracle for a full recovery.